The Royal Oak has been a celebrated watch among the fraternity with its several variations. And the trend continues. With the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin, Swiss Haute Horlogerie Manufacture Audemars Piguet proudly announces their newest research and development breakthrough (RD#3).
The first “Jumbo” in history to be equipped with a self-winding flying tourbillon is this 39 mm stainless steel anniversary variant, which is 8.1 mm thick. Calibre 2968, the Manufacture’s latest self-winding ultra-thin flying tourbillon movement, is just 3.4 mm thick and is embellished with a unique mix of traditional and contemporary hand-crafted ornamentation. To bring this timepiece to life, Audemars Piguet’s watchmakers overcame a number of technical hurdles while paying close attention to aesthetic nuances. Pushing the boundaries of feasibility, this model will be complemented in September by a second 37 mm version for the slimmer wrists, enriched with a dial of a different hue.
A New Ultra-thin Flying Tourbillon Movement
Calibre 2968, an ultra-thin self-winding flying tourbillon movement created over a five-year period, lies at the heart of this remarkable innovation. Engineers and watchmakers at Audemars Piguet faced significant obstacles in order to fit this complexity, which was previously reserved for 41 mm diameter watches, into the smaller volume of a “Jumbo”: a first for the Manufacture and one of the few examples in the entire watch industry. Because of the form language’s extra-thin nature, this self-winding flying tourbillon had to be redesigned to reduce the thickness required to house this complication by repositioning some components. For the first time, a peripheral drive is included in the tourbillon cage, which is made of titanium. The combination of these two parts not only improved the fluidity of energy flow to the tourbillon but also helped to lighten and refine this regulating organ.
Audemars Piguet engineers substantially revised the mechanism’s architecture in order to allow maximum visibility of the tourbillon and movement. The redesigned escapement on the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin emphasises the visual aspects while revealing some of the movement’s workings. The design and arrangement of the balance wheel arms have been significantly altered in order to make the watch’s beating heart even more visible. The flying tourbillon is located at the dial level due to the mechanical design of the movement, providing a better visual experience.
The hand decoration of the movement components, visible through the sapphire caseback, combines the dynamism and classicism of V-angles with the modernity of traits tirés – a finish that appears on the mainplate and bridges and replaces the traditional Côtes de Genève. The open-worked, rhodium-toned bridges offer an unobstructed view, contrasting with the pink-gold-toned colour of certain mechanism elements.
A Refined Design
The new RD#3 stays true to the original “Jumbo” models’ stylistic guidelines. The stainless steel case and bracelet include the collection’s trademark satin-brushed and polished hand finishes, while the dial pays homage to the original model with a Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 Petite Tapisserie dial. The colour is achieved by a PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) method, which ensures a consistent and long-lasting tone across all dials.
Just as on the 1972 model, this new “Jumbo” reference is distinguished by bathtub-shaped hour-markers and hands filled with luminescent material to ensure optimal readability in the dark. The Audemars Piguet signature, like the minute track, is printed in white on the Tapisserie motif. The titanium flying tourbillon cage rotating at 6 o’clock stands out against the blue Tapisserie backdrop to create an airy effect. Contrary to the original model, the contemporary version is endowed with a sapphire caseback, which reveals the new ultra-thin movement and the dedicated oscillating weight.
A Dedicated “50-years” Oscillating Weight
A central oscillating weight placed on ball bearings and equipped with two reversers ensures bidirectional winding in the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin. The watch is equipped with a special anniversary openworked oscillating weight in rhodium-toned 22-carat pink gold that is etched with the “50-years” emblem and the Audemars Piguet signature. It features the collection’s signature polished and satin-brushed finishes, which match the tones of the stainless steel case and bracelet.
A Tradition Of Technical Prowess
In 1986, Audemars Piguet introduced the world’s first selfwinding tourbillon wristwatch. Imagined by Jacqueline Dimier, the design placed the tourbillon escapement on the dial side for the very first time. Calibre 2870 is housed in an ultra-thin case measuring a mere 5.3 mm thick. Its titanium tourbillon cage remains one of the smallest in the world today with a diameter of 7.2 mm, as well as one of the lightest with a weight of only 0.123 grams. This model became known as the Tourbillon Selfwinding Ra (in reference to the Egyptian sun god) because Jacqueline Dimier’s design gave the tiny regulator the appearance of a sun, with its rays spreading across the dial. This complicated wristwatch, of which 401 were produced until 1992, opened up a new avenue for Haute Horlogerie, which began to see a comeback of prestigious mechanisms including tourbillon watches.
The Manufacture, famed for its ability to develop, launched a series of Research and Development models thirty years following Jacqueline Dimier’s model. After eight years of research in collaboration with EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, and a panel of experts comprised of watchmakers, engineers, musicians, and sound specialists, Audemars Piguet unveiled its first RD#1 Royal Oak Concept Minute Repeater Supersonnerie prototype at SIHH in 2015. With the introduction of the Supersonnerie mechanism, this watch signified a great leap forward in terms of acoustic performance, sound amplification, and musical beauty. Three patents have been filed for this system, which combines a new chiming mechanism with an inventive casing design. The commercial Royal Oak Concept Minute Repeater Supersonnerie version, released a year later, earned the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s “Mechanical Exception Watch Prize.”
The Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin, the Manufacture’s latest technical advancement this year, is following in the footsteps of earlier advances. This RD#3 timepiece, powered by the new Calibre 2968, is a superb tribute to the Royal Oak’s 50th jubilee, combining technical innovation and artistic refinement.