Sublime, exceptional and elegant, are the words we like to use to describe what we consider to be the 'our favorite Tourbillon in the market'. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon has a very rich history within Audemars Piguet. The first Royal Oak Tourbillon was released in 1992 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak and its name the Royal Oak Jubilee. Then in 1997, one of the most unique and rare Royal Oaks ever made was presented by Audemars Piguet. We are talking about the Royal Oak Automatique Tourbillon 25th Anniversary ref. 25831 of which only 5 pieces were ever made in 18K rose gold to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as we featured it here. This exceptional limited edition watch was produced in very limited quantities in stainless steel —only 25 pieces—, 18K yellow gold —5 pieces—, 950 platinum —5 with blue dial and 5 with salmon dial— and it is the only Royal Oak Tourbillon fitted with an automatic calibre up to date. It is also known, that there's one unique piece in a combination of 18K rose gold and 18K white gold created specifically for the Sultan of Brunei.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon ref. 26510OR.OO.1220OR.01 was released in 2012 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak. The idea behind it, was to create a new model that would take the design of the first Royal Oak Jumbo from 1972 but taking it to the next level, the result, an extra flat manual wound Royal Oak Tourbillon available in stainless steel, platinum or 18K rose gold. Today, the stainless steel version of this Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon is available as ref. 26510ST.OO.1220ST.01 with blue dial or as ref. 26512.ST.OO.1220.ST.01 with black dial. The 18K rose gold ref. 26510OR.OO.1220OR.01 we are reviewing here, is only available with its stunning blue dial. Lastly, there is a Royal Oak Openworked Extra-Thin Tourbillon ref. 26511.PT.OO.1220.PT.01 in platinum and in a 40-piece limited edition that was released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak. We brought you the stainless steel prototype of this watch here.
The Dial & Case
The Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon —one millimeter bigger than its Royal Oak Tourbillon predecessors— is fitted with a 41 mm 18K rose gold case with a thickness of 8.85 mm, maintaining all the characteristics that made the Royal Oak a watchmaking legend, including its 50-meter water resistance. This exceptional watch is fitted with a stunning blue 'petite tapisserie' dial with 18K rose gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating. The dial features a tourbillon at 6 o'clock —does a full lap every 60 seconds— and its clean simple design, makes this watch a perfect timepiece for Royal Oak purists.
Audemars Piguet crafts the 'tapisserie' motif on antique 'rose-engine' machines according to the arabesque-making technique. This rare manufacturing process, which Audemars Piguet is proud to master and use, lends the Royal Oak dials a unique brilliance and unmistakable appearance. An operation that takes over an hour to perform, the guilloché work on the dial features an interwoven pattern of peaks and troughs which catch the light and underline the geometric profile of the watch.
The Crown & Crystal
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon like all other Royal Oaks, features the unmistakable AP marked hexagonal crown rising in all its glory. One big difference between the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon and all other Royal Oaks —with the exception of the Royal Oak Extra-Thin reviewed here— is that its sapphire crystal, is treated with an anti-reflective coating to provide perfect legibility of the dial when exposed to unwanted glare.
The Case & Bracelet
Fitted with a 41 mm case, this watch wears completely different to other 41 mm Royal Oaks like the ref. 15400 or the Royal Oak Perpetual ref. 26574, thanks to its extra-thin profile measuring 8.85 mm in thickness —only 0.75 mm thicker than the Royal Oak Extra-Thin.
The finish as we all know, is the best in the industry with an alternating satin brushed finish with mirror polished bevels and edges. The watch is nice and heavy weighing 240.1 grams — as a reference, a Royal Oak Perpetual in 18K rose gold weighs 253.6 grams and a Royal Oak Offshore Rubber Clad in 18K rose gold weighs 225.1 grams.
Much like a supple joint, the bracelet is made up of a juxtaposition of small parts graduated by decreasing size. An exemplary configuration and the ideal model to hold the case firmly in place while providing complete freedom for wrist movements. The sophisticated construction of the Royal Oak bracelet uses parts that are all different in size. Arranged in diminishing order so as not to weight down the watch, they are graduated into seven different sizes, alternating bracelet links and connecting studs. Each of these parts, is meticulously machined, pierced, polished and checked in order to fit together perfectly with no gaps or unevenness.
After trimming, polishing and brushing, the links are initially assembled in their definitive order. Another operation transforms this 'staircase', achieved by the gradually diminishing length of the parts, into a double symmetrical curve. The intermediate studs are then placed and the assembly shanks are driven in before soldered at the tips. The soldered tips are perfectly invisible on the edges of the bracelet.
Then come the screwed extension pieces. The tips of the shanks are pre-cut before the final cutting which makes them invisible. Assembled at last, the bracelet is fitted with a folding clasp made up of ten parts before undergoing the final hand-crafted operations of polishing the bevels and the intermediate studs, satin-brushing the sides and the faces of the links.
This alternating pattern of polished and satin-brushed surfaces are unmistakable attributes of the Royal Oak bracelet.
The Movement & Display Case Back
The display case back allows for full view of the amazing calibre 2924 inside this beauty. The highly finished manual wound in-house calibre is 31.5 mm —14 lignes— in diameter and only 4.46 mm thick. This 25-jewel movement composed of 216 parts, oscillates at a frequency of 21,600 vph to provide a power reserve of 70 hours when fully wound. The movement features an extra flat tourbillon cage, a differential power reserve with indicator on the back side of the calibre.
On the Wrist & Pricing
On the wrist, the watch wears slightly smaller than its actual size and more like a 40 mm piece on a 7.25" wrist. The blue dial provides an amazing contrast against the 18K rose gold case and the watch has unparalleled wrist presence, feeling simply perfect like all other gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks. For those of you curious of who wears a watch like this, all we can say is that at least in six different occasions, we've seen the stainless steel version of this watch on the wrist of Francois-Henry Bennahmias the global CEO of Audemars Piguet. A perfect daily wearer thanks to its sporty yet very elegant design.
Sticker Price $165,800 USD 18K rose gold ref. 26510OR.OO.1220OR.01 and $135,800 USD for stainless steel ref. 26510ST.OO.1220ST.01. For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.