How Do you Celebrate the Birthday of an Icon? With a Skinny Skeleton
13th November 2011
Written by Meehna Goldsmith
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, a timepiece designed by Gérald Genta in 1972 that redefined the luxury sport watch market and arguably saved the ailing fortunes of Audemars Piguet. Such a big birthday brings with it a lot of tension and anticipation.
Watch aficionados are raring at the bit hoping to see a model that properly pays homage to the history while at the same time stands on its own as a 21st century watch. Imagine the pressure on AP to deliver something special not only to please the fans but also to respect its lineage and DNA. You definitely don’t want a flop on your hands in this instance.
During my trip to the Audemars Piguet manufacture this year, the hot topic of conversation was the direction Audemars Piguet would go in their tribute model. Octavio Garcia, Audemars Piguet’s head designer, braved the tumult of questions without giving away any hints. Guesses ranged from moving the Audemars Piguet logo back to its original position down at 6 o’clock to doing a completely faithful re-edition as a flashback to 1972. While we admit a certain affection for disco balls and Elvis Presley, we certainly don’t miss the days of bell bottoms and the AMC Gremlin. The day of reckoning has come and fortunately, AP didn’t fall into the trap of rehashing their 8-track tape.
As we’ve talked about before thin is still in and might even be considered the new black—a chic style that has chameleon-like properties. The Audemars Piguet Openworked Extra Thin Royal Oak is in its element whether you’re skiing the powder in Aspen, taking in a cocktail on the beach in Cote d’Azur, or conducting a business deal in a sleek high-rise.
Audemars Piguet chose to power its first Royal Oak chariot with the very lean Calibre 2121, one of the thinnest automatic mechanical movements at just a mere 3.05mm thick. Working with this same base, the craftspeople at Le Brassus hollowed out and engraved the entire movement, including the hanging barrel, and renamed it Calibre 5122. The result is at once sleek and modern without looking fragile, though the connoisseur will understand the deft hand necessary to create such a piece. Think of skeletonization as a dangerous balancing act without a net. One misstep and it’s all over. There’s no covering up a mistake. Take too much away and the movement doesn’t function correctly and the job must be started again.
The masculine gray color is achieved through a galavanic treatment to the bridges and the transparent effect is maintained through the use of a sapphire date disc and black transferred numbers.
A Royal Oak wouldn’t be a Royal Oak without certain characteristics and this one proudly announces them: the octagonal bezel and eight polished hexagonal screws, the integrated case with its tapering bracelet, and, of course the “tapisserie” motif, which is found in the external segment of the dial.
The movement can also be admired from the rear through the exhibition back. Look closely and you’ll see an inscription on the monobloc 22-carat oscillating weight: “Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 1972-2012”.
Did Audemars Piguet come up with a worthy successor to its patriarch. I think so.
Offered in a limited edition of 40, the Royal Oak Limited Edition comes in a 39mm platinum case, the same size as the original. As many collectors will probably want to get their hands on this one, I expect a non-limited model might be released in the more affordable steel.
Photographs sourced from Audemars Piguet