Perched on the sofa in a sleek lounge overlooking the snowy hills beyond Audemars Piguet‘s manufacture in Le Brassus, Switzerland, CEO François-Henry Bennahmias and head of complications, Michael Friedman, spent two hours debuting the new lineup of watches for 2021 (with more to come in the Fall). They had plenty of mechanical wonders to reveal, but they also emphasized the company’s big new partnership with Marvel Comics. While there’s no word on what the new joint venture will bring, it was said to be inspired by Bennahmias’s 11-year-long friendship with actor Don Cheadle, who plays War Machine in the Avengers film franchise. But when Bennahmias was asked who his favorite character is from the comic empire, he told journalists present at the virtual presentation that he felt his personality was more in line with the Hulk.
Judging by the new collections, he was keeping the superhero’s pallor and bravado in mind when it came to design. The big news was the introduction of a time and date-only Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin with sunburst green dial in platinum in lieu of the brand’s typical waffle-pattern tapissserie dial. Four other green Royal Oaks with tapisserie dials were also introduced on tourbillon and chronograph models. Robust diver Royal Oaks and a bulkier Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon with a flyback chronograph will also be on offer, as well as diamond and solid-gold versions of the Royal Oak.
But while the Royal Oak continues to be Audemars Piguet’s star, the company remained bullish on the Code 11.59 collection, introducing two new chronograph models with ceramic on the middle case. While it has only been two years since the collection debuted, Bennahmias made sure to point out a screen that showed some 30 variations in production. So far, Code 11.59 remains the brand’s alter ego, more in line with Bruce Banner than the Hulk, but real-life superheroes aren’t made overnight.
Here is the rundown of all the new models.
Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin 39 mm
Will die-hard Royal Oak fans embrace the new Jumbo sans tapisserie dial? It’s a decidedly less sporty take on the RO ethos with a flat sunburst design and the ref. 15202 model also comes in watchmaking’s elite alloy, platinum. Equipped with the caliber 2121, it features a solid-gold winding rotor visible through the caseback. Platinum is undoubtedly a weighty proposition, but the Jumbo’s slim profile of 39 mm by 8.1 mm counterbalances the heft. Sleek, elegant and simple with a striking green dial, this will be the spotlight piece everyone is going to want, especially those who couldn’t get hold of the previous salmon-dial Jumbo. While there’s no word on price yet, it will be limited to 100 pieces and will be available exclusively through AP House, the brand’s VIP lounge-style collector venues, in London, Milan, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Munich and Bangkok.
But if you’re looking to dial it up a notch, you can opt for the new green tapisserie dial versions like the 18-karat yellow gold selfwinding chronograph or one of three iterations of Selfwinding Flying Tourbillons in titanium, 18-karat pink gold or titanium with an 18-carat white-gold bezel set with baguette-cut emeralds. All of the tourbillon models come with the tapisserie pattern in a sunburst design for extra emphasis.
All are available starting this month.
Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin With Diamonds 39 mm
If bling is more your thing, AP didn’t spare on diamonds. Three new gem-set Jumbos were presented with two in 18-karat white gold featuring either a baby blue or black dial. An 18-karat pink-gold model with a baby blue dial is also available. There’s no word yet on delivery or price for these three, but you can expect deep pockets will be needed considering each is dressed in 1,102 brilliant-cut diamonds at approximately 7.09 carats.
Royal Oak Offshore Diver 42 mm
Here we have the first major redesign of the Royal Oak Offshore line with a new collection of dive watches. They feature the brand new caliber 4308 movement (including a 22-karat pink gold rotor visible through the caseback), based on a similar time-only movement that was introduced in Code 11.59, as well as a pumped-up tapisserie dial in grey, navy blue or olive green. Because of the high-impact of the dial, the company did away with the long-form signature of its brand name, keeping only the AP logo. All come in stainless steel cases and are fit for dives of up to 300 meters (984 feet) and are equipped with 60 hours of power reserve.
The other big news is the models now come with detachable bracelets, which Bennahmias says will be offered on all new Royal Oak Offshore models going forward. The rubber straps can be replaced with beige, brown or black leather versions. The AP CEO demonstrated their ease of use by unclipping them with his eyes closed.
Pricing is still TBD, but delivery is scheduled for May.
Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41 mm
Gold, gold, gold and more gold…don’t call it a comeback (although we’ve been saying something similar for some while…). Every single version of the new Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph was produced in 18-karat pink gold cases. They come with either a chocolate brown or navy blue tapisserie dial with 18-karat pink gold chronograph counters and are offered on either a bracelet or leather strap that matches the dial hue.
And for the first time, the RO chrono contains the latest in-house integrated flyback chronograph selfwinding caliber 4401, which, in another first, is visible through the caseback. The sapphire crystal reveals the column wheel, chronograph hammers and hand-finishing.
All are available starting in May.
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph 43 mm
This baby, limited to 100 pieces, will set you back CHF 245,000 ($264,514 at current exchange rates) and will be delivered in June. It combines two high complications, a flyback tourbillon and a flyback chronograph, in a new 43 mm case size. The caliber 2967 was originally released for the Code 11.59 collection, but has been adapted to this ROO’s case size and redesigned with titanium bridges coated in a black PVD finishing that have been satin-brushed and hand-polished. For extra visual dimension, the titanium inserts alternate between sandblasted or polished finishes. The flying tourbillon cage shows off a rhodium-toned balance wheel, while an open-worked oscillating weight in 22-karat gold coated with black PVD is visible through the caseback. Despite its precious cargo, it boasts 65 hours of power reserve and is water-resistant to 100 meters (328 feet).
It comes with the new interchangeable strap system and, in the event that you need to prove you are the proud owner of an ultra-rare AP, the caseback is engraved with “Royal Oak Offshore Limited Edition of 100 Pieces.”
Code 11.59 Selfwinding Chronograph 41 mm
The Code collection just got a new waistline. Two selfwinding chronographs, in 18-karat white gold and pink gold available in May, now feature a black ceramic mid-section. Developed in collaboration with the family-owned and Swiss-based precision component company, Bangerter, the cases’ ceramic centers, visible from the side, are created using Zirconium Oxide powder combined with a secret binder component. It takes shape through CNC machine technology, after which the binder is removed and the component is then sintered at 1,400 degrees Celsius (2,552 degrees Fahrenheit). It is machined with high-precision diamond tools and then pre-polished and satin-brushed before being hand-finished.
It’s a lot of work for a new belly, but it’s further proof that Audemars Piguet is willing to keep pushing the aesthetic boundaries of Code 11.59 at all costs.
Stay tuned because Bennahmias teased that AP will be releasing more watches by the Fall, including one very big introduction it’s keeping up its sleeve.