Audemars Piguet has been creating some of the most technically interesting watches in their Royal Oak Concept collection for the past couple of years. Last year, they showed off the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer, a highly complicated chronograph with three column wheels that could measure consecutive lap times. And earlier this year, they unveiled the equally complex Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch, a minute repeater exemplifying Audemars Piguet’s obsession with sound clarity and quality.
Of course, it would be cruel to show you pictures and tell you about this watch’s amazing sound without a video to let you hear it, so do play the video above to hear it for yourself. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch is a piece that took Audemars Piguet eight long years to develop, and the goal was to create the ultimate striking watch. The minute repeater complication is often regarded as one of the most difficult and… well, complicated to make – so imagine how hard it is to create one from scratch. The next thing to remember is that Audemars Piguet didn’t only want to create a new minute repeater watch, they wanted to create one that would be the best.
Now, the “best” for Audemars Piguet means their striving to create the most clear and crisp sound of any minute repeater. The brand points to three accomplishments demonstrated in this watch, which I will briefly run through. First, the unique preparation of the steel used to create the gong structure allows the watchmakers to more accurately and easily adjust and hone the pitch, tone, and harmony of the minute repeater. Second, the way the case is built minimizes sound absorption and maximizes amplification. I’ll discuss this “soundboard” technique more a little bit later on. Finally, the striking regulator is redesigned so the anchor system acts like a shock absorber, minimizing shock noise.
One of the most important components of a minute repeater watch is the case because it is responsible for amplifying the sound. It is often said that gold is the best material for the job because it produces a richer sound, but the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch opts for titanium. Titanium is a very light and strong metal, and its low density allows sound to pass through with less resistance. If you have any doubts about this, you only need to look at exotic supercars and their titanium exhausts. Titanium is also used elsewhere around the watch to improve the quality of the sound, but more on this later.
The use of titanium also means that despite the watch’s sizable dimensions, at 44mm wide and 16.5mm thick, it remains light and comfortable to wear. And thanks to its unique aesthetic, the case design immediately identifies the watch as a Royal Oak Concept and nothing else.
It goes without saying that the case is finished to an impeccably high standard with contrasting finishing. The bezel has mirror polished edges and features a satin-brushed finish on the top, which complements the exposed polished 18k white gold screw heads. The case has been sandblasted and features a matte finish that juxtaposes very well with the shinier bezel. The large crown and chronograph pushers are made out of ceramic.
The black satin-brushed dial is partly skeletonized to reveal the inner workings of the watch. The hour and minute hands are made of 18K white gold and are partly skeletonized as well. However, because they are fairly chunky, telling the time isn’t overly difficult, but legibility is not ideal. That being said, this isn’t really a piece where the hands are the focus. The running seconds hand for the chronograph is bright yellow to provide contrast against the black dial.
Finally, the individual minute markers and the markers for the 30-minute chronograph at 3 o’clock are rendered in yellow and white to provide maximum contrast and legibility. The 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock is also unique because it displays the elapsed minutes using a retrograde indicator. And lastly, at six o’clock is the tourbillon.
The movement is where the magic all happens. It is obviously in-house, and it is the calibre 2937. Manually wound, it features a staggering 478 components, beats at 3Hz, and provides a power reserve of 42 hours. And like all high-end chronograph movements, it has a column-wheel and lateral clutch.
What’s unusual about it, though, is its two gongs. Instead of mounting the gongs to the movement plate, they are attached to what Audemars Piguet calls a “sound board.” Basically, it is a thin membrane made of a special copper alloy that covers the back of the movement, held in place by screws, and also forming a water-tight seal. This explains how the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch is able to get a water-resistance rating of 20 meters, which may not sound like much to a casual observer, but this could not be more incorrect. The 20 meters is actually quite impressive considering the intricate construction of the watch.
When the hammers strike the gongs, this membrane vibrates and acts like the sound board of a guitar, dramatically amplifying the sounds of the gongs. In addition, the actual titanium case back is slightly raised to cover this membrane and has apertures along the edge to allow sounds to escape. This results in one of the loudest minute repeater watches we have ever heard. And interestingly, the watch seems even louder when it is worn on the wrist!
At the end of the day, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch is yet another successful showcase of the brand’s almost breathtaking technical know-how and unique design sense. It is a thoroughly modern take on one of horology’s oldest complications, and we can see that in the case of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch, it has also been thoroughly improved.
And if you think that all of this won’t come cheap, you’d be right. Though the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie Tourbillon Chronograph watch isn’t a limited edition, it has a princely price of $597,400. audemarspiguet.com