2012/11/02 - Audemars Piguet Grande Complication Royal Oak 40th Anniversary


Masters of the Art of Grandes Complications


Founded in 1875 in Le Brassus, a village in the Joux valley region in the heart of the Swiss Jura, the Audemars Piguet manufacture has always made a point of creating outstanding pieces, from the first Grande Complication pocket watch presented in 1882, to more recent models such as the Jules Audemars and the Royal Oak. A company that still remains in the hands of the founding families, Audemars Piguet has maintained its ancestral know-how year after year without interruption since 1875.

These instruments for measuring time all combine the three families of complications that are the measurement of short time intervals, the chimes and the astronomical indications. But Le Brassus manufacture wanted to push the watchmaking art to its outer limits and crafted its chronograph complication by adding a flyback hand. Produced one at a time, by the very best master watchmakers, these marvels of miniaturization and precision taken to extremes are like so many kinetic sculptures, designed to challenge time itself.

As with every major art, the watchmakers at the Audemars Piguet manufacture had to master all the classic rules of their craft before being able to reinterpret them in a way that conforms to contemporary tastes. Their skilled hands gave birth to the various incarnations of an instrument for telling the time graced with Grande Complications - the Royal Oak - which now in its 40th anniversary year.

Pocket watch: a fundamental classic

Since 1882, the Audemars Piguet manufacture has included at least one Grande Complication watch in its collections each year for the demanding collector. This piece is individually built to order and is the fruit of several hundred hours of meticulous manual work necessitating keen knowledge of the intricacies of the trade. This way of designing is a way of conserving a craft heritage that has not changed for 130 years in the workshops. The same craft is still used to create a manually-wound mechanical caliber housed in the 18-carat pink gold half-hunter case. This movement, which can be seen through the back when opened, is instantly identified as a creation of Le Brassus manufacture due to its extraordinary fine work. A complex watch to create, it demands more than two months of full-time work, totaling some 800 hours, to put together the 620 meticulously finished components, hand-adjusted one at a time.

This year, Audemars Piguet is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, without doubt the most famous luxury sporting reference in the history of the wristwatch. Created by designer Gerald Genta in 1972, this timepiece with its powerful and easily recognizable lines, sold today in a Grande Complications version, is pushing watchmaking tradition forward into the third millennium.

Royal Oak Grande Complication in White Gold: playing with transparency

Strong and dynamic, the Royal Oak Grande Complication offered here in a white gold case comes in bold luxurious lines that manage to suggest without giving too much away. The taut contours, contemporary geometry and dynamic balance of the flange reinforced by the screwed octagonal bezel, set off the visible presence of the mechanism of a self-winding caliber just 8.55 mm thick. The case houses a mechanical marvel, the embodiment of a heritage painstakingly acquired over 130 years and a constantly maintained tradition and bears the ideal dimensions for a watch meant to be worn with an alligator strap fastened with a deployant buckle.

Made to order and only one at a time, this unique watch beats to the rhythm of a caliber composed of 648 components individually adjusted and regulated by the same craftsman. This means that over 700 hours of the watchmaker’s life are devoted to producing one sole movement and over 120 hours of patient open-working crafting. This rare core, with its classic and balanced architecture, of which only ten or so are made annually, is remarkable for its extraordinary homogeneity due to its thinness (8.55 mm) - a specialty of the manufacture since its foundation - and its traditional construction involving one single “hand” from start to finish.

This patient work, still carried out by a single watchmaker within the Grande Complications workshop, demands true mastery. Once assembled, the final creation, an artful combination of at least one functionality drawn from the three major families of complications, chimes the hour, the quarters and the minutes on demand. The concentric gongs are always tuned by hand to perfect their sound. A perpetual calendar with high precision time measurements on its dial, the Royal Oak Grande Complication chrono function has been enriched with a flyback function. A delicate and often very useful mechanism for recording intermediate times or measuring actions with a common starting point but different ends.

Titanium Openworked Royal Oak Grande Complication: shedding light on complications…

Intense and imposing on the wrist, the new Royal Oak Grande Complication comes in a titanium case with a bracelet in the same metal. A sleek and sporty model it belongs to the very exclusive family of Grande Complication watches built each year to order by a single expert watchmaker working alongside the small team of master watchmakers in Audemars Piguet’s Grande Complications workshops in Le Brassus.

Ever keen to go further, the manufacture has long ago mastered the art of sublimating the most traditional metals into the most innovative. With this model it has brought out a Grande Complication watch at the very peak of the art with bold technical and contemporary lines. Its case is machined in titanium housing a thin top-flight self-winding mechanical caliber whose components are partially visible through the open back, but also through the transparent sapphire dial. The expert eye can identify various cams, springs and levers through the cunningly organized openwork; some of the parts finished with meticulous care by its single maker – one of the rare masters qualified to carry out a work of such complexity from start to finish. But even with the help of this glimpse into fine watchmaking the eye can only perceive a small fraction of the 648 components necessary for the proper working of this ultra complex and delicate self-winding core, combining the functions of flyback chronograph, perpetual calendar and minute repeater.

This piece requires close to 700 hours of assembly, adjustments and hand finishing, including the beveling as well as finishing treatments such as beading and “Geneva Stripes” and at least 120 hours of manual openworking, stands out immediately as an epitome of balance. It has to be said, the integration and marrying of the different functionalities and of certain key pieces, like the hand-tuned concentric gongs, had to be carefully thought out in order to conserve the fine quality of the caliber. This treatment, the fruit of expertise thoroughly mastered by Audemars Piguet since its foundation in 1875, gives the watch its great graphic presence blending elegance and sportiness, incomparable lightness and insane complexity, and allows it to impose its stylish embodiment of traditional watchmaking values pushed to the limit, in a modern take …

Royal Oak Grande Complication in Steel: Mechanical Seduction …

Now brought out again in steel, as was the original piece designed by Gerald Genta just forty years ago, the 40th anniversary Royal Oak Grande Complication sets out majestically to celebrate a reference which in one human generation, has gone from being an avant-garde timepiece to becoming an icon. And this potential is not out of place, because the instrument presented here is a concentrate of technical achievement.

In an ultra-thin movement assembled and adjusted by a single watchmaker it combines at least one functionality from the three main families of classic complications. Moreover, besides the Minute Repeater and Perpetual Calendar, the Audemars Piguet manufacture has added the flyback function to that of the chronograph. A successful combination of sportiness and elegance, this highly complex instrument for measuring time houses a particularly fine self-winding Caliber 2885 movement behind its “Tapisserie” motif dial produced in-house on special machines. It has no less than 648 painstakingly finished components, adjusted and assembled in nearly 700 hours to endow this extraordinary watch with a soul. Made solely to order, this piece of fine watchmaking is only ever produced in tiny quantities because the watchmakers, however devoted they may be to their art, can only manage to make ten or so of these special cores per year.

So we just have to accept that this timepiece with its crystalline sound produced by the two concentrically positioned gongs, capable of displaying in perpetuity (until 2100) the long times of the calendar, and accurate in measuring the intermediate times thanks to the flyback mechanism, requires patient work. The work of a single master watchmaker, this reference with the ultra thin core (8.55 mm) is all the more rare for that reason. But its value, beyond words, is emotional. For this watch, fresh from the workshops, is a stylish and fitting celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak collection. Perfect in its complexity and the only one to be equipped with an oscillating weight specially developed for the 40th anniversary models, this Royal Oak comes like the other models in the very closed circle of Grande Complication instruments. It is delivered in a case containing a piano-shaped sounding board made by talented luthiers from wood, cut from the forests around the manufacture. 


Grande Complication Royal Oak 40th Anniversary



Openworked Royal Oak Grande Complication



Openworked Royal Oak Grande Complication



Grande Comlication Royal Oak






Technical Specifications

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