The Mighty Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT
A tour de force. The power, skill and ingenuity of the new Royal Oak Concept.
The Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT was just presented by Audemars Piguet in the pool of other new Royal Oaks, distinguished by an even more aggressive design than its Concept predecessors and an exceptional automatic rattrapante chronograph calibre 4407 with the date and 24-hour GMT functions. This watch is a rightful heir to the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher and an important addition, not just to the Concept series. It is here to make history as it will lead the new generation of split-seconds chrono movements used outside the Grand Complications family. Let’s take a closer look.
The Royal Oak Concept Series
Audemars Piguet presented the first-ever watch in the Royal Oak Concept series in 2002 while celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak. The high-tech looking 44mm watch in a cobalt-based super-alloy Alacrite 602 case housed the manually wound calibre 2896 with a one-minute tourbillon. Among other functions, it featured a dynamographe displaying the mainspring’s torque, a crown function system and a linear power reserve indicator, with some serious shock absorbers, making it shock-resistant to 50 G. The watch was developed by Renaud & Papi and initially designed as a one-off piece, much like concept cars, to test the new technologies and style along with public reaction. Still, it turned into a series, with 150 produced in the two years following its introduction. Since then, Audemars Piguet developed other Concept models, equally challenging and distinctive, made in limited series.
In 2008 the company presented the Royal Oak Carbon Concept, an all-black tourbillon chronograph powered by a marvel of a chronograph calibre 2895; in 2015, the ROC GMT Tourbillon was released and paved the way for flying tourbillons presented in 2018 and 2020. Also, that same year, the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer, a three-column wheel split-seconds chronograph with consecutive lap timing capability and flyback function, paid tribute to Michael Schumacher. A year later, the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, a minute repeater chronograph tourbillon in a waterproof titanium case, impressed audiences with an unheard acoustic performance that took eight years of research and development. More recently, AP teamed up with Marvel Entertainment to launch Concept superhero-themed watches, with the Black Panther 250 pieces limited edition ROCs in a sandblasted titanium case with black ceramic bezel and crown, which housed a hand-painted white gold mini-sculpture of T’Challa, king and protector of the African nation.
Last year, Audemars Piguet presented the Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT in a titanium case with a hard-to-manufacture green ceramic bezel, a perfect demonstration of how the Concept has developed in 20 years. This “green Concept” differed only in colour from the earlier model, with blue accents introduced in 2020, but it was a significant release. The Royal Oak Concept Ref. 26589IO employed the manual-wind calibre 2954, featuring a 10-day power reserve, a flying tourbillon at 9 o’clock and a second time zone at 3, with a skeletonised dial and the same function selector display at 6 that debuted in 2002. The new aesthetic was firmly in – a cutting-edge design paired with watchmaking excellence of the highest level.
The Rattrapante until now
It is interesting that according to Audemars Piguet, in the 1880s and 1890s, of the 1625 watches produced by the company, 625 had a chronograph function, and 299 were equipped with a split-seconds mechanism, with a majority of pocket chronograph watches all through AP history featuring a split-seconds hand. At the same time, the rattrapante was an infrequent AP complication in the 20th century, with just one case documented in 1946. It wasn’t until 1996 that the split-seconds chronograph returned in a “miniature version” to be part of the first Audemars Piguet Grande Complication wristwatch presented in a round 42mm case, alongside the perpetual calendar and the minute repeater with calibre 2885. The first Grande Complication in the Royal Oak case followed in 1997, and AP released the first Grande Complication “Beast” in 2013 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Offshore. Both featured split-seconds chronographs. As mentioned earlier, in the Concept series, the rattrapante was first seen in a Michael Schumacher watch.
The new Generation ROC
The look and feel of the Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT remain faithful to the Concept idea, futuristic, pushing the limits, yet highly appealing for the intelligent force it projects. The watch is large, 43mm in diameter and 17.4mm thick, with a characteristically geometric titanium case with sharp and shiny edges, broadsides and a familiar octagonal bezel, satin-brushed, with amplified hexagonal screws. The sandblasted case and the bezel are slightly curved for comfort, making this watch fit most wrists well. The case architecture is repeated in the screw-locked bolt of a crown and chronograph push-pieces, all made from black ceramic. The push-piece guards are featured on both sides at 2, 4 and 9 o’clock.
Like the case, the dial is three-dimensional with plenty of geometry, and it is openworked to show the movement that highlights this Concept piece. The skeletonised and sandblasted, blackened dial plate supports the overall high-tech design, with the big date at 12 o’clock adding to the impression of a massive construction – massive, complex, but very functional. Note the absence of the logo on the dial – there is not much space left for it, but it can be read as a statement. After all, who else can make a watch like this?
The GMT and day-night display at 3 o’clock shows the hour in a second time zone, with easy adjustment using the crown’s coaxial push-piece. Each push moves the GMT hand by one hour. This hand makes a revolution in 12 hours, and the white/black day-and-night disc makes one rotation in 24 hours. The small seconds sub-dial is at 6 o’clock, balancing the large “digital” date, and the 30-minute chronograph counter is at 9, where on the side of the case, protected by push-piece guards, we find the rattrapante action button, just where it was with the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer in 2015.
The new Calibre 4407
The engine that guarantees the smooth functioning of the Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT is a newly developed self-winding calibre 4407, and it is based on the integrated flyback chronograph movement 4401 that debuted in the Code 11.59 collection in 2019. It has a column wheel and a vertical clutch system, which along with the proprietary zero-reset mechanism, ensure that both chronograph and split-seconds hands respond to your commands effortlessly while measuring time intervals or performing an instant reset to zero.
It is worth noting that the base calibre 4401 is 6.8 mm thick. In the calibre 4407, Concept-series-usual GMT and split-seconds functions, as well as the large date, the height of the 4401 increased by only 3.1mm, to a total of 8.92 mm. To achieve this height, AP engineers integrated the rattrapante mechanism within the thickness of the ball bearing for the semi-peripheral rotor, and now the split-seconds wheel and the actuator clamps are in full view through the sapphire caseback in the centre under the X-shaped bridge – and no rotor to obstruct the spectacle. Such a good construction, it has found its way into the Code 11.59 Universelle, AP’s most complicated wristwatch ever. It would be wrong not to expect the appearance of split-seconds chronographs across other collections.
Availability & Price
For the first time in the Concept series, the new Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT is offered with an interchangeable strap with an easy “click and release” system that does not compromise the security of the watch when it is worn. With a price tag of CHF 170,000 excl. taxes, you wouldn’t have it otherwise. This new and truly impressive watch will be part of the regular collection. For more details, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com.
That is one big block of watch, it would look cool on the nightstand but on my skinny wrist… well if it was gifted, I would wear it out in the world when I was with that person that gifted it ,and maybe I would get used to it ? Like they say in the commercial ” The world may never know” ! I would love to though.
Whats I really don’t get is that the base calibre of this split seconds chronograph caliber, Calibre 4400, has 257 parts while this calibre 4407 has 638 parts. With the RD2 perpetual calendar made by Audemars Piquet, the designers made it less complicated with less parts. Of course a split seconds chronograph has a split seconds mechanism, which allows the timing of two events that start at the same time but have different durations. meaning that this mechanism includes an additional hand (split seconds hand) that can be stopped independently from the main chronograph hand, allowing the user to measure two different durations simultaneously. The split seconds mechanism therefore consists of several additional parts, including a split seconds wheel, split seconds heart cam, split seconds lever, and split seconds spring. But an additional 381 parts? Would really love to know how that escalated?
“semi-peripheral rotor” – interesting, so it’s possible to move the winding mass to the outer edge while still have it connected to central bearing by making the central bearing …well, bigger and using the space in the middle of said bearing for the other parts (split-seconds wheel and the actuator clamps apparently). I was not aware of this solution and I like how it looks.