Audemars Piguet’s latest Royal Oak Flying Tourbillon represents the first time the company has offered a “Jumbo” Extra-Thin with an automatic flying tourbillon.
Amazingly — at just 8.1 mm thin — the watchmakers in Le Brassus were able to add a flying tourbillon complication to the Royal Oak #RD3 Flying Tourbillon Jumbo without adding any thickness to the standard Royal Oak Jumbo Ref. 16202 (or the discontinued 15202). Best of all, this 39 mm stainless steel Royal Oak should wear exactly like a contemporary Royal Oak Jumbo.
Driving the hours, minutes, and 60-second flying tourbillon is Audemars Piguet’s new 3Hz ultra-thin automatic caliber 2968, which the company took five years to develop — and is just 3.4 mm in thickness (29.6 mm diameter). The engineering team spent years designing a movement that could accommodate a tourbillon in a 39 mm case, which was a challenge considering the complication was previously reserved for watch cases 41 mm diameters and above. In fact, very few watchmakers, if any, offer ultra-thin tourbillon-equipped timepieces. The caliber is made up of 226 components, 33 jewels, and has a 50-hour maximum power reserve.
Everything has to be rethought and numerous components had to be repositioned in order to make it work. The new specifications also called for a tourbillon cage, crafted in titanium, that is notably equipped with a peripheral drive for the first time. This makes the distribution of energy to the tourbillon more fluid and lightens the regulating organ. The cage is just 7.2 mm in diameter (one of the smallest in the world) and weighs only 0.123 grams.
“In order to provide optimum visibility of the tourbillon and the movement, Audemars Piguet engineers completely redesigned the architecture of the mechanism. The Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin features a new escapement to accentuate the aesthetic details while revealing part of the movement’s workings. The geometry and positioning of the balance wheel arms have notably been revised in such a way as to make the watch’s beating heart even more perceptible. The technical design of the movement results in the flying tourbillon being placed at the dial level, for a greater visual experience,” according to Audemars Piguet.
In addition to the openworked straight-grained rhodium-plated bridges, with machine beveled and polished edges (hand finished V-angles), the 22K pink-gold rhodium-toned skeletonized oscillating weight is emblazoned with the 50th Anniversary motif, representing the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Oak — a model that represents the foundation of Audemars Piguet.
As with all Royal Oaks, the case and bracelet feature a mixture of matte and polished surfaces that are hand-finished. And the dial, which is as recognizable as the case and bracelet — and distinguishes the Royal Oak from all others — has the dark blue-hued tapisserie pattern made on vintage guilloche machines in Le Brassus, and treated with a PVD process to guarantee the color never fades.
Adding to the history behind this new timepiece, Audemars Piguet introduced the world’s first automatic tourbillon wristwatch in 1986. Developed by Jacqueline Dimier, the tourbillon escapement was placed on the dial side for the first time. Dimier’s creation was produced until 1992 (401 pieces created).
The Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin (Ref. 26670ST.OO.1240ST.01) is depth rated to 50 meters, is secured to the wrist with an AP hidden folding clasp, and will retail for north of $200K.
Photos by Audemars Piguet.