The Audemars Piguet Watch Box Replica Royal Oak Chronograph.
This is a watch that’s known to many of you, perhaps it doesn’t require much of an analysis — but this really is HODINKEE and you can believe you’re gonna receive one. The Royal Oak Chronograph is a wristwatch that has thousands of fans the world over, and a few detractors, too. The ROC, since I’ll call it, is something of a middle ground between two completely distinct Audemars Piguet buyers — the collectors, and, well, everybody else. The Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore families frequently appeal to quite different people, but I’ll get to this shortly. Within this short article, I tackle a mainstay in the AP lineup, and an interesting piece of haute horology, though one without its own in-house movement. I’ll look at just how this 41mm column-wheel, vertical clutch chronograph wears, and if the matter of where the motion came from is even something worth noting at all. This is your HODINKEE Week On The Wrist with all the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph, and it is one worth spending a while with.AP is a truly distinctive watch manufacture. It is one of the very few worldwide haute horology brands which stays in the control of its founding family, with several members of the Audemars family sitting on its board. Consider the fact that Vacheron Constantin and A. Lange & Söhne are both owned by the Richemont Group (which owns what from Cartier and Panerai into Alfred Dunhill, luggage maker Lancel, women’s clothing company Chloe, Purdey Guns, and Net-A-Porter), and Patek Philippe, while retaining its independence, was sold to the Stern household less than 100 decades back. But, the ownership of AP is not always the most interesting facet of this 175 year-old fabrication — the question that matters is who purchases AP’s watches?
Five years ago Audemars Piguet unveiled the Millenary 4101, giving its ovoid timepiece an adventurous new look, imparting some of the excitement that accompanies the inevitable Royal Oak. At SIHH 2016 Audemars Piguet went one step further by skeletonising the 4101 to create the Millenary Openworked (ref. 15352OR.OO.D093CR.01) – an aesthetic exercise, but one that’s beautifully decorated and styled.
Conceived to have the movement form part of the dial, the movement inside the original Millenary 4101 was based on the calibre 3120, the basic in-house movement of Audemars Piguet. That was rejigged to give it a linear, left to right layout, as well as an off-centred sub-dial for the time, with the decorated base plate exposed as part of the dial, making the mechanics part of the aesthetics.
With as much as possible removed, the Millenary Openworked the calibre 4105 reveals even more. The architecture of the calibre 4101 was retained, with its most prominent features remaining in place: two rows of large screws hold down a series of bridges that span the front vertically, and the balance wheel taking centrestage at nine o’clock. The sub-dial for the time has been open-worked as well, leaving the seconds as the only solid part on the front.
Intricate enough to distract from the time, the skeleton movement is leaves little to the imagination. You can literally peer inside.
Up close the movement acquits itself well, with a high level of finishing, especially on the front of the parts. Audemars Piguet leans towards a clean look for its skeleton movements (ditto for the Royal Oak skeletons), so the bridges are finished with a fine, grained surface and a dark grey plating. But there is no mistaking the hand-finishing, particularly on the many polished bevels as well as mirror-polished screw heads. The bevelling on the sharp, inward angles of the bridges is notably masterful.
Some things are best left to the imagination
That being said, and this is a shortcoming of many skeleton watches, too much can be revealed. The underside of the balance wheel, for instance, is readily visible from the back. It is unfinished, showing the shallow divots milled out for poising. Flip over the balance wheel in any high-end, serially-produced watch and it will look the same, but it is not the prettiest part of the movement.
Pricing and availability
At 47 mm in diameter is large, but not excessively so, since the shape is oval rather than round. It has substantial presence, looking expensive on the wrist, as it should, given the stiff price tag. The Millenary Openworked (ref. 15352OR.OO.D093CR.01) is priced at S$94,300, equivalent to US$68,100.