There are few things in this world that will never go out of style. Just to name three: the tracklist of Deep Purple’s Machine Head, a trusty mechanical watch, and the color black. And when you put them altogether, you get something cool, tough and unbreakable — an all-ceramic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar.
Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak family has made a name for itself in the “sporty luxury” watch department with its classic steel and precious metal bracelets. To create one with its bezel, case and bracelet in ceramic is a pioneering feat for the brand and most of all, extremely challenging because of the unusual shape of the watch. Separate from what is known as earthenware ceramics, the ceramic used in this watch is composed of very pure materials, including an additional metal that gives it greater strength. The composition contributes to its extreme robustness, making it less susceptible to scratches, heat and wear and tear. Indeed, engineering ceramics are the hardest class of materials known; for a comparison, they’re about four times harder than stainless steel. Naturally, working such a material into a watch takes just as much effort, if not more. The ceramic version requires brand-new molds, including ones fashioned for every single link in the bracelet, and that task in itself is no mean feat. While it takes six hours to complete the bracelet of a Royal Oak in stainless steel, the ceramic version reportedly takes 30 hours, not counting the 600 hours of research and development that brought the concept to fruition.
While the use of ceramic in high-tech watchmaking is nothing new, having been used in watches from brands the likes of IWC, Hublot, and Rado, the extensive use of ceramic in the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is, nevertheless, quite remarkable. One doesn’t need a loupe to notice the bracelet’s finish — it’s satin-brushed, a signature Royal Oak feature, and one that is done to the high standards of the Le Brassus manufacture. The uninitiated might’ve thought that the watch’s matte-black look was achieved via a black PVD coating over steel, and who could blame them? Trust Audemars Piguet to, both literally and metaphorically, break the mold to bring this timepiece to life, and expectedly so, it was the coolest watch at SIHH 2017.
Within the black beauty, a new self-winding caliber 5134 powers the time function, day, date, moonphase, week of the year and leap year, as well as provides a 40-hour power reserve. Fronting the 41mm case is a Grande Tapisserie pattern in slate gray, which adds depth and contrast to the otherwise black subdials, case, bracelet and all. We’re expecting this watch to be the next all-time classic. And for what it’s worth, you can’t ever go wrong with black, and a Royal Oak at that.