Every year thousands of plucky watch enthusiasts and shop owners alike flock to Geneva for the annual SIHH (Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie), a show dedicated to the beautiful craft of fine watches which has been successfully running for the last 27 years. Matthew (Our manager here at Owen & Robinson) was lucky enough to visit the show to have a sit down with some of our fantastic brands such as Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Richard Mille, A. Lange and Sohne and Baume and Mercier. Today, in our latest addition to the O&R Blog, we will be analysing some of the outstanding chronographs created by the fine watchmakers of Audemars Piguet.
Audemars this year disputably stole the SIHH show, 2017 is going to be their year. This year the geniuses at Le Brassus crafted just under 60 watches for the SIHH 2017 show. Everything from steel and ceramic to platinum has been utilised and developed. Everything from watches that tell just the time to watches that tell you the week, the day, the month and even the astronomical moon have all been crafted and designed. However, it was their simple yet beautiful Royal Oak Chronographs that turned heads from the very start:
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26331ST
With a selection of Royal Oak related Anniversaries this year, the odds were high that Audemars Piguet would do something very special with their beloved Royal Oak collection and obviously they didn’t disappoint. Rumors circulated the grapevine with wild and wacky predictions of what would come, from open case backs to new movements all thrown into the mix. However, no one predicted what came. Audemars launched 3 new 26331ST models and 2 new 26331OR models (we will come to those later). The 26331ST models, which you can see above, were new developments on the steel Royal Oak chronograph that was last re-evaluated in 2012, the new watches offer a beautiful selection of new dial options. They don’t sport new in-house manufacture movements and the vast majority of changes are mainly cosmetic; but these changes make for an even better chronograph experience.
In both the steel and gold pieces, single tone has been shown the door and two tone dials are now on the scene. The blue dial has eligible silver sub-dials, the silver/white dial has been given black sub-dials giving it a “vintage panda dial” feel and the black dial has silver white sub-dials giving it a “reverse panda dial” finish. Not only have the sub-dials had a change in colour but they have also had a revamp in size. The sub-dials at 3 and 9 have increased considerably in size for easier eligibility making them easier to read at a glance. Also the hour markers have increased in size meaning that they will be more luminescent. Due to the increase in sub-dial size the date window has absorbed the new development and shifted ever so slightly, it is still placed between 4 and 5 o’clock, however it has taken a slight detour and no longer sits centrally between the two markers, this has been taken controversially by some Audemars Piguet fanatics.
In terms of the movement the 26331ST models still uses the “self-winding calibre 2385” which was used in the previous Royal Oak chronographs, you can see the movement below here:
As I stated before this new watch does NOT have an in-house movement, however this is not a negative point. The current movement used in the Royal Oak Chronograph is one of the best chronograph movements on the market. It offers fantastic features such as a vertical clutch which gives the chronograph a very minor jump in starting and stopping, a column wheel and a 55 hour power reserve. The movement used is one sourced from the Swatch Group and is called the F. Piguet 1185, it has been used in many watches from the Royal Oak Chronograph to the Vacheron Constantin overseas and is credited to be one of “the best movements of our generation” from the writers at Hodinkee. Some questions arise as to why Audemars don’t use an in-house movement? They already make a beautiful movement called the 3120 which is used in the Royal Oak Offshores but the main reason for not using this movement is simply because it would not fit into the Royal Oak case. The case on an offshore fits the movement because it sits at a depth of 14mm, however the normal Royal Oak has a thinner profile of only 10mm, and of course AP have no reason to produce and in-house chronograph with such a fantastic alternative waiting to be used.
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 26331OR
The new rose gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks, which are above, are very similar to their steel sisters. Once again they have the two tone dials with both the brown and blue offering rose gold sub-dials which give a beautiful contrast. They use exactly the same 2385 movement we discussed before and also have the same size sub dials and the offset date window. The main difference is that you can purchase these watches on an alligator leather strap instead of the iconic Royal Oak bracelet in solid gold, you can see what they look like below. Fittingly the blue dial goes on a blue alligator strap and the brown dial goes on a brown alligator strap. The choice between strap and bracelet is clever and kind to the consumer as it offers this beautiful watch at two separate price points.
The prices of the new Royal Oak chronographs are interesting and VERY competitive compared to their rivals. The prices set here are just estimates and will not be confirmed until the watches are officially rolled out later in the year. The estimates are that the steel chronograph will be priced at around £19,500 which is the same price as the 2012 model (when the new Royal Oaks are launched the 2012 models will be discontinued). This is a fantastic price considering its rivals (such as the Overseas Chronograph by Vacheron Constantin) are priced so much higher. It should be noted however, that the new Overseas Chronograph does come with an amazing in-house Chronograph movement which is also sealed with the Hallmark of Geneva, it does also come with a rubber strap, alligator leather strap and a metal bracelet as standard, but this is by the by. The price point for the new Royal Oak is amazing and will certainly be popular with both Audemars Collectors and new-comers to the brand.
The estimate price for the Rose Gold Royal Oaks on the alligator straps are £30,800 and on the gold bracelet they are estimated at £45,500. This is once again a similar price to the previous gold Royal Oaks. Audemars seem adamant to prove that they can offer watches that are lusted after at a reasonable price and ignore the current fluctuating prices of competitors, in this currently price driven industry. Overall I can see these watches taking the market by storm when they are released to retailers and I personally expect that trying to capture one of the beautiful pieces in the first few months will prove an exciting challenge as availability will be scarce and demand will be high, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying!
If you are interested in the Audemars Piguet watch collection or want to keep an eye on the availability of these pieces you can see them here.
*Photo credits go to Hodinkee.