Blending titanium and grey ceramic, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT offers an avant-garde aesthetics as a frame for an advanced openworked hand-wound movement endowed with a flying tourbillon and a GMT function.
It features a 44 mm x 16.1 mm sandblasted titanium case with grey ceramic bezel, screw-locked crown and pushpiece. The pushpiece guards are also made of sandblasted titanium.
The dial juxtaposes sandblasted blue titanium bridges and silver-toned components. Fully visible at 9 o’clock, the flying tourbillon is complemented by a crown position indicator at 6 o’clock and a second time-zone indicator at 3 o’clock.
The Manufacture Calibre 2954 beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour with a remarkable 10-day power reserve.
The movement’s blue bridges, also visible through the sapphire caseback, are matched by a blue rubber strap with sandblasted titanium AP folding clasp. An additional black rubber strap is delivered with the watch.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT is about as avant-garde an offering as one will find from a top-tier Swiss manufacture today, which seems to me to be an interesting thing to consider. The line and the basic design of its case have been with us for 18 years. The first Royal Oak Concept watch, designed by Claude Emmenegger, was presented in 2002 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak, and it came with a movement developed by Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APR&P). As its name would lead you to believe, the Royal Oak Concept line tends to be a bit more experimental than, say, the Royal Oak Offshore. It’s been a springboard for technical developments. The first AP Supersonnerie was a Concept piece, for example.
The watch we are introducing today is actually the second Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT. The first version came out two years ago and was itself a refresh of the slightly differently named Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon. What made the refreshed 2018 version different was its asymmetric design and its use of a bridge-less (or flying) tourbillon.
The watch of two years ago combined a titanium case, a black ceramic bezel, a blacked-out dial/movement, and applied rose-gold accents, which added up to a pretty flashy look. Today, in a limited edition of 30 pieces to be sold through Paris AP retailer Arije, we’ve got a Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT that delivers a much more low-key vibe. Virtually everything about it is a muted, monochromatic grey, including the display, the rubber strap and clasp, and even the movement’s back.
The large case is made from sandblasted titanium and has been fitted with a bezel that is also made of sandblasted titanium. There are still some ceramic components, namely the screw-down crown and the push-piece on the side of the case, but they are also rendered in grey.
The manually wound caliber 2954 delivers nearly 10 days of power reserve (237 hours, to be exact) on one full wind via two large barrels visible when you turn the watch over. On the dial side, everything is rendered in muted grey tones, from the wheel displaying the second time zone at three o’clock, to the function selector at six o’clock, to the flange with the hour / minute track. From the supplied photos, I get the sense that there is enough contrast between the skeletonized, lume-filled hands and the dial/movement surface that I do not expect legibility would be an issue. The movement comprises 348 parts.
The AP Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT is about as practical a watch as you are going to find in the RO Concept line. Granted, there is very little about a tourbillon-equipped wristwatch that screams practicality, but this one offers an extremely long power reserve matched with what I think is the most useful of all complications, the GMT.
I think it’s fair to say that AP’s Royal Oak Concept pieces aren’t for every high-end watch lover. Consider the size alone. At 44mm in diameter by 16.1mm thick, this watch is a statement on the wrist, even if you’ve got a big wrist. And while it certainly may attract the same die-hard AP fan as, say, a far simpler Royal Oak Jumbo, this watch scratches a vastly different itch. I think enthusiasts might come to this watch from a few different angles. But to me, it’s a compelling demonstration of what AP can do not just with complications, but also from a design standpoint. I think the fact that the Concept has been with us since 2002 is also a testament to the company’s fierce independent streak.
Even among all the Royal Oaks and haute horology presented by Audemars Piguet for SIHH 2018, one could hardly overlook something as strange, bold, and exotic as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT. This is not one that grabs headlines for groundbreaking technology or radically new design for the brand in 2018, but it does introduce Audemars Piguet’s first flying tourbillon as well as some design updates, and it is the latest in a collection that is inherently polarizing and interesting.The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept has been around since 2002 and has been the canvas for some of the brand’s most avant-garde, futuristic-looking haute horology creations. It seemed to take the idea of the Royal Oak Offshore to an even more “xtreme” and “xperimental” place. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Tourbillon GMT came out in 2011 and introduced the basic form that we see continued here. More background: the flying tourbillon was invented in Germany in 1920. A flying tourbillon, just to remind you, is a tourbillon that is suspended from underneath resulting in both a view of it unobstructed by bridges, as well as creating a kind of floating effect. It is also one way to make a tourbillon even more delicate, complicated, and expensive.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT actually shares the designation as AP’s first flying tourbillon watch with another movement found in the diamond-decked Royal Oak Concept Ladies’ Flying Tourbillon that was introduced concurrently for 2018. In addition to the tourbillon there are some other notable changes in the design and materials for this latest version. Previous Royal Oak Concept watches have used a lot of ceramic and other exotic materials in the movement such as carbon fiber – see our hands-on with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon with white ceramic here.Visible on the watch’s dial side, black sandblasted titanium was chosen this time for the central bridges, with polished and gold-toned facets – which is a cool touch, in my opinion. One can also see glimpses of Audemars Piguet’s (in-house, of course) 2954 movement through openings between the various indications. Besides the time and the tourbillon at 9 o’clock, there is the second time zone indicated via a disc at 3 o’clock with an aperture that kind of looks like one of those wide date displays that have, thankfully, mostly gone out of fashion. Partially revealed under smoked glass is the part of the disc not currently displaying the time.It may not be readily apparent what the “H, N, R” at 6 o’clock is for, but it simply indicates the crown setting. H is for the French heures (hours) where you can set the time, N is for neutre (neutral) when the crown is pushed all the way in, and R is for remontoir (winder) where you can wind the movement. In previous Royal Oak Concept Tourbillon GMT watches, this was indicated by a hand. New for this watch is a disc indication that is a bit more elegantly integrated into the rest of the design. This will be simple for the user but obscure for the onlooker who will be presented with an impression of something that just looks generally technical and complicated.The octagonally faceted bezel (still in ceramic) with its eight miraculously aligned screws most obviously ties the otherwise pretty distinctive Concept family to the broader Royal Oak collection. The case, on the other hand, is radically different from anything else at AP. Here, it is in sandblasted titanium. Its geometric facets – echoed in the bridges and other elements – remind me of a video mapping loop, an 8-bit mountain range, Kryton from the sci-fi britcom Red Dwarf, or perhaps a Linde Werdelin Octopus watch – all fine watch design inspirations. It is 44mm wide, 16.1mm thick, and 100m water-resistant with a screw-down crown. The case is quite long, however, with a rubber strap that juts out from the lugs, so wrists that can otherwise accommodate a 44mm watch should beware of potential overhang.Also new for the GMT/tourbillon Royal Oak Concept watches is the crown guard that incorporates the pusher at 4 o’clock – now changed up to be angular instead of round. That pusher advances the second time zone’s disc by an hour. As a pedantic aside, I believe that in the most strict sense, watches denoted as “GMT” are “supposed to” display the second time zone in 24 hours, whereas this second time zone disc shows 12 hours.While the flying tourbillon provides plenty of dazzle and mechanical fascination on the dial side, it is not visible from the back of the watch. Here, you can see skeletonized bridges with mostly brushed and sandblasted finishing and more of the movement. One can also more clearly see the two barrels and their mainsprings that provide a grand 237 hours (about 10 days) of power reserve. Made of 348 parts and operating at 3Hz, the manually-wound Audemars Piguet calibre 2954 is “new” with its flying tourbillon but shares a lot in common with previous Royal Oak Concept Tourbillon GMT watches, including the same frequency and power reserve – so it is more of an evolution than something totally new. Its bridge design is different, however, and I believe that other changes include the way the crown position indicator functions more simply as a disc.