Audemars Piguet has been creating some of the most technically interesting watches in their Royal Oak Concept collection for the past couple of years. Last year, they showed off the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer, a highly complicated chronograph with three column wheels that could measure consecutive lap times. And earlier this year, they unveiled the equally complex Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch, a minute repeater exemplifying Audemars Piguet’s obsession with sound clarity and quality.
Of course, it would be cruel to show you pictures and tell you about this watch’s amazing sound without a video to let you hear it, so do play the video above to hear it for yourself. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch is a piece that took Audemars Piguet eight long years to develop, and the goal was to create the ultimate striking watch. The minute repeater complication is often regarded as one of the most difficult and… well, complicated to make – so imagine how hard it is to create one from scratch. The next thing to remember is that Audemars Piguet didn’t only want to create a new minute repeater watch, they wanted to create one that would be the best.
Now, the “best” for Audemars Piguet means their striving to create the most clear and crisp sound of any minute repeater. The brand points to three accomplishments demonstrated in this watch, which I will briefly run through. First, the unique preparation of the steel used to create the gong structure allows the watchmakers to more accurately and easily adjust and hone the pitch, tone, and harmony of the minute repeater. Second, the way the case is built minimizes sound absorption and maximizes amplification. I’ll discuss this “soundboard” technique more a little bit later on. Finally, the striking regulator is redesigned so the anchor system acts like a shock absorber, minimizing shock noise.
One of the most important components of a minute repeater watch is the case because it is responsible for amplifying the sound. It is often said that gold is the best material for the job because it produces a richer sound, but the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch opts for titanium. Titanium is a very light and strong metal, and its low density allows sound to pass through with less resistance. If you have any doubts about this, you only need to look at exotic supercars and their titanium exhausts. Titanium is also used elsewhere around the watch to improve the quality of the sound, but more on this later.
The use of titanium also means that despite the watch’s sizable dimensions, at 44mm wide and 16.5mm thick, it remains light and comfortable to wear. And thanks to its unique aesthetic, the case design immediately identifies the watch as a Royal Oak Concept and nothing else.
Regardless of the svelte profile though, the gold 15202 is a very hefty watch. This tactile illusion is because, of course to the fact that gold density is almost 3 times that of stainless steel, giving the assertive wrist existence of a much bigger sports view to one that can otherwise slip easily under the cuff of a dress shirt. When you examine the bracelet and case when considering the weight of the golden, the slender profile but solid gold look gifts a contrasted personality that works well. It’s secure, but a contemporary design icon within an old-school material.From that the dial-side, the appearance and texture of this 15202 is distinctly classic — like a vintage re-issue of the first 5402 in gold. Inside though, defeats a different story. Here we’ve got the Caliber 2121, now made in-house by Audemars Piguet (from the Royal Oak’s formative years, the 2121 was really produced by Jaeger LeCoultre). It is an ultra-thin automatic movement measuring 3.05mm thick, and characterized by a unique 2.75Hz (19,800 vibrations per hour), although slightly lower-than-average alternance is not readily visible as the 15202 does not feature a running seconds hand. Contrary to the 5402 that prompted it, the 15202 gets a sapphire crystal display caseback, through which the cal. 2121’s 21-carat gold rotor is visible, as it glides back and forth on the circular railing conducting the circumference of the movement — one of those tricks enabling the 2121’s signature thinness.In complete, the 15202 will be available in three variants — the newest gold alternatives (yellow gold on champagne yellow, or yellowish gold on blue) combine the current stainless steel 15202 which was re-introduced back in 2012. While the stainless steel Extra-Thin Jumbo Royal Oak begins at approximately $22,000, people looking to ‘stay gold’ can expect to part with over double that — $55,000 for its 18-carat gold variants.
It goes without saying that the case is finished to an impeccably high standard with contrasting finishing. The bezel has mirror polished edges and features a satin-brushed finish on the top, which complements the exposed polished 18k white gold screw heads. The case has been sandblasted and features a matte finish that juxtaposes very well with the shinier bezel. The large crown and chronograph pushers are made out of ceramic.
The black satin-brushed dial is partly skeletonized to reveal the inner workings of the watch. The hour and minute hands are made of 18K white gold and are partly skeletonized as well. However, because they are fairly chunky, telling the time isn’t overly difficult, but legibility is not ideal. That being said, this isn’t really a piece where the hands are the focus. The running seconds hand for the chronograph is bright yellow to provide contrast against the black dial.
Finally, the individual minute markers and the markers for the 30-minute chronograph at 3 o’clock are rendered in yellow and white to provide maximum contrast and legibility. The 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock is also unique because it displays the elapsed minutes using a retrograde indicator. And lastly, at six o’clock is the tourbillon.
The movement is where the magic all happens. It is obviously in-house, and it is the calibre 2937. Manually wound, it features a staggering 478 components, beats at 3Hz, and provides a power reserve of 42 hours. And like all high-end chronograph movements, it has a column-wheel and lateral clutch.
What’s unusual about it, though, is its two gongs. Instead of mounting the gongs to the movement plate, they are attached to what Audemars Piguet calls a “sound board.” Basically, it is a thin membrane made of a special copper alloy that covers the back of the movement, held in place by screws, and also forming a water-tight seal. This explains how the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch is able to get a water-resistance rating of 20 meters, which may not sound like much to a casual observer, but this could not be more incorrect. The 20 meters is actually quite impressive considering the intricate construction of the watch.
When the hammers strike the gongs, this membrane vibrates and acts like the sound board of a guitar, dramatically amplifying the sounds of the gongs. In addition, the actual titanium case back is slightly raised to cover this membrane and has apertures along the edge to allow sounds to escape. This results in one of the loudest minute repeater watches we have ever heard. And interestingly, the watch seems even louder when it is worn on the wrist!
At the end of the day, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch is yet another successful showcase of the brand’s almost breathtaking technical know-how and unique design sense. It is a thoroughly modern take on one of horology’s oldest complications, and we can see that in the case of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch, it has also been thoroughly improved.
And if you think that all of this won’t come cheap, you’d be right. Though the Audemars Piguet Diamond Watches Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch isn’t a limited edition, it has a princely price of $597,400. audemarspiguet.com