Of the brands that occupy the holy trinity—Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, & Audemars Piguet—I’ve always seen Audemars Piguet as the most hip of the three. They’ve frequently shown an aptitude for creating modern and edgy watches. Some of the best examples of these are limited-edition collaborations. This Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked reference 26347TI.OO.1205TI.01 made in a partnership with SoHo retailer Material Good is one of the best examples of that.
The Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked takes an already bold design and turns it up to eleven. This model is massive compared to a standard Royal Oak; the case measures 44mm in diameter and 13.2mm thick. Though it’s much larger, this variant is made of lightweight titanium and won’t weigh down your wrist. Titanium is also harder to wear down, and harder to finish, yet the end result when using both polished and brushed surfaces is spectacular. While the case and bracelet are notoriously gorgeous, the main attraction on this timepiece is the clear sapphire dial and the movement it puts on display.
When looking at the dial of this watch, the first thing that jumps out is the warm rose gold indices, hands, and open-worked bridges. The rose gold indices and hands are on top of the sapphire dial while the bridges are underneath, creating a visual hierarchy that allows the movement to be shown off without obscuring the time display. The bridges are stunning with brushed surfaces and polished beveling that catch the eye. Not to be overlooked, though, is the tourbillon at six o’clock, on full display rehearsing horological ballet.
Like the dial of the watch, the back of the movement is also gorgeous. The transparent sapphire case back shows off the tiny city that is the manual winding chronograph reference 26347. The in house caliber beats at a frequency of 21,600 vph and has a power reserve of 72 hours. When you look at the front and backside of the movement, it’s obvious why this watch emphasizes their visibility. Tourbillon and manual winding chronograph movements are some of the most exciting movements to watch on their own, and combining them amplifies this. Additionally, the finishing here is at a level of quality and detail only found at the apex of watchmaking.
When shifting your attention between the iconic Gerald Genta design, the oscillating tourbillon, and beautifully finished movement, one could almost forget that this striking object has a functional purpose. On top of the tourbillon complication, the watch’s chronograph function controls a ruthenium colored running seconds subdial at nine o’clock and tracks up to 30 minutes on the matching subdial at three o’clock. The use of contrast with the rose gold and ruthenium colored components is masterful. Even with so much to look at Audemars Piguet did a fantastic job making sure this watch was still highly legible.
While legibility is essential, I suspect that ninety percent of the time someone looks at this watch, it won’t be to read the time. With a watch of this caliber, it’s not surprising that its MSRP—$261,000—is equivalent to a home mortgage. It’s also extremely limited, with only 25 ever made. This is a work of art that could hold its own against any painting on exhibition in a museum. But watches are built for wrists, not museums.