The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked watch (debuted here) was the first timepiece I was drawn to at SIHH 2016. Audemars Piguet offered a truly dizzying array of new watches at the show, and of course, their iconic Royal Oak collection received a lot of the attention in the form of mostly very high-end new models. One of the very few new Royal Oak watches in steel was nevertheless quite high-end in the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked – and, of course, it also comes in 18k pink gold.
When I debuted this new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked collection with its novel in-house made caliber 3132 automatic movement, I did not have one very crucial piece of information. That information was just how much more accurate the “Doublebalance” concept that Audemars Piguet developed to increase the stability of the regulation system’s performance actually is. Audemars Piguet was looking for a way to decrease the accuracy-reducing effects of a balance wheel’s natural tendency to shift its performance based on a range of variables. Everything from the position in which you hold your wrist to the temperature can make small changes in how the balance wheel operates, which can dramatically affect accuracy over time.
The holy grail for any mechanical watch movement maker is to have an utterly solid and perfectly stable regulation system which is not affected by environmental variation. Of course, in a timepiece worn on the wrist in various situations, this isn’t really possible, but what is possible are systems which increase rate stability and thus accuracy over time.
So getting back to the point, the brand claims that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked watch’s calibre 3132 movement is 30% more accurate than similar movements without the system. That is a not an insignificant performance boost, and lovers of accuracy (and Royal Oaks) will likely flock to this beautiful concept. Of course, Audemars Piguet could have just hidden this new system in the case of a watch or made it only visible through the case back, but they went “full skeleton,” showing off their new movement with pride and style.
The calibre 3132 automatic movement operates at 3Hz (21,600 bph) with a power reserve of 45 hours. The 245-part movement is debuted in a beautiful “openworked” form complete with a showy pink gold balance bridge. The movement’s novel concept is all about a “two-sided” balance wheel structure. A central rod (pinion) connects the balance wheels with hairspring structures. These two balance wheels are connected, but technically operate independently. They “average each other out” (so to speak) with the notion that the occasional errors of one will be compensated by the more “true” operation of the other.
The balance wheels are actually quite close to one another, so that if you were to look at the movement operating and not know what to look for, you might easily miss then entire special notion of the 3132. In many ways, it operates like most other movements, but with a more stable (translated into accuracy over time) regulation system.
Audemars Piguet performs their typical high level of decoration and finishing of the skeletonized movement. The result is beautiful, and one can easily forgive the minor reduction in legibility as compared to solid-dial Royal Oak watches. With that said, there is a fully in-tact scale of applied pink gold hour markers and matching hands. Moreover, even though there isn’t an official power reserve indicator, the mainspring barrel is skeletonized, which offers a sort of a crude power reserve indication system by allowing one to see how tightly wound the spring is.
In keeping with a modern sense of style, the 3132 movement has bridges that are mostly dark gray toned and finished with very traditional surfacing techniques such as perlage, brushing, and polished beveled edges. The movement is masculine but traditionally beautiful with a nice mixture of colors, tones, and areas to focus on visually – not to mention having a nice level of aesthetic balance.
According to Audemars Piguet, this is actually the first 41mm-wide Royal Oak watch case to have a skeletonized dial. With that said, it isn’t the only 41mm-wide Royal Oak Openworked (skeletonized) watch for 2016. In steel, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked makes a lot of sense, but in 18k pink gold, you have a totally different watch. Speaking of gold, it is important to mention that Audemars Piguet is really trying to return to 18k yellow gold as an option for Royal Oak watches this year. Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine the difference yellow gold makes on the wrist versus pink/rose/red gold, but the two versions of gold are very distinct.
Given the amount of metal in the Royal Oak case and bracelet, the difference in price between the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked in steel and in pink gold is certainly not inconsequential, at about $30,000. A Royal Oak with a skeletonized dial is further very different looking from a Royal Oak with a more traditional “Mega Tapisserie” dial – so this type of artistic dial execution makes the entire composition of the timepiece feel highly distinct, even for those familiar with wearing Royal Oak watches.
The 30% performance increase over “standard” Royal Oak automatic movements in the calibre 3132 really adds enthusiast appeal because, while Audemars Piguet does not infrequently come out with new movements, they very infrequently come out with new “simple” or daily-wear-oriented movements. So in that regard, the 3132 is further quite a rarity. While there were a lot of great new watches at SIHH 2016, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked stands out as being particularly nice because of its combination of hardcore watch enthusiast appeal and practical-minded approach to novelty. Price for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked watch reference 15407ST.OO.1220ST.01 in steel is $44,100 and the reference 15407OR.OO.1220OR.01 in 18k pink gold is $76,800. audemarspiguet.com