We all know the “Holy Trinity” manufacturers can be called out at times for being on the slower side when it comes to product evolution. To be honest, that’s for a good reason, too. The pursuit towards perfection has to be careful and calculated, and each of the brands have to ensure their watches live up to the name and quality associated with their Maison. This year, however, Audemars Piguet is proving its manufacturing metal – introducing a slew of upgrades to their novelties. The 2021 Royal Oak Offshore Divers received a new movement and interchangeable strap system, and now the Audemars Piguet 2021 Royal Oak Chronographs are pushing the offering further with a first for the lineup: an exhibition caseback proudly displaying the latest generation integrated flyback chronograph caliber 4401 (originally launched inside the Code 11:59).
The 41mm cases are all executed in pink gold, its hue boasting the intricate light play that results from their top-class hand finishing. The vertical brushing perfectly extends from the bezel, to the case and, if paired with it, the bracelet. The satin elements shine, whereas the polished elements go dark head on with light. When viewing from an off-angle, however, the mirror polished facets will sparkle – oozing absolute luxury at its finest. Whether on the bracelet or leather strap, the glistening facets of the case, bezel, and bracelet will immediately catch the eye of anyone near by. To accommodate the new movement, the case height has increased ever so slightly to 12.4mm – a trade-off that collectors will surely welcome and warm to. The screw-down crown of the watch helps secure it to depths up to 50 metres, in line with other Royal Oak models.
As seen above, there are two “Grande Tapisserie” patterned dial configurations to choose from: blue and brown. The dial has also undergone subtle changes due to the new movement inside. The positions of the textured elapsed minutes and hours registers have been reversed, now at 9′ and 3′ respectively, and the date disc is now located closer to the inner bezel. Audemars Piguet believes these subtle changes will increase the legibility and readability of the watch, an aspect of design that buyers can certainly appreciate. The central hands and hour indices are fabricated in case matching pink gold, with the register hands black for ease of distinction against the dial. Beneath the double baton index at 12′ is an applied AP logo above the printing of the brand name.
Personally, I find the offering to be at its best when paired with the bracelet. So much hand work goes into executing it’s iconic profile, the top-tier brushing on its top facet and perfectly tapered bevelling on the shoulders of each link cannot be bested in this industry. The mirror-polished facets of the central links peer out as you move the watch on your wrist, with each wrist roll your very own light show. That being said, the extra precious metal means extra cost. So for those looking to save a bit of cash, or wholeheartedly prefer its design on leather, both the blue and brown dial configurations are available on dial matching leather straps as well. The straps integrate very well into the case, and can both formalise and tone down the precious aesthetic of the watch.
The real star of the Audemars Piguet 2021 Royal Oak Chronographs is the movement. This is the first time the caliber within a Royal Oak Chronograph is able to be appreciated beneath an exhibition caseback. The usage of a sapphire caseback allows you to fully enjoy the latest generation of chronograph movement technology the brand has to offer. Originally found in the Code 11:59 watches, now the Audemars Piguet 2021 Royal Oak Chronographs can proudly boast their usage of the in-house caliber 4401.
The automatic integrated flyback chronograph 4401 movement features a column wheel architecture that results in butter-smooth start, stop, and reset actuation of the chronograph. As a flyback, you do not have to worry about breaking the movement if you hit reset before stopping the chronograph. When the reset button is activated, the hammers, driven by an operating lever, hit the chronograph’s heart-piece cams to bring the chronograph wheels and hands back to zero. While worn, the 22K pink gold oscillating weight will wind the watch – which has a 70 hour power reserve. The movement, of course, has top-notch finishing, including Côtes de Genève, circular graining (perlage), and curvaceous and angular polished chamfers throughout.