As usual, Audemars Piguet’s big launch announcement comes early in the year—this time, in February. There is something for everyone across all four collections: new dials, new colours, and new materials, including a rather unusual 37mm Royal Oak Selfwinding in yellow gold with turquoise dial.
And then, of course, there are the complicated affairs. There are two big technical highlights this year, and one of them—the less complicated one, believe it or not—is a split-seconds chronograph with an all-new in-house movement. Calibre 4407 represents the cutting edge of movement development, and also features a GMT function and oversized date indicator. This gives rise to the Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date, which is expressed in a titanium case 43mm in diameter.
It has been more than 20 years since the Royal Oak Concept was released as a platform for innovation and discovery, and continues to live up to that image with this release. The new movement is based on the flyback chronograph Calibre 4401, itself introduced in 2019, but heavily reworked with enhanced power management to accommodate the new functions, as well as a new oscillator with Breguet overcoil hairspring. The dial is openworked, with black PVD-coated German silver bridges dominating and contrasting with the glimpsed movement mechanics and white gold hour markers and lumed hands. There is more than a touch of motorsports influence here, what with the oversized date window at 12 o’clock and the red and yellow highlights of the chronograph minutes and GMT subdials. It is a good fit for the Concept, which is full of bold accents and facets—some in sandblasted titanium—and topped with the iconic eight-sided Royal Oak bezel. It makes for a considerable wrist presence—it is 17.3mm thick, as well—but the Concept’s curved profile has always been surprisingly wrist-friendly. This watch is also the first time the collection sees an interchangeable strap system.
And then there is the Code 11:59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4. It is the manufacture’s first ultra-complicated wristwatch, which by extension makes it the manufacture’s most complicated wristwatch ever. It too has a flyback split-seconds chronograph and oversized date among its 23 complications and 40 features in all. It is also home to such high complication classics such as a grande sonnerie, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and flying tourbillon—all this in something extraordinarily compact, at a case 42mm in diameter and 15.5mm thick. It also makes use of several of the manufacture’s most significant technical achievements in recent years: the aurally powerful Supersonnerie striking system of 2015; the ultra-thin perpetual calendar of 2018 that takes leap years into account and thus does not need adjustment until the year 2400; and a high-amplitude oscillator introduced in 2022. The Supersonnerie system is also exposed for the first time thanks to a double caseback system; the outer caseback can be lifted to reveal a transparent sapphire soundboard. This water-resistant component took three years of its own development.
Calibre 1,000 as a whole required seven years to create and consists of 1,100 components. One of its innovations is in its operation—the numerous pushers and correctors normally required have been condensed into just three pushers on the left side of the case, and three crowns on the other, allowing for tool-free operation. This user-friendliness belies the suite of mechanical safeguards that protect the movement from accidental misuse. It is offered in four variations: white gold case with black galvanic gold dial; white gold case with opaline beife PVD gold dial; and two skeletonised versions in white or pink gold. The former are more classical and reserved, while the latter more unabashed in its embrace of technical watchmaking achievement.