As we chart the new watches from the recently concluded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2015, it dawns on us that it is the 140th anniversary of Audemars Piguet. The family-owned watchmaker that inspired a legion of imitators with its Royal Oak line (and topped that with collectors’ favorite the Royal Oak Offshore) is gifting the world with a number of fantastic watches, of which one of the most significant is the Royal Oak Concept RD#1.
You might think that this is a tribute to our hashtag era but it is actually the manufacture’s vision of the most perfect striking watch it has ever made. To understand why this might be so you have to actually hear the minute repeater in action in person but since that is not possible, we will try to tell you the technical story behind this innovation.
It starts in 2006 (although Audemars Piguet has been making striking watches for more than 100 years) in partnership with the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne) and included not only watchmakers but also a craftsman of stringed instruments, an academic from the Geneva conservatory and a sound engineer.
The goal was to define some scientific parameters for the repeating mechanism so that the eventual sounds produced by the movement would be consistent, from one watch to the next.
The results are a minute repeater with exceptional sound quality and volume, in a water resistant case, according to the manufacture. Briefly, minute repeaters of the past (and even today) were typically not water resistant because a sealed case compromised the quality of the sound.
As far as we know, Blancpain first crossed this threshold by debuting a fully water resistant piece in 2007 called the Leman Aqua Lung. For the sound produced by the watch itself, watchmaking brands have been reliant on the finely tuned ears of the artisans, business owners and even clients, meaning that no two striking watches sounded exactly alike.
Audemars Piguet does not say exactly how it achieved its own results, probably because it has at least three patents pending on this watch, but what we can say with certainty at the moment is that the watch employs the traditional gong-and-hammer system in steel that such mechanisms have traditionally employed. The governor is likely to be the ‘silent’ variety, of the sort that uses centrifugal and centripetal forces.
The 44mm case is titanium and the watch is water resistant to 20 meters. It is worth noting that this is multi-complication piece, as is typical for Audemars Piguet’s concept line so there is also a chronograph and a tourbillon in the mix. The movement is the manual winding calibre 2874SS, with tourbillon and column wheel chronograph.