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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

I can say this from extensive experience; the Swiss do tend to get rather dramatic when they decide they want to have all your attention. In this latest instance this tendency manifested in a black-walled chamber with pitch black tinted windows and dark orange lights, supposedly popular in the interrogation business, along with some pieces of timber to remind you that there is a nice, neat world somewhere out there – just not in here. Seriously, though, their focus on minimizing distractions is immediately, though perhaps subconsciously apparent, which is weird because the product itself is more than sufficient to capture the undivided attention of any serious watch enthusiast – and that’s especially true, when the lid is off the new thinnest of its kind, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

All hands-on images by David Bredan

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

Like its predecessor, the RD#1, this new piece is another concept watch that, as it stands, is not offered for sale. What it is, is a case study in some sort of a complication to determine feasibility and gauge public reactions. A concept watch it may be, but it still takes some of the keenest watchmaking masterminds to put something of this complexity together – or to just begin experimenting with it in the first place.

At SIHH 2018 it was just two of AP’s watchmakers and myself in that aforementioned dark room that otherwise usually is full of people carving each other’s eyes out for a picture opportunity or to have the watch in hand, at least. I was lucky because this way, not only did I have a bit more time with one of the very, very few RD#2s presented (I heard there was only one but I doubt that’s true), but also got to ask some more detailed questions about the movement answered by the two super kind AP watchmakers who had presented this watch to me.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

Audemars Piguet’s press release wasn’t exactly clear about this, as they called this new Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin “the thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar on the market today.” They also called the movement record thin at 2.89mm thick. These two pieces of information told me that while the movement was record thin, there might have been another self-winding perpetual calendar watch made before that, all cased up, that was thinner than this 6.30mm thick Royal Oak case.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

When checking up on this during the one on one presentation, I was told that nope, this indeed is the thinnest automatic perpetual ever – and that holds true for both the uncased movement as well as the cased-up watch itself. I personally don’t care too much for such records until things start getting ridiculous (like they did with the 2mm thick cased-up Piaget that I’ll cover soon). A record is always impressive, but a variety of other features and elements should in my mind be just as, if not more important than achieving a smaller number.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

More interesting than “record-shattering” thinness is the way Audemars Piguet achieved it. As it turns out, the RD#2’s design process started from the outside: it was Giulio Papi of Audemars Piguet skunkworks APR&P who first sketched the layout of the dial and it was only after this, that they started engineering the movement layout. That is not how this is usually done, and especially not when it comes to the levels of complexity of a perpetual calendar… But I presume when you have extensive experience and a list of achievements under your belt like Giulio Papi does, you start looking for new challenges.

Interestingly, the RD#2 is amazing at stretching the limits of a textbook example perpetual calendar, but it doesn’t bother with solving some of the constraints that keep me, for example, from really falling for them.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

First, there is the utter lack of any animation whatsoever on the dial side. Lacking a running seconds, the fastest moving object on the dial is the minute hand – and when you’re dropping what I expect to be high five-figure money for the finished product, I presume you’ll want some mechanics-driven eye-candy beyond a range of passive hands and dials looking back at you.

It goes without saying that the mechanism trusted with moving all six indications of the perpetual calendar is nothing short of amazing – but it’s entirely hidden under the dial. I was equally humbled and surprised when AP’s two watchmakers appeared to be genuinely fascinated by my suggestion of a partially sapphire (or open-worked) dial for this watch. They are either really good at acting – in which case thank you for making my day – or just really haven’t yet thought about showing off this particular mechanism in such a way.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

Thinness, yes, is an indicator of the engineering ingenuity and refinement unique to the 5133 caliber – but leaving how those little cams and wheels work to the imagination is a missed opportunity both when it comes to the final product and perhaps especially so when launching a halo piece such as this RD#2 concept. Sure, a solid dial should be an option too – you see how easy it is to get along with everyone and their watch tastes?

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Hands-On Hands-On

The main challenge and also the solution in achieving the record thinness of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Extra-Thin was arranging all components of the perpetual calendar module into just one single plane. Every cam and wheel was to be somehow laid out next to one another, creating an impressive flow of information from the watch’s 24-hour wheel all the way to the 4-year-long month disc.

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Comments

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  • Tea Hound

    Technically very impressive, but the dial leaves me cold. It just looks wrong and I can’t quite think why. The quality and finish of the sub-dial hands look pretty shoddy too. Personally, I’d forgo some thinness and get the all-ceramic version or an IWC Portugueseueseueseueseieieieieir Perpetual calendar instead. Both are far more aesthetically pleasing watches, and the IWC variant almost approaches good value for money, especially when you factor in the desperate AD discount. And that’s not something you can often say about IWC.

    • ProJ

      Neither the IWC Portuguese Automatic nor the IWC Portuguese Perpetual Calendar has ever come in an all-ceramic version.

    • ProJ

      Sorry misunderstood your comment. Looks like you meant the all-ceramic AP.

      • Tea Hound

        I did… but no worries!

    • DanW94

      Check that spelling. You missed an e in Portugueseueseueseueseieieieieir.

      • Tea Hound

        I can well believe it. They’re always adding syllables…

        • Haiku Lou Albéniz

          Tell me about it
          Them pesky syllables are
          The bane of my existence

          • Tea Hound

            I know… you start saying a word, and have no idea when or if you’ll ever finish it.
            People have grown old and died in ADs asking to see some IWC models.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    TWO OH TWO…….cracks me up.

    • Lindsay

      What bothers me almost as much as the pretentiousness of this new “clock” is that it ignores the user’s system localisation settings. It’s strictly 12hr format and written in Americanese.

      And OH is a letter, not a number.

      Argh.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        My suggestion to loose it fell on deaf ears. Like the loves and likes buttons and the policy statement before the comments ( I have to admit I have falllen foul of that policy in the odd occasion, my bad )
        But I love the blog so I’m not really bothered.

  • Bill Davidson

    The AP Rip Van Winkle (Royal Oak) Awakening ?

    Only missing the year….

  • Dénes Albert

    In this instance, AP’s legacy seems to have worked against them. The design elements of the Royal Oak that have become so iconic were meant to – and succeeded to – add visual interest to an all-steel, three hands sports watch. Here, however, the complex case with its screws, the equally complex integrated bracelet and the tapisserie dial are in jarring disagreement with the unavoidably crowded dial of a perpetual calendar. The same information, though, can be displayed elegantly: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/945bafd555d75c91bf80f8687fc026feaa3ffafa576963d4b241a6dcbf504b62.jpg

  • Tigran Khachatryan

    Technically impressive, but when will AP get tired of regurgitating the same old royal oak design?

    • hatster

      Have to agree. Technically very nice but a really dated design. It isn’t dated enough to be ‘retro’ or classic, sadly. Not for me at all, but I am sure many AP lovers will snap it up. And that’s what makes this industry interesting. If we all agreed, we could all go home and ignore the interweb.

    • Lindsay

      I think you’re going to have to convince people to stop buying them if you want AP to stop making them

  • MEddie90

    As others have said, technically interesting and a great opportunity for AP to flex but as a watch it doesn’t really work for me. I quite like the subdial layout, but the dial lacks any real depth or flare (understandable given the goal) and from the wrist and side shots I’ve seem it looks so thin it’s out of proportion. As soon as you get much below 8mm a watch becomes less comfortable, less reliable, less attractive and more of an engineering exercise.

    I love the mechanism but I’d much rather AP focus it’s efforts on improving to operation of their calendars. Idea of combining the program wheel and leap year cam into one piece is far from original (IWC and Kurt Klaus in the mid 80’s) and was surpassed by Ludwig Oechslin and UN in the mid 90’s. It’s a shame to see the major brands like AP, ALS and Patek continue to use and even try to pioneer what is effectively outdated tech.

  • SuperStrapper

    The RO will never be an attractive watch but I do usually feel it works best in white metal and blue shade dial. So in the case of this watch the element I likely find most aesthetically unpleasing is the thickness (or, lack thereof). A 10mm thick calendar like this would be considered ‘slim’ and wear nicely while still looking like a watch. This ultra thin game is impressive on paper but tedious on the wrist. It just looks poor. Do not want.

  • Rupert Muller

    “Technically impressive”, that’s what I read in comments so far. I don’t think so. A perpetual calendar with four (4!) correction pushers on the side of the case? That’s far away of being technically impressive. It seems like the only goal of this movement was to be thin. Which is OK. But in terms of engineering of a movement it is far more complex to create a PC without pushers. For instance, I prefer the thickness of the Kurt Klaus version of IWC perpetuals that all come without correction pushers. But to each his own…

  • I can’t help but be reminded of the fake luxury watches one might find in Chinatown and how, despite being packed with subdials and text, they don’t actually have any function beyond the time. The RO screams “1980’s junk bond broker” so loudly, I can almost smell the SEC indictments. When the last of the Baby Boomers shuffle off this mortal coil, AP is going to have to finally hire a designer and stop supplicating at the altar of Genta.

    • Haiku Lou Albéniz

      Blue Horseshoe loves Annacott Steel

    • BJ314

      I eagerly await your next book. Awesome pictures you’re drawing for us. lol

    • Yea, and then maybe Porsche as well will do something about that pesky 911 shape. Maybe just stop making the damn thing altogether. That damn Beetle design has been around for too long.

      • IG

        I’d call it Tatra design because that’s what Prof. Porsche has stolen for his old chum Adolf.

        • Wasn’t that settled out of court in the mid ’60s? Anyway, what’s your argument here?

          • IG

            Argument? I just stated a fact.

          • Oh, I see.

  • BNABOD

    Ok I am going for it , i do not like it. I agree w Sir Strapper and I don’t mind when watches get thinner I actually prefer it but when it becomes so thin one can barely detect a watch I just think it is a miss and in the case of a sportier watch like this one it just does not work for me. I also like some heft on the wrist (no I am not talking platinum ancre heft but just a good solid amount of weight) so I see no reason to battle for the thinness award. Simply make it a tad slimmer than the regular model and voila. Furthermore, w all the pin pushers, right out of an acupuncture session, it leaves me cold so very cold. The water resistance is low and granted this is no dive poney but it is after all a “sports watch “ or was a sports watch at some point but suspect it will be a RO for the boardroom and not outdoors

  • James Miller

    I’ll never understand the fascination with this watch. The style and bracelet scream 1980s, and not in a good way.
    If the dial said “Bremont” instead of “AP” there would already be over 100 comments on this board will every one of them being negative.

  • Marius

    Audemars Piguet alongside Jaeger-LeCoultre are my two favourite brands, and the Royal Oak is definitely my favourite high-end casual/semi-sports watch (in fact, I own a Royal Oak 15400ST). Nevertheless, I fail to understand the hype that this watch has managed to generate.

    Firstly, I find the Research & Development “nomenclature” quite bombastic and exaggerated. Sure, if AP had come up with a completely new & innovative watch, then I would see its purpose. However, in reality, this watch uses the standard Royal Oak design as well as the relatively old AP 2120 caliber, which was actually developed and engineered entirely by JLC as the JLC 920. Granted, AP brought some modifications to this movement, but overall, this is your “standard” 2120 packed in a case that looks very similar to your “standard” Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. Consequently, I fail to see where all this research & development went into.

    Secondly, I’m not too fond of the overall design. The case looks too thin, and this fact is further exacerbated by using the standard Royal Oak bracelet which creates the rather bizarre impression that the bracelet is actually thicker than the watch. In my view, the Royal Oak Extra Thin 15202 (8.1 mm) is already thin enough; going below this thickness creates a very distracting and ugly appearance. Not to mention that, as Tea Hound pointed out, the dial is unnecessarily cluttered and busy. For me, the dial of the standard Royal Oak Perpetual is much more appealing.

    Lastly, I don’t quite understand the purpose of these concept watches. Just as in the case of the Piaget Ultra Thin, this AP isn’t meant for actual production because due to its thinness, it can’t actually cope with being worn under everyday conditions. In fact, even the Royal Oak extra thin using the 2120 can be quite “moody,” so I’m quite suspicious about this ultra thin perpetual. Sure, on paper the Piaget and the AP are interesting, but in reality, the ultimate purpose of every watch should be to be easily worn in normal conditions. If a watch is so thin that you can’t actually wear it, then its essentially useless, unless you’re buying it as an investment piece.

    • JosephWelke

      It’s possible that in a watch collecting world where cognoscenti lament the lack of innovation or bold strides in watchmaking engineering, this is AP’s way of saying they’re still “real”, “Atelier”, watchmakers, not simply iterating cases or making small and inconsequential refinements to existing movement. Which AP surely do, make no mistake.

      Perhaps they feel their position as one of the “Holy Trinity” is being eroded with all the new ultra thin watches from that uppity whippersnapper, Piaget?

    • Polerouter

      I am usually with you, and I don’t like this dial that much either, but the way the 4-year wheel interacts with the date wheel, the month wheel, the lever and the date wheel at the same time on only one level is actually new and very clever. Moreover, the way it relies on so few components and not so tight tolerances probably makes it more robust than a usual QP.

  • egznyc

    I’ll just join the chorus – this is all very impressive technically but I’m not liking the look. It reminds me of cheesy quartz mall watches trying oh so hard to look complicated, in terms of aesthetics.

    Kudos for keeping it real with your review, Mr. Bredan. Honesty and clarity are your guideposts.

  • Simonh

    Is it my imagination or are most of the watches reviewed here a bit rubbish?

    • Raymond Wilkie

      It’s your imagination.

    • JosephWelke

      Or just your personal taste. I like most of ‘em, and love a few of ‘em.

  • Ranchracer

    The infatuation with ultra thin escapes me, and I’m not particularly fond of the aesthetics here, or on any of the current crop of thin watches, but I commend David for going the extra mile to explain the inner workings of the perpetual calendar. I love geeking out on the complicated engineering mechanics of time pieces. It’s why I love watches first and foremost. Thanks David. ?

  • Chaz

    Beautiful piece.

    A shame AP’s cash cow (Faustian bargain) to keep them going are the Douche-cum-lately “Offshore” models. But then I guess there wouldn’t be the funding to pursue such gems as this one.

    Cheers!

  • benjameshodges

    Amazing what they have achieved. I actually prefer this Perpetual Calendar layout than the one in the current AP RO QP. It seems more balanced without the week hand. I’m looking forward to seeing this rolled out across the range.

  • Yan Fin

    Kudos on movement. Everything else is cluttered and unimpressive, including finishing.

  • Sort of ridiculous in an of itself (the thinness) but as a basis for adding a chrongraph for grand complication watch that comes in around 10 mm, it is a worthwhile movement. The rest (no second hand and the mega tapestry competing with the registers hands and moonphase) don’t do that much for me. A new dial and case would have been nice.

    • spiceballs

      Agreed – and perhaps titanium case & strap? Sorry David, but to me, heft does not always equate to durability (and comfort) even though platinum might justify a higher price and hence more exclusive buyer?

      • David Bredan

        I agree completely regarsing heft — that actually was a more tongue in cheek comment with the Boris quote from the movie Snatch.

        • Always enjoy watching Rade act. He is my favoriate Croatian actor.

  • Pete L

    Great article and a fascinating insight into how these work. Totally agree with you on the lack of running seconds as it would drive me mad and would probably spend half the time with it at my ear to make sure it was still ticking!
    It does seem like they missed a trick putting it into the 39 case as although personally 41 is plenty small enough for me the whole point of ultra thin is surely an exercise in miniaturisation? I would be perfectly happy with the standard thickness perpetual Royal Oak (if it had running seconds and was about £40K cheaper lol)

  • Rob De Lorne

    What is the L | 1 | 2 dial?

    • Lindsay

      The leap year indicator. There would also be a “3” if it didn’t collide with the month subdial.

      • Rob De Lorne

        COOL! Now I want one! Thanks for answering!

  • Ulysses31

    Another super-thin watch nobody asked for. That dial texture is tremendously ugly – like an old manhole cover with dirt in the grooves. The moonphase cut-out really suffers because of it, looking like it is surrounded by a few crude pixels, obscuring the true shape of the window.

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