April 22, 2017
by Zach Pina
If there’s one watch that still haunts the collective dreams of the watch lover community since SIHH 2017 it’s the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. In ceramic. In the 40-ish years since the Royal Oak’s conception, Gerald Genta’s avant-garde masterpiece has seen it all. Cases made of steel, gold, platinum, and forged carbon, married to nearly every type of complication under the sun in haute horology – but never in full ceramic, both case and bracelet. It’s this fresh addition to the legacy of variety combined with one of the most iconic designs in watchmaking that have made this Royal Oak in particular one for the ages.
For this year’s edition of SIHH, Audemars Piguet introduced the all-black Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar watch ref. 26579CE in ceramic – as aforementioned, marking the first time the Swiss watchmaker has paired this case material to this particular complication. However, unlike previous ceramic case offerings which usually came fitted with rubber or exotic leather straps, Audemars Piguet is also introducing a brand new ceramic bracelet, hand-finished to the watchmaker’s signature staggering degree of detail to perfectly complement the Royal Oak case.
From titanium and forged carbon to ceramic itself, Audemars Piguet has championed the use of exotic case materials for the better part of the last decade, so it should come as little surprise that the brand’s expertise finally gave birth to a matching ceramic bracelet for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. But the bracelet didn’t come easily – some 600 hours of research and development were invested into its production, largely because the true signature of an Audemars Piguet isn’t just the employment of exotic materials, but a mastery of finishing them with traditional high-end techniques usually reserved for metals like steel or gold. And because of ceramic’s notorious difficulty to produce and manipulate, it takes a highly trained technician over 30 hours to machine, polish, hand-finish, assemble, and control this particular ceramic bracelet – over five times longer than executing the same production procedures on a standard Audemars Piguet Royal Oak stainless steel bracelet.
The end result is both seamless and sinister – delivering the same singular, unbroken aesthetic between case and bracelet we’re used to seeing on other Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar offerings in steel and gold, and quite frankly, the way the watch has always been meant to be worn. In ceramic, however, the watch remains lightweight, yet just assertive enough to lend the feeling of an ultralight titanium sport watch, but one whose finishing goes to eleven.
Since it sprung to life for the first time in 1955, Audemars Piguet’s perpetual calendar movement has been another hallmark for the brand, and while the self-winding Caliber 5134 fitted to this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar still bears the less-than-subtle recessed adjusters on the 9:00 side of the case, it’s still a highly modern movement deeply connected to the brand’s origins, bearing the reminder that the source of all time measurement ultimately begins and ends in the stars. To be more specific, though, the 5134 is sized specifically for the 41mm case and yields a three-register layout with month and leap year indicators at 12:00, a moonphase display at 6:00, and the day of the week at 9:00. Running the circumference of the dial on the rehaut is a central-mounted 52-week pointer. Even at that level of complication, the 5134 runs a svelte 4.31mm thick, which helps maintain the Royal Oak’s classically thin silhouette.
It just wouldn’t be a Royal Oak without the textured “Grande Tapisserie” guilloche dial, nor would it be one without the applied white gold hour indices, or octagonal bezel – all of which are mandatory signatures that have collectively made this watch a joy to behold through the ages. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar edition gets one other neat flourish – a photorealistic rendering of the moon, as sharply contrasted against the inky black case as the real thing beaming down from a dark winter sky.
There’s a lot to love about Audemars Piguet finally delivering a bracelet in ceramic – and while the Perpetual Calendar makes the most sense for the bracelet’s debut, we’re holding out hope that a ceramic bracelet for the ROO Diver is soon to follow. The price for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (reference 26579CE) in full ceramic is $93,900, which is comparable to the asking price of the gold variants introduced in 2015. audemarspiguet.com