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The Best of the Best 2003: Watches - Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept

James D. Malcolmson

Audemars Piguet unveiled its Royal Oak Concept watch to some of its most important retailers by intentionally dropping the $155,000 tourbillon on the floor. This shocking act pointedly demonstrated just how different this timepiece is. While most complicated watch releases are simply laudable variations of time-honored mechanisms, Audemars Piguet broke the mold this year with a watch that is exceptional not just for the number of innovations it contains, but also for the way they are applied.

The Swiss watchmaker seems to have made two simple discoveries: Today’s watch collectors lead active lifestyles, and they love to play with their timepieces. The Concept’s alacrite 602 alloy and the first-of-its-kind balance wheel suspension system make it the first tourbillon truly designed to take the shocks of everyday wear, and the dynamograph and clutch winder functions beg to be adjusted.


Though delivery of the 150-piece limited edition Concept just began, almost every piece has been presold. “I’ve seen many watches generate enthusiasm,” observes François-Henry Bennahmias, president of Audemars Piguet North America, “but certainly never for a watch this expensive.”

“Everyone who sees it falls in love with it,” adds John Simonian, president of Westime in Los Angeles. “All of the Concept’s features are unusual. In the high-end watch industry, the most innovative company right now is Audemars Piguet. Nobody comes close.”

Audemars Piguet is in the midst of a long-term revitalization, which began with the acquisition of complicated watch specialist Renaud & Papi three years ago. The Royal Oak Concept is proof positive that the investment in original development is more than worthwhile. Audemars Piguet has not only created the most innovative wristwatch this year; it may have begun to redefine high-end watchmaking itself.

Audemars Piguet, 888.214.6858

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