News: Introducing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher. The World's First Mechanical Chronograph with Independent Memory and Three Column Wheels.

Today in Givrins, Switzerland at the Corinna Schumacher CS Ranch, Audemars Piguet unveiled the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher ref. 26221FT.OO.D002CA.01. The watch, was a true collaboration between Audemars Piguet and Michael Schumacher, taking five years to come to fruition after Schumacher challenged Audemars Piguet to create a watch with the ability to measure and record an extended series of consecutive lap times. In late 2010, F1 legend and Audemars Piguet ambassador Michael Schumacher posed an apparently simple question to the engineers at Audemars Piguet: would it be possible to create a mechanical wristwatch designed specifically for use in motorsport which would make it possible to measure and record an extended series of consecutive lap times? From the outset, Michael explained that he did not want to develop a watch to use while in the cockpit of a race car, but one which would enable him to time laps accurately from track side when, for example, he was mentoring young drivers or advising on how a car’s performance might be improved. It was a horological challenge that had never before been met in a mechanical watch, and one that was inspired by motor racing’s very specific requirement to be able to time and compare multiple, consecutive laps —a task which has traditionally been carried out using a bank of two or more stop watches arranged in series.

Now, after almost five years of development, Audemars Piguet can claim to have conquered that challenge and is honored to be able to pay tribute to the greatest F1 driver of all time by unveiling the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher —the world’s first luxury watch to feature two angular indexing systems on a single chronograph, each with an independent ‘memory’. It is the first motorsport-specific watch to feature a complication imagined by the celebrated driver, and it is the first time that a movement has been developed from scratch by Audemars Piguet at the behest of an ambassador —an indication of the strength of the long-standing relationship which Audemars Piguet has enjoyed with Michael Schumacher since forming an on-going partnership with him in 2010.

The Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher will be the second Audemars Piguet chronograph to carry the name of the celebrated driver, the first being the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph Michael Schumacher Limited Edition from 2012 —reviewed by us here— which he
helped design and which was produced in an edition of 1,000 units in titanium, 500 in rose gold and 100 in platinum.

Regarding this very special watch and collaboration between Schumacher and Audemars Piguet, Sabine Kehm, Michael Schumacher’s agent says: "Michael has always been a watch lover and connoisseur. Like any engineer who is driven by details and by discovering tailor-made solutions to specific problems, he is fascinated by the technology and craftsmanship that goes into all Audemars Piguet watches. But, as is usual with F1 drivers, he is also permanently looking at the next step, the better solution, the greater challenge and this is how the Laptimer project started. Having repeatedly accompanied him on visits to the Audemars Piguet manufactures in Le Brassus and Le Locle, I can say that he fell in love with the idea of creating a watch with an entirely new complication from the very beginning. He has already put so much thought and energy into this project, and has been looking forward to seeing it working and presenting it to other watch lovers from the very beginning, that the idea of not completing it was never an option. And he will be especially proud that the watch is being unveiled in his own environment. To us and to him, there could be no better place."

Explaining How it Works

Traditionally, short circuit motor racing is timed from the track side with two or more hand-held stop watches. As one lap is completed, the first watch is stopped and the second is started. If a split-second chronograph is used, it is to measure intermediate times only. When the chronograph is started, both second hands run simultaneously. When the split-second
pushpiece is pressed, one hand stops allowing the reading of intermediate time, while the second hand keeps going. By again pressing the split-second pushpiece, the first hand will be resynchronized with the second and both will continue the timing.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher, however, features a single chronograph driving two central hands which can be controlled independently via three pushpieces —the first sited at the conventional two o’clock position to start and stop the chronograph; the second sited at the four o’clock position to reset the chronograph, and the all-important third pushpiece sited at the nine o’clock position. This third pushpiece bearing Michael Schumacher's MS monogram makes it possible to simultaneously stop either of the two chronograph hands, while returning the other to zero and restarting it —meaning that, while the time of the most recent lap is being noted down, timing of the next lap is already underway.

The watch therefore negates the need for two or more hand-held timing devices, streamlining the operation within a single wrist chronograph. Alternatively, the watch can keep a certain lap time as reference, stopping one hand with the laptimer button, and using the flyback function on the other chronograph hand with the pusher at 4 o’clock to restart the measurement of each new lap. Finally, the timepiece can be used as a “standard” flyback chronograph with both hands running together in parallel.

The Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher is the world’s first mechanical chronograph with alternating consecutive lap timing and flyback function specifically designed and engineered for continuous action and relentless precision in timing laps on the racetrack. Developed at the design and technical department of Audemars Piguet, the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher features a pending patent covering its unique functionality, which is based on a mechanism incorporating no fewer than three column wheels.

One column wheel, located at the six o’clock position, controls the chronograph sequence, while the two at the 12 o’clock position control the complex laptimer sequence. The gear train is driven by two mainspring barrels set in parallel which provide double the usual amount of torque and 80 hours of power reserve, and to ensure exceptionally smooth operation, the watch features specially developed conical gear teeth which mesh seamlessly and accurately at all points in the movement’s cycle for a perfectly linear torque transmission. A new oscillating wheel coupling mechanism has been developed for jerk-free action when the chronograph is stopped or started.

Since the new Audemars Piguet 2923 calibre operates at a frequency of 4 Hertz —28,800 vph— and features a variable-inertia balance wheel, it is capable of recording times down to one-eighth of a second. Due to the complexity of the movement’s construction, it contains several unusually long and slim components which would not operate satisfactorily using traditional lubricating methods. As a result, the engineers at Audemars Piguet chose solid lubricants which will not deteriorate easily and which will remain consistent and offer exceptional longevity. As seen on previous Audemars Piguet Concept watches, the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher features a 44 mm case made from forged carbon. The bezel, case edges and caseback, meanwhile, are made from titanium and the pushpieces from ceramic and pink gold.

The blackened openworked dial, like the back of the watch, is protected by a glareproofed sapphire crystal with the watch being supplied on a black rubber strap with a titanium AP clasp.

Close examination of the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher also reveals subtle references to the man who inspired it —seven stars, for example, are marked on the left side of the case in honor of Michael Schumacher’s seven F1 World Championship titles, and his celebrated ‘MS’ monogram appears on the laptimer pushpiece. Finally, in honour of his extraordinary career, the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher will be made available in a strictly limited edition of 221 pieces in recognition of the number of F1 World Championship point-winning races in which he competed. The watch is available at the Audemars Piguet New York City, Bal Harbour and Las Vegas boutiques.

Sticker Price $229,500 USD. For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.

Technical Specifications

Movement: Hand-wound Manufacture calibre 2923. Laptimer Chronograph with double central
second hands, flyback, 30 minutes counter, small seconds, hours and minutes. Total
diameter: 34.60 mm (15¼ lines). Total thickness: 12.70 mm. Number of jewels: 34.
Number of parts: 413. Minimal guaranteed power reserve: 80 hours. Frequency of
balance wheel: 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hour). Finishing & decoration: Maillechort mainplate and central bridge, circular grained and blackened, blackened titanium upper-bridge, blackened balance-wheel bridge, black polished steel column-wheels, linear-grained and sandblasted steel levers, linear grained steel springs and bevelled and linear-grained bridges.

Case: 44 mm Forged carbon case, curved glareproofed sapphire crystal, titanium caseback with glareproofed sapphire crystal, titanium bezel, black ceramic and 18-carat pink gold screw-locked crown, black ceramic and 18-carat pink gold pushpieces, black ceramic Laptimer pushpiece with MS logo, titanium pushpieces guards. Water-resistant to 50 meters.

Dial: Openworked black dial, 30 minutes counter at 3 o’clock, white gold Royal Oak hands
with luminescent coating, black inner bezel.

Strap:Black rubber strap with titanium AP folding clasp.