Admit it, we all do it. Trying to find out what other people have strapped to their wrist while we are on the go, or at a party of some sort. “Oogling”, if you will. Perhaps the place to be oogling ones wrist, without coming across like a total creep, is a watch fair! During the recent storm of novelties coming out of the SIHH, we spotted a very special one-off: a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 40th Anniversary Skeleton Tourbillon…. STEEL PROTOTYPE!
Obviously, the Royal Oak family needs no introduction, but we’ll run down the important bits nonetheless. Ever since the first model(ref. 5402ST), designed by Gerald Genta back in 1972, the Royal Oak has become synonymous with Audemars Piguet. It is the quintessential watch that saved the brand from bankruptcy. Its instantly recognizable shape, the octagonal bezel with hexagonal screws, the visible gasket in between, the often portrayed grande or petit tapisserie decoration on the dial and the iconic metal bracelet are just a few touches that have given the ‘RO’ its legendary status. It is no surprise that Audemars Piguet focusses heavily on their luxury sports watch.
Over time the Royal Oak line has seen many different adaptations, featuring many complications and a range of different materials. (New for 2014 is the 42mm sized Offshore Chronograph range, and the white ceramic Concept GMT Tourbillon). In 2012 AP introduced a series of 8 celebratory models, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the legendary Royal Oak. There’s a 39mm Openworked Ultra-Thin Royal Oak 40th Anniversary, available in a platinum limited edition of 40 pieces, and now it’s available in red gold (not limited). One of the eight other models is the Skeleton Tourbillon you see before you. The highly limited series was finished in a platinum case, and featured a skeletonized, tourbillon movement.
This 40th anniversary Skeleton Tourbillon Prototype is the steel prototype for the final product (which was ultimately done in platinum). Measuring 41mm across and being equipped with the trademark case, bezel and fully integrated bracelet, it is a befitting tribute to the original.
It was introduced as a limited run of just 40 timepieces, for this version and other commemorative models, for obvious reasons. At that time it was one of the thinnest tourbillon movements in existence (this record is currently held by Arnold & Sons), measuring only 4.46mm thick. The total thickness of the watch is a slim 8.85mm. The slate grey “dial” is a chapter ring with applied white gold markers; the rest are skeletonized the main plate and bridges of the movement. On the back, there is a Power Reserve indicator, showing you how much of the 70 hours is still available for use.
Ironically, the first prototypes of the Royal Oak were done in precious metal (white gold) since producing the intricately designed parts proved to be too complicated and thus too expensive to machine out of steel like intended. With the 40th anniversary edition, the tables are turned; the prototype was done in steel, and the final version in platinum.
The serial number, engraved in the caseback is number 00/00, underlining the rarity of the timepiece. It is part of the historical collection of Audemars Piguet and is let out of its, undoubtedly cushioned and velvet clad cage every once in a while. And it found its way in front of our camera.
Interested in the price of such a historical piece? We asked anyway, but as expected, it’s not for sale. The platinum version was available at a price of $353,600, but all 40 pieces have been sold.