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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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 Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Watches Hands-On Hands-On

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

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Comments

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  • john coleman

    Not usually a fan of skeleton watches but this AP in S/S is fantastic with an amazing movement.

  • iamcalledryan

    Torn, because this looks very very cool, but no Grand Tapesserie!

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Everything is wrong with this

    • Nateb123

      Prepare to be eaten alive…

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Bring it on : )

      • iamcalledryan

        Matters of the heart can’t be reasoned with, and Raymond speaks from the heart.

        But he’s wrong

        • Raymond Wilkie

          Am not

    • JimBob

      I think it would be OK if you got rid of the chapter ring and the hands.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        And the movement and bracelet,…………basically, the whole concept

  • funNactive

    I like it – the way the light catches all the reflective surfaces (in the video). Skeleton – I have an automatic watch & you can see how it’s working.

  • Marius

    In my opinion, this is one of the coolest, if not the coolest watch I have seen in years. The movement is great and horologically interesting, plus the Royal Oak case is already an icon. The price for the steel reference is certainly high, but looking at watch prices today is not that bad as you get a skeletonised movement coupled with a new complication.

    My only question is when will this watch become available, as some models launched at the SIHH actually become available for purchase after a long time. Also, is this watch properly tested before being released, or will the clients experience problems, as is sometimes the case with new complications?

    • iamcalledryan

      It’s an extremely cool complication, but less “complicated” than a double escapement/differential mechanism, which even still works without issue when well executed. So I wouldn’t say that this needs any more testing than they subject to all their new offerings. In any case I am not sure AP have ever sold a watch without properly testing it!

  • Thewatcher

    Love it. The steel version is easier to read the time off with the contrasting dial hands. The pink gold maybe should have had steel hands?

  • JimBob

    Might as well go full mystery dial on this one.

  • word-merchant

    I can’t tell which is the back and which is the front. Pass.

  • Ulysses31

    That bracelet, while certainly comfortable, looks like it could grate blocks of granite.

  • Roman Klime

    I love AP bracelets.

  • Coert Welman

    30% more accurate is all fine and well, but what kind of real-world performance does this translate to?

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    “30% performance increase” Can we please have a definition of performance for watches? Does this mean that from -3/+6 sec/day accuracy they went to -2/+4 accuracy?

  • Jyri

    This is perfect. What a beauty!

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