Many forget that at the time of its debut in 1972, the now-classical 39mm Royal Oak caused quite a stir with its cost, its on-display twist heads in its own bezel, its steel case and bracelet, and its very high price, unprecedented for a steel watch. Now, this was to be taken to the next level with the Royal Oak Offshore.It was big and brash, and purists who watched it in Basel back in 1993 cried that the Royal Oak had been desecrated — probably the very same people who jumped out to about the original Royal Oak desecrating luxury watches generally. Truth be told, the Offshore has been a bold move by Audemars Piguet, but today we all know how well it has repaid. Now, the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore are Audemars Piguet’s best-selling collections — basically synonymous with the brand itself, which clearly is not a good thing, but we will leave that discussion for another time.
While ceramic has been a favourite material at Audemars Piguet for the Royal Oak, it has not been used for a watch bracelet, until now. Just announced at SIHH 2017, the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is ceramic from end to end, with the case, bezel and every link of the bracelet in black ceramic.
The case is 41mm in diameter, just like the standard model, but the finishing of the case and bracelet takes significantly more time than for the steel or gold equivalent. While a steel model takes some six hours to machine, polish and put together, the ceramic version takes 30 hours.
To match the ceramic case, the dial is a dark grey with black sub-dials, decorated with the chequerboard grande tapisserie guilloche that’s synonymous with the Royal Oak.
Historically an important complication for Audemars Piguet, the ceramic perpetual calendar is powered by the calibre 5134, a movement based on the extra-thin calibre 2120/2121 found in the original Royal Oak of 1972.
In fact, the calibre 5134 is evolved from the calibre 2120/2802, the movement used for the 39mm Royal Oak perpetual calendar that was in production for some 30 years. The key difference in the new calibre being the addition of a 52 week indicator.
Price and availability
The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic (ref. 26579CE.OO.1225CE.01) is priced at SFr85,000. It should be available in the second half of 2017.