Audemars Piguet launches its new Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher in a mix of joy and sadness. “This is the most challenging launch ever, for both technical and emotional reasons,” explained Audemars Piguet CEO, François Bennahmias, during a press launch at the Schumacher’s family ranch in Givrins, Switzerland.

In 2010, during a visit to Audemars Piguet, F1 legend Michael Schumacher enquired whether it would be possible to create a watch with a mechanical lap timer complication. Audemars Piguet’s head of research and development, Giulio Papi, wasn’t sure, but like all great mechanically-driven minds, he was up for the challenge. At the time no one knew how long it would take, and even less that Michael Schumacher would suffer severe head injuries during a skiing accident in December 2013.

The project continued quietly on its course while Michael Schumacher fought for his life. Now recovering at his home on the shores of Lake Léman, Michael Schumacher’s progress is unknown, but one thing that is certain is that his family knew how much this project meant to him and gave Audemars Piguet their full blessing to continue.

Last night, the timepiece was presented for the very first time during a spectacular evening at the Schumacher’s ranch where guests celebrated Schumacher’s legendary career and discovered a watch that technically deserved to see the light of day.

The Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher has a regular chronograph function, but also a laptimer complication, which allows the user to time laps of a car during a race. Schumacher’s idea was not to time himself while driving, but to use the piece when mentoring young drivers on the circuit. Previously he would juggle with two stopwatches to time the lap speeds of his protégées.

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: François Bennahmias – Audemars Piguet’s CEO, Sabine Kehm – Schumacher’s longtime manager, and Giulio Papi, Audemars Piguet’s Head of R&D

With the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher it is possible to do this all in one watch. It works with two superimposed hands at 12 o’clock. The first hand starts ticking when the car leaves the blocks and stops via a pusher when the driver completes the lap. The moment the user presses the pusher to record the first lap time, the second hand starts to time the second lap. But the magic doesn’t stop there. If the driver makes an exceptional lap time, for example, the user may wish to keep this time on the watch and continue timing with the other hand. This is possible via a third pusher at nine o’clock, which allows the user to restart the moving hand and leave the stopped hand where it is.

Technically, this is no easy feat and two patents cover the mechanism, one of which is pending and top secret for the time being. What we do know is that there is a column wheel at six o’clock that controls the chronograph sequence, and two more at the 12 o’clock position that control the laptimer function. The gear train is driven by two mainspring barrels and there is a power reserve of 80 hours. The movement is also vibration-resistant in the event that a co-pilot wishes to time laps from within a racing car.

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On the design front, the timepiece is highly legible, even in the darkness of the dining room set up in the ranch’s arena. The case is 44mm and crafted from forged carbon while the bezel, case edges and caseback are made from titanium, ceramic and pink gold. Some subtle details make a reference to the man behind the watch, with seven stars on the caseband marking his seven F1 World Championship titles and his monogram is engraved on the laptime pusher.

Available in 221 pieces to commemorate the number of races that Schumacher won on points, the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher will be available worldwide for around CHF 226,800.

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