Three new versions are added to the Millenary collection at SIHH next month, together with smaller instances and more sparkle than ever. The Millenary is one of three collections from Audemars Piguet that contain ladies’ watches, but essentially, it is the most female-centric of the full collections within the brand. The Royal Oak and the Royal Oak Offshore equally have ladies’ versions, but they started as, and therefore are known mainly as men’s collections. The jewellery sets are limited-edition one-offs, not created for everyday wear or pocketbooks. Gem-setting is a specific strength of this collection differentiating the watches from the sportier Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore women’ pieces. At the exact same time, a partly openworked dial gives the Millenary a specialized aspect — a reminder that it comes from one of the foremost makers of mechanical motions. The Millenary, last updated in 2015, will be refreshed with three new models at SIHH next month in Geneva, including two all-gold versions set with diamonds and one gold case variant using a strap.The instance on the ring variant has a “frosted gold” finish that gives it the appearance of hand-finished jewelry. It’s made by employing a diamond-tipped tool to make tiny indentations across the surface, culminating in a shimmering glow, such as snow. The finish was released last year around the women’ Royal Oak. On the Millenary, it is applied between polished sections on the stepped bezel and lugs, and to areas of the case side. The signature offset sub-dials that record hours, minutes, and seconds are set with opal, a fresh dial material for this group. Audemars Piguet also adds a fashion watch element to the strap variant. It is offered in several colors and textures, such as rubber, alligator, textile, or velvet, and a selection of blue, gray, red, pink, light green, or purple.
Most of the gold watches sold are 18k rose, pink or red gold. A quick once-over of a catalogue proves that. Yellow gold is slightly out of fashion. Audemars Piguet is the first amongst established, high-end watchmakers to emphasise the metal, with a full range of yellow gold Royal Oaks presented at SIHH 2016, including a chunky chronograph.
Last year, however, Audemars Piguet announced arguably the most interesting yellow gold Royal Oak of all, a limited edition made for Singapore retailer The Hour Glass. It’s Royal Oak Extra-Thin ref. 15202 – the model that’s closest to the original 1972 Royal Oak “Jumbo” – in bright yellow gold, with a dark green dial.
In the regular collection, the only precious metal the Royal Oak Extra-Thin is offered in is rose gold, giving it an ostentatious, contemporary look. The yellow gold limited edition instead harks back to the original Royal Oak “Jumbo”, which was available only in yellow gold, the de rigueur colour of gold back then.
Typical of a Royal Oak, the surfaces and edges of the case are gorgeously finished. The mirror-polishing is lustrous while the brushed surfaces are fine and precise. No doubt the finish is a scratch magnet, but fresh off the production line there are few watch case as tangibly sexy as a Royal Oak.
It’s still loud and flashy, but the colour of gold makes it that much more different from the numerous, run of the mill rose gold watches. The feel is slightly retro, accented by the green dial, another unusual colour. Green pairs with yellow gold very well, but it’s not often found in modern watches. The shade brings to mind British racing green, and is slightly glossy; a marginally less glossy finish may have been more suited to the shiny case. The dial motif is the chequerboard tapisserie that’s a trademark on the Royal Oak.
The movement inside is identical to the ordinary version of this watch, the slim, automatic calibre 2121 that is still regarded as one of the most sophisticated automatic movements despite being just shy of 50 years old. Today the movement is exclusive to Audemars Piguet (which makes it in-house, having bought the rights) and Vacheron Constantin; though decades ago Patek Philippe also used the same calibre in the original Nautilus ref. 3700 “Jumbo”.
Originally developed as the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920 in 1968, the movement is very thin, just 3.05mm high, but with a full rotor, instead of the micro-rotor common in slim automatics. That called for some clever engineering, most obvious being the metal ring on ruby rollers that supports the rotor. In The Hour Glass edition the 18k gold rotor – which ironically seems to be rose gold – features an open-worked hour glass and hand-engraved limited edition lettering. While appropriate for the edition, the logo looks somewhat uninteresting relative to the rest of the watch.
Pricing and availability
Available only at The Hour Glass, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin The Hour Glass Edition (ref. 15205BA.OO.1240BA.01) is priced at S$79,600 including seven percent local tax. That’s equivalent to US$58,800, and about five percent more than the regular production rose gold model. While the premium over the ordinary model is modest, it’s still stiff for a time-only wristwatch.