An all-ceramic case and high-level finishing make Audemars Piguet’s latest Royal Oak the belle of the ball.
Rarely does the announcement of a new case material for an existing watch model generate significant buzz, but that is exactly what happened at the January unveiling of the all-ceramic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (audemarspiguet.com). The new timepiece, which made its debut at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, features both a case and a bracelet in black ceramic—an inspired choice by Audemars Piguet. The material is demanding, but it is also hardy and nearly scratchproof, unlike popular surface treatments such as black diamond-like coating and physical vapor deposition.
The brand’s R & D team spent more than 600 hours working on the design before it was ready for the production phase. Though the manipulation of ceramic is by no means new to the watch industry, it still requires painstaking attention to cut and finish. The subtle vertical brushed-pattern finishing on the bracelet, for example, takes six times as long to execute in ceramic as it does in metal—30 hours instead of 5, all of which are spent working completely by hand.
Like its predecessors, the new Royal Oak is powered by Audemars Piguet’s Calibre 5134 automatic perpetual-calendar movement, whose day, date, month, astronomical-moon, and leap-year indicators are displayed on the grande tapisserie dial. The rehaut in the inner bezel indicates the week of the year. Priced at $93,900, the watch is available at the brand’s boutiques worldwide.
A Chronology of Ceramic Watches
1973: Omega launches the prototype of the Seamaster Cermet (popularly known as the Black Tulip), which employs a ceramic and titanium carbide alloy coating over steel.
1986: IWC unveils the world’s first wristwatch with a pure ceramic case, the Da Vinci Ceramic Ref. 3755.
1990: Rado’s Ceramica—the brand’s first watch to pair a fully ceramic case and bracelet—hits the market.
1994: IWC introduces the first chronograph with an all-ceramic case, the 3705 Ceramic Flieger Chronograph. Ceramic IWC Top Gun models follow shortly thereafter.
2000: Chanel’s J12 pushes the use of ceramic cases and bracelets into the mainstream market.
2013: Omega returns to ceramics with the debut of the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon, which has a ceramic case, pushers, crown, and clasp.