Insider: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST. Hands-On with this 500-Piece Limited Edition.

As you all know, 2015 has been a very important year for Milan as they hosted the World's Exhibition Expo 2015 from May 1st thru October 31st. As a Tribute to Italy, earlier this year, Audemars Piguet presented the Royal Oak Chronograph Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST.OO.D027CA.01 in a 500-piece limited edition. Our friends from Le Brassus, seized the opportunity by creating this special limited edition of the Royal Oak Chronograph in stainless steel, a metal always favored by Italian AP connoisseurs. What we love the most about this limited edition because the color combination with plenty of blue in it, is the subtle touches that bring Italy into the design of this 'Tribute to Italy' Royal Oak Chronograph. Those subtle details that include the color blue —a preferred color among Italians— and the indices on the 30-minute counter; which borrow the iconic green, red and white of the Italian flag. The watch just like all other Royal Oak Chronos measuring 41 mm is perfectly fitted for every day wear.

The Dial & Case

The decidedly modern dimensions of the 41 mm stainless steel case conserve all the characteristics that made the Royal Oak a watchmaking legend. Fitted with a silvered dial with 'grande tapisserie' with blue counters, the 30-minute counter features a green accent at the 20-minute mark, a white one at the 30-minute and a red one at the 10-minute mark. The dial features applied white gold hour-markers and white gold Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating and a blue outer minute track zone.

Audemars Piguet crafts the 'tapisserie' motif on antique machines according to the arabesque-making technique. This rare manufacturing process, which Audemars Piguet is proud to master and use, allows the cut of the dial and the mesh structure of the inserted slim grooves to be produced simultaneously. The overlay of the two decorations, characteristic of the Royal Oak, lends the dial a unique brilliance.

The Pushers & Crown

The Royal Oak Chrono Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST.OO.D027CA.01 like all other Royal Oak chronographs is fitted with a solid monocoque case with no display case back. This watch is fitted with screw-lock pushers and screw-down crown making it waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. The chrono pushers are easy to unscrew and do not require strong pressure to activate the chronograph. The hexagonal shape of the casing for the pushers is one of the unmistakable features on this watch.

The Case Back & Strap

Other special features not to be missed, are the solid case back that bears the engraving “Swiss Made Limited Edition” and the blue rubber strap that is truly unique. In fact, in the past, the Royal Oak Chronograph City of Sails limited edition created in 2002, was the only watch to feature a rubber strap. In addition to the rubber strap on the watch, the Royal Oak Chrono Tribute to Italy also includes a hand-stitched large square scale blue alligator strap. The beating heart inside the Royal Oak Chrono Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST.OO.D027CA is still the Audemars Piguet calibre 2385, an automatic chronograph movement based off of the legendary Frederic Piguet calibre 1185 also used on the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph —as caliber 1137— and the Breguet Marine Chronograph —as calibre 576— amongst other timepieces. This movement still remains the thinnest automatic chronograph calibre ever made, measuring only 5.5mm in thickness. The movement is composed of 304 parts, beats at 21,600 vph, is fitted with 37 jewels and provides a power reserve of 40 hours when fully wound. While this is not an in-house calibre, is definitely above any other generic ETA or Valjoux chronograph calibres out there.

The Presentation Box

Just like with all other Audemars Piguet limited editions, the watch comes with a special presentation box. The box is dark blue with a special medallion that reproduces the watch's case back with the colors of the Italian flag.

On the Wrist & Pricing

On the wrist, the watch wears slightly smaller than its actual 41 mm size and more like a 40 mm watch. The blue registers along with the blue strap on the watch, make this piece very special as we are crazy about blue dials or blue accents on watches. The Royal Oak Chrono Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST is definitely a watch in our short list of watches to buy in the next year. The Royal Oak Chronograph Tribute to Italy ref. 26326ST.OO.D027CA.01 is only available in a 500-piece limited edition.

Sticker Price $31,000 USD. For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.