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21st Century Classic: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in Black Ceramic

When the Royal Oak was released in 1972 as “a tribute to steel, the metal of the twentieth century,” it was meant to illustrate Audemars Piguet’s watchmaking prowess. It showed that they could take this rugged metal that is more challenging to fashion than gold, and apply finishing techniques to make it precious. It’s a watch that, at its core, is designed to show off Audemars Piguet’s horological talent. While steel was dubbed the metal of the twentieth century by AP themselves, they might just be making a push for ceramic to be the material of the twenty-first century. Case in point this reference 26579CE.OO.1225CE.01 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar.

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Introduced at SIHH 2017 the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, made almost entirely of black ceramic, case and bracelet, is the perfect progression for the Royal Oak. It once again illustrates just how great AP is at finishing hard to work with materials. The research and development that went into this watch was exhaustive, and the actual production is much more complicated than with a traditional steel Royal Oak.

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To look at man hours, for starters, producing and finishing a steel Royal Oak bracelet takes six hours, the ceramic equivalent takes five times that, but the result is absolutely worth it. The canvas that is the Royal Oak design beautifully displays the alternating brushed and polished hand finishing. Measuring at 41mm in diameter and 9.4mm thick in lightweight ceramic, this watch will surely wear like a dream. Also, because ceramic is incredibly hard to scratch, you can be sure this watch will look brand new for years to come. 

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Inside the ceramic case beats the automatic in-house caliber 5134 with a 40-hour power reserve and a perpetual calendar complication complete with day, date, week indicator, leap year indicator, and photorealistic moon phase. The exquisitely finished 38 jewel, rhodium-plated movement contains a shock absorber, a straight-line lever escapement, a Gyromax balance, and a 21 karat rose gold rotor— which AP will personalize for you if you wish—all seen through the sapphire caseback. The metal caseback is one of the few parts of this watch not made of ceramic; this is to help ensure the watch’s 200m water resistance. 

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The slate grey dial maintains the watch’s monotone looks and is done in the classic Grande Tapisserie style we’re used to seeing on Royal Oaks. AP nailed the balance on this dial layout, which is hard to do when displaying this much information. You have the month and leap year indicator at twelve, date located at three, moonphase and “Audemars Piguet” logo at six, and day of the week at nine. Then, at the center, standard hours and minutes. However, the third center hand points to even numbers 2-52 on the outer perimeter for denoting the week of the year instead of running seconds.

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The week hand makes one full rotation around the dial per year. This isn’t a complication you often see, but I really dig it. There is something appealing about a complication that can change one’s perception of time. Watching this week’s hand make its way around the watch dial shows how much year you have left and might just encourage you to do more with that time. 

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A boutique exclusive that’s incredibly labor-intensive to create, this watch doesn’t need to be a limited edition to make it hard to get. This Perpetual Calendar made almost entirely of ceramic is a full-on flex showcasing AP’s engineering, design, and material skills. This watch could arguably be the best representation of all the different disciplines involved in high-level watchmaking. Simply put, this is Audemars Piguet and the Royal Oak at its best.

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