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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41

Audemars Piguet revealed its first 41 mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding Chronograph entirely crafted in black ceramic with contrasting pink gold accents appearing on the dial. Each ceramic component is pre-polished and pre-satin-brushed prior to being finished by hand, culminating in polished chamfers juxtaposed with Audemars Piguet’s trademark satin-brushed and polished surfaces.

The black dial features a Grande Tapisserie pattern and matching counters with fine pink-gold-toned threads. Additional pink gold highlights, including applied hour-markers, Royal Oak hands and the Audemars Piguet signature, deliver eye-catching contrast.

To celebrate the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary, this new 41 mm Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph housed in black ceramic features the collection’s new evolutionary dial design. The artisans have harmonized the size of the luminescent facetted hour-markers and the hands while preserving their aesthetics. The logo has been reworked. A gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding signature endowed with a unique topography now replaces the applied AP monogram and the printed “AUDEMARS PIGUET” at 12 o’clock. The embossed signature decorating the new Royal Oak “anniversary” models is made of thin layers of 24-carat gold. Each letter is connected with links approximately the size of a hair and placed on the dial by hand with tiny legs almost invisible to the naked eye.

By increasing the size of the small seconds display, all three counters feature the same diameter, augmenting readability. The central sweep seconds hand features a new style of counterweight encompassing a new trapezoidal openworked profile.

The pins connecting the links to the studs of the black ceramic bracelet are no longer visible on the sides, but fitted directly into the studs.

This new version of the 41 mm Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph is fitted with a dedicated anniversary openworked oscillating weight in blackened 22-carat gold, which features the “50-years” logo and the engraved Audemars Piguet signature. The oscillating weight has been darkened in order to match the color of the case.

At the heart of each reference is the Manufacture’s latest generation chronograph movement, the selfwinding Calibre 4401. It is fully integrated and features a column wheel and a flyback function. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding flyback function allows the wearer to stop, reset and start the chronograph in one simple action. The column wheel works in collaboration with a vertical clutch system. When starting or stopping the chronograph, the hands respond accordingly without any jumping. The push-pieces feel smooth when pressed. A patented zero resetting mechanism ensures that each one of the counter hands instantaneously resets to zero.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41

It wouldn’t be SIHH without some updates to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41 collection. This year we’ve got a new base model Royal Oak in the form of the ref. 15500, replacing the ref. 15400 that came out back in 2012. The ref. 15500 is still a 41mm, automatic Royal Oak with classic looks, but the proportions and detailing have been updated with increased legibility and cleanliness in mind. Specifically, the date window is now further from the center, the applied luminous indexes are a bit wider, and the minute track is printed on the very edge of the dial outside the “Grande Tapisserie” pattern. There are five references in total, three in stainless steel (with blue, grey, and black dial options) and two in rose gold (one on a bracelet and one on a strap, both with black dials).

One of the most important updates though is the use of a new movement, the caliber 4302. This in-house movement was just introduced yesterday in the three-hand CODE 11.59 model (see, we told you AP would likely roll these movements out to other watches). This is a much more modern movement than the classic caliber 3120 that powered the ref. 15400 – it beats at 4 Hz instead of 3 Hz, it has 70 hours of power reserve instead of a 60, and it was designed and made totally in-house. Now, this has the added effect of making the watch thicker too, with the ref. 15500 measuring in at 10.4mm top to bottom instead of 9.8mm. Whether or not this makes any difference is yet to be seen, but we’ll be looking for it when we see these in the metal soon.
For many die-hard collectors, the “Jumbo” is the “base” Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41, but that’s just not the case. The ref. 15202 is tough to come by and represents a very small percentage of the overall Royal Oak production. It’s this watch, the ref. 15500, that forms the true foundation of the collection, and the technical and aesthetic tweaks offer both something new for customers right now and some insight into where AP sees the Royal Oak going overall.

One of the things I find interesting about the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding 41 ref. 15500 is just how different is actually is from its predecessor. It would be easy to shrug this release off as an incremental update – that was definitely my first reaction. But just look at how different the 15500 appears from the 15400 when you put the two side by side (the 15500 is on the left, the 15400 on the right):
And that doesn’t even take the movement swap into account. I think that while it’s not a particularly splashy release, we’re going to look back at this watch as one of the more important introductions of the fair in terms of impact on consumers.