The much beloved Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet is always going to be about subtle evolution, rather than revolution. The recently launched Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon is a case in point. It combines orthodox design elements, such as the case and bracelet, with innovations that are part of the brand’s heritage to present a combination of mechanics and aesthetics that is completely new. Launched this month, the latest Royal Oaks come in three variants – Stainless Steel, Pink Gold and Titanium.
The first Audemars Piguet to combine a tourbillon with an Automatic calibre was the calibre 2870 launched in 1986 – the world’s first self-winding tourbillon. The first AP watch to feature a flying tourbillon was the Royal Oak Concept launched in 2018. The Calibre 2950 – part of AP’s new generation of calibres that made their debut in early 2019, with the launch of Code 11.59 – was the brand’s first self-einding calibre to feature a flying tourbillon.
The new Royal Oak, being the first to feature the Calibre 2950, becomes the first Royal Oak with a Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon mechanism.
Within the Royal Oak collection, the inclusion of Calibre 2950 may be seen as an upgrade to the previous tourbillon model which has a hand-wound mechanism. Another positive of the 2950 is the pleasant tone it produces when winding, something that should appeal to those with a soft spot for chiming watches. Being an automatic, with a power reserve of 65 hours, also makes it better suited for a sports-watch such as the Royal Oak.
The rhythmic movements of the calibre, beating at 3Hz, and its embellishments are visible through the sapphire case-back. These include the “Côtes de Genève,” satin-brushing, snailing and hand-polished chamfers, as well as the dedicated openworked oscillating weight in pink gold or rhodium-toned pink gold, depending on the variant.
The first Royal Oak to feature a tourbillon regulator made its debut in 1997, and was powered by an automatic movement. The flying tourbillon, as in the latest Royal Oak, is distinguished by the lack of bridges to secure it to the plate. Instead, a three-arm cantilever architecture is used to secure the tourbillon on just one side to offer a less obstructed view of the mechanism. The hand-finished tourbillon cage, visible from the dial and caseback sides, also offers views of some of the watch’s regulating components.
The 41 mm case of the new Royal Oak is slightly thicker at 10.4 mm, when compared to hand-wound Royal Oak tourbillon, which had a thickness of 11.5mm. The extra height is because of the automatic calibre, which tend to be generally thicker than comp[arable hand-would calibres.
The case design remains expectedly unchanged. The unmistakable octagonal bezel with its eight screws, the base flowing into the integrated bracelet, and the interspersing of brushed surfaces with polished accents are all there. However, the material used to construct the case and the dial design varies between the three variants.
The entry level variant (Ref. 26530ST.OO.1220ST.01) is in Stainless steel, and is paired with a blue dial; a combination that reminisces the original 1972 model. The blue guilloche dial features the “Evolutive Tapisserie” pattern that first appeared in the 2018 Royal Oak tourbillon models.
Derived from the classic “chequerboard” patterns of the Royal Oak, this pattern radiates out from the centre of the tourbillon. It has a smoked effect that goes from light to dark as we move towards the edges. The combination of colour and pattern accentuates the flying tourbillon’s sense of depth. It also provides contrast to the 18k white gold hands and applied hour-markers. The signature Royal Oak hands have luminescent coating.
The luxuriant 18k Pink Gold variant (Ref. 26530OR.OO.1220OR.01) has matching 18k gold on the hands, markers, tourbillon cage and on the oscillating weight. The “Evolutive Tapisserie” pattern, identical in design to the one on the steel variant, also appears here but in shades of grey.
The Titanium variant is the standout piece among the three new Royal Oaks. The grade-five titanium, a material used sparingly by AP for Royal Oaks, is noticeably lighter and stronger than the steel, thus simultaneously enhancing its sport-swatch credentials and its luxury quotient.
It also stands out because of its dial, which does not have the typical tapisserie motif. Instead, the slate grey dial is sandblasted for a granular look, with a darker snailing pattern in periphery. The plain but richly detailed dial acts as a contrast background for the complex mechanics of the tourbillon. It also combines with case to create a mono-tone, understated aesthetic; unlike the other two models. The hands and markers are white gold with luminescent coating.
The three variants of the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon is available in select stores and online.