Insider: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 26574OR. A Look into the History of the Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel Since 1983.

Just released a little bit over a month ago on September 14, 2015, we patiently awaited until we could finally meet with Audemars Piguet to work on a proper hands-on review of this new stunning Perpetual Calendar and bring you our usual live pics under natural light . Well, the reward was worth the wait. As you will see in this post, the live pictures we took bring the watch to a different level, as if you could almost touch the dial. The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel —Perpetual Calendar— ref. 26574, joins all other Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars previously released since 1983 but with a larger case at 41 mm and a new automatic calibre. Audemars Piguet has an uninterrupted history of creating exceptional calendar watches that goes back to the company’s origins over 140 years ago. Sales of Audemars Piguet’s first full calendar wristwatches with phases of the moon began in 1924 and according to the Archives, the first perpetual calendar wristwatch was made and delivered in 1950. However, as important and collectible as they are, these perpetual calendar wristwatches lacked the defining element of the perpetual calendar pocket watches that preceded them — the leap year indication. The leap year indication is the critical indication of a perpetual calendar watch as it accurately and clearly situates the calendar mechanism within the broader astronomical cycles.

The History

The first Royal Oak to feature a Perpetual Calendar complication was released in 1983 as ref. 5554 —later named 25554— and available in stainless steel —49 pieces—, 18K yellow gold —229 pieces— and one unique piece in platinum. Only eleven years after the launch of the Royal Oak in 1972, the brand was already making history by releasing the iconic watch with a perpetual calendar complication. Fitted at the time with a 39 mm case —like the original Royal Oak 'Jumbo'— and powered by the automatic calibre 2120/2800, the Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel has seen many variations, limited editions, case sizes —including a 33 mm intended as a Ladies piece— and subtle changes to its design totaling 16 different perpetual calendar base references and more than 90 different models including grand complications in the Royal Oak Family.

While the first Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 25554 was a true perpetual calendar in all the sense of the word, its dial didn't feature a leap year indicator —like most perpetual calendars do nowadays— until the 1995 when the dial was equipped with such indicator for the first time. Then in 1985 a second reference in the history of the Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel was released as a one unique piece ref. 25624 in yellow gold. Then what we like to call the official second reference was released in 1986 —ref. 25636. The Royal Oak QP reference 25636 consisted of 264 examples —126 yellow gold, 52 in stainless steel, 49 two-tones, 34 in platinum and 3 in rose gold. After its release, different iterations became available —now highly coveted limited editions— that included an 18K yellow gold reference, an 18K rose gold case with platinum bezel and platinum middle links, a stainless steel model and lastly —perhaps one of the most popular ones or at least one we see more often— in a stainless steel case with highly polished platinum bezel and platinum middle links on its stainless steel bracelet.

Before the official third reference, another unique piece in yellow gold was released as ref. 25651. The official third reference released within the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar family was ref. 5654/25654 and just like all previous 'Quantieme Perpetuel Automatique' Royal Oak watches, it still didn't feature the leap year information. This particular reference 25654 —perhaps the second most popular with 800 pieces made — was released in the late 80s or early 90s in nine different variations in stainless steel, platinum, 18K yellow gold and lastly in platinum and 18K rose gold —pictured below and featured as a rare bird of this reference here. While all Royal Oak 'Quantième Perpétuel Automatique' watches didn't feature leap year indicator until 1995, the movement on this complication was programmed mechanically to take automatic account of the occurrence of a leap-year —therefore, it has no issues switching from February 29 to March 1st on a leap-year.

It wasn't until 1995, that Audemars Piguet released a Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar with a leap-year indicator and also a week indicator —one that is often not present in most perpetual calendars out there. With the release of the 120th Anniversary Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel ref. 25810OR.OO.0944.OR.01 in 18K rose gold, Audemars Piguet celebrated the manufacture's 120th anniversary. The Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel ref. 25810OR.OO.0944.OR.01 was available in a limited edition of 120 pieces bearing the inscription '1875-1995' on the moon phase register and a fully gold-plated automatic movement.

Following the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak reference 25654 and the celebratory 120th anniversary Royal Oak QP ref. 25810, the Royal Oak reference 26659 was released in 18K yellow gold with a diamond set case. Then, circa 1996, another new reference with several case and dial variations became available under reference 25686. The Audemars Piguet ref. 25686 included another stainless steel and platinum model, a stainless steel model, a platinum and 18K rose gold version and a full platinum one. While up until 1997 the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar was only available in a 39 mm case, in 1998 ref. 25800 was introduced featuring a 33 mm case —intended for Ladies but released as a Men's mid-size timepiece— and a leap year indicator on the dial. At this time, it was also the first time the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel would become available in 18K white gold.

Then almost immediately after, the ref. 25820ST.O.0944.ST.01 made its appearance with calibre 2120/2802. The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 25820 was available with five dial variants in stainless steel —smooth silvered dial, white tapisserie and three different hues of blue with tapisserie as well—, two dial variants in 18K yellow gold, two in platinum, three in stainless steel with platinum and perhaps the most coveted of them all a tantalum and rose gold version, a tantalum and yellow gold and the king of all Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars the tantalum and platinum version. Years later seven new skeletonized Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars would make their appearance as ref. 25829 in stainless steel, platinum, 18K yellow gold, 18K rose gold and once again the three ultra special tantalum combinations with platinum, rose gold and yellow gold. Along all these perpetual calendars, a family of Royal Oak Grand Complications was released in the mid to late 90s under ref. 25865 fitted with perpetual calendar, minute repeater and chronographe rattrapante. At first glance, the distinctive moon phase indicator at 12 o'clock is the quickest tell tale sign. The lineup even included a blackened PVD stainless steel model, several 18K white gold examples and even a titanium piece.

Finally, in 2008 the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is unveiled on leather strap. The Audemars Piguet ref. 26252 became available in two dial variants that included a white silvered dial as ref. 26262OR.OO.D092.CR.02 and brown dial ref. 26262OR.OO.D092.CR.01.

Hands-On with the New Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 26574

This time, the Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel returns to the center stage with four different versions —two in stainless steel and two in 18K pink gold with either silver toned/white dial or blue dial. The reference numbers are as follows: 26574OR.00.1220OR.01 18K rose gold with silver toned dial, 26574OR.00.1220OR.02 18K rose gold with blue dial, 26574ST.00.1220ST.01 in stainless steel with silver toned dial and 26574ST.00.1220ST.02 in stainless steel with blue dial.

Continuing with the shift in watch case size that began in 2012, the new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is now 41 mm —instead of the classic 39 mm like the one we featured here—, yet still extremely thin and wearing really more like a 40 mm. While most expected for the watch to wear as big as the 15400, it doesn't. Instead, the watch is extremely comfortable and with unparalleled wrist presence.

The Dial

The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 26574OR is available with silver toned dial as ref. 26574OR.00.1220OR.01 or blue dial ref. 26574OR.00.1220OR.02. This time and thanks to the enlarged size of the case, the watch features a 'Grande Tapisserie' —to learn more about the different types of tapisserie go to this article we published some time ago— dial design that greatly increases the overall aesthetics, balance and legibility of the perpetual calendar indications. One of the great things about this dial, is that is fitted with luminescent material on the applied markers and hands, something really uncommon in a perpetual calendar.

The layout of the dial includes all of the traditional indications of a perpetual calendar watch: day, date, highly detailed astronomical moon, month and leap year. In addition, just like on the 120th Anniversary Royal Oak Quantième Perpétuel ref. 25810OR.OO.0944.OR.01 the 52 weeks of the year are indicated by an outer chapter ring with corresponding central hand, adding another layer of time measurement. Knowing the number of the week is something that is quite handy for those that live in Europe and where the number of the week is an important thing to keep in mind.

The white lettering along with the red '31', gold surrounds, white hand for the week and the aventurine disc for the moon phase, make this perpetual calendar extremely sporty, yet ultra elegant at the same time. One thing we want to point out, is that our live pictures are the closest to what the hue of blue on the dial looks like under natural light. We actually photographed the watch under natural light to avoid any hue/color variation.

With a very clean layout in our opinion but that to some might appear slightly busy, the dial features month and leap year indicator at 12, day of the week at 9, date at 3 and moon phase indicator at 6 o'clock.

The Case & Bracelet

When the watch was announced a month and a half ago we were unsure how well the new case size —measuring 41 mm— would wear. After doing this hands-on review of the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 26574OR.00.1220OR.02. all we can say, is that we are extremely pleased with the results. The 18K rose gold case measuring 41 mm in diameter and only 9.5 mm in thickness —not far from the 8.1 mm thickness of the Royal Oak Extra-Thin ref. 15202ST.OO.1240ST.01 reviewed here— is extremely solid but also very wearable. The case wears actually slightly smaller than its actual size and more like a 40 mm. You will definitely perceive a difference on how this watch wears when compared to the Royal Oak 15400 that is also fitted with a 41 mm case. The finish as we all know, is the best in the industry with alternating satin brushed finish with mirror polished chamfers and edges. The case is nice and heavy at 253.6 grams —as a reference an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Rubber Clad in 18K rose gold weighs 225.1 grams. The case features two correctors on each side of the caseband to ease adjustment of the calendar. The watch is also fitted with a screw-down crown.

The bracelet is a work of art on its own and fitted with a new generation double folding deployant clasp with AP markings on the inside.

The Movement & Display Case Back

The display case back allows for full view of the amazing new calibre 5134 inside this beauty. The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Quantième Perpetuel is powered by the new in-house automatic calibre 5134 based on its predecessor the calibre 2120. However, this new calibre has been enlarged in accordance with the updated 41 mm diameter case size. The highly finished 4.31 mm thick movement is fully visible through the glare-proof sapphire crystal case back. The suspended barrel which helps achieving extra thinness is adorned with circular Côtes de Genève and the wheels are satin brushed. The mainplate is circular grained while all bridges are bevelled and adorned with Côtes de Genève. The 22K gold monobloc rotor is engraved with Audemars Piguet and its external segment is adorned with a tapisserie motif echoing the iconic pattern of the Royal Oak dials. The movement has a total thickness of 4.31 mm and a diameter of 29.00 mm. Composed of 374 parts and 38 jewels, the movement provides a power reserve of 40 hours while oscillating at a frequency of 19,800 vph. The oscillating weight is guided by a peripheral ring rolling on four ruby runners, which reduces friction and wear to the minimum possible. Moon phase indicator, laser microstructured, laid on aventurine that requires correction every 125 years and 317 days. One other thing that is important to note, is that this is not a modular perpetual calendar calibre as the 2120/2800 but a completely redesigned one-piece calibre based off of its predecessor the 2120.

The display case back is spectacularly finished with a thick and nice raised engraving surrounding the sapphire crystal that reads "Royal Oak Quantieme Perpetuel".

On the Wrist & Pricing

On the wrist, the watch has very strong wrist presence and feels top heavy just like all other gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks. As mentioned earlier, 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. Opposed to most perpetual calendars out there, the best thing about the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ref. 26574OR is that it is a perfect daily wearer thanks to its sporty yet very elegant design.

Sticker Price $95,700 USD 18K rose gold and $60,900 USD in stainless steel . For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.