Survey any given number of millennial-aged watch enthusiasts and I’m willing to bet you’ll find at least 1 in 5 who go absolutely bonkers over Royal Oak QPs. This particular subset of Audemars Piguet collecting is well-documented, and it’s not unusual to see waiting lists lengthier than War and Peace every time a new version hits boutiques. Ditto when we’re talking ceramic: a material that has turned one of the most covetable Royal Oaks in recent memory into certifiable unobtanium.
Let me be clear: the new openworked Royal Oak QP is, in numerous technical ways, a duplication of AP’s Ref. 26579 perpetual calendar (also released in black ceramic back in 2017). But just because both may be nominally described as 41mm Royal Oaks (housing a perpetual calendar complication) that doesn’t mean they’re identical — not even close. Specifically, the new openworked Royal Oak QP reinforces AP’s reputation as one of the best ceramic watchmakers around; whilst providing a serious alternative to the stealthier, more conventionally attractive 26579.
Watches made with innovative materials certainly aren’t a novel concept, but few brands have managed to harness ceramic quite as effectively as AP. Relative to gold or stainless steel, the former is a notoriously difficult material — requiring skilled watchmakers in order to tease out its potential. The very specific qualities of the Royal Oak — the octagonal bezel, multifaceted flanks, integrated bracelet — are difficult to execute at the best of times, and with ceramic all of those challenges are exacerbated. (Finishing a ceramic Royal Oak bracelet reportedly takes five times as long as the steel equivalent.) Despite numerous technical hurdles, the payoff (when well-executed) is immense. Ceramic possesses lightweight, corrosion resistant properties which make it extremely wearable; and as you can see in the gallery below, the material shows off hand-finishing in a way which hits that much harder than typical 316L steel.
That same in-the-gut impact carries over to the watch’s feel. On the wrist, there’s something to be said for wearing this much ceramic — especially when it’s been machined to such a high standard. As you’d expect, the quality of the bracelet (in terms of build and fit) is equally fantastic. It utilises the same open, ultra-flexible design found on non-ceramic Royal Oak QPs; and has the added benefit of adjusting to your body’s temperature much faster.
Even though the new ceramic Royal Oak cribs from the design language of its predecessor, I can’t stress enough how differently the former wears. The crucial difference is in the dial: unlike the 26579, the newer Royal Oak QP is made with a base of transparent sapphire crystal — through which wearers can see the new calibre 5135, developed specifically for this release. Given the mass of wheels, levers, and pinions which are visible, illegibility is an issue that AP’s watchmakers had to work doubly hard to overcome. Ergo, the various calendar indications (e.g. day, date, month) are printed directly onto the crystal, and then overlaid with the corresponding register — each of which is treated with a smoked finish. As with all openworked designs, the resulting legibility is not at the level of a tool watch but, all things considered, AP have done a solid job balancing the dial’s ‘wow’ factor with the need for everyday legibility.
The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked in black ceramic (Ref. 26585) is now available exclusively at AP boutiques. Price available on request. To learn more, visit Audemars Piguet online.