Our first real knowledge of the Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin came directly from the mouth of the brand’s CEO, François-Henry Bennahmias, on the morning of day one of SIHH 2018. While pictures and news of the watch were already all over the web and Instagram, it wasn’t until we heard about the concept watch from Bennahmias that we understood the gravity of what Audemars Piguet had achieved.
“Imagine a house with three floors,” started Bennahmias, “fully furnished on every floor.” Holding his right palm high over his left, he continued: “Now you take your house and do this,” smashing his hands together so there’s an audible smack resounding through the room. “You still have all your furniture, they’re all there. But on one floor. That’s what we did [to create the RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin].”
Consider this: the existing Calibre 5134 perpetual-calendar movement is 4.31mm. The RD#2’s Calibre 5133 is just 2.89mm thick. Every wheel, bridge and pinion had to be re-thought in order for Audemars Piguet to shave off 1.42mm and still retain all of the 5134’s functionality, minus the week indicator.
“There were discussions and meetings in Le Brassus [when we were thinking about doing this watch], where [my team] almost got into fist fights. For real; between the old generation and new generation [of watchmakers at Audemars Piguet],” said Bennahmias. “Because for the new generation [the idea on the table] it works, and the other side insisted it would never work.”
When the two schools of watchmakers finally came to understand that the concept would work, they didn’t just discover a new way to do perpetual calendar movements. Learning points from the exercise of producing the RD#2 has brought about discoveries that have forever revolutionized how Audemars Piguet conceives movements henceforth.
For the very reason that the Le Brassus-based watchmaker was bold enough to challenge its own norms — to the point of internal strife — it’s only right that we confer our 2018 Best Concept Watch award to none other than the RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin.