I wrote about the Audemars Piguet Double Balance Wheel Openworked when it was first unveiled at SIHH earlier this year and my first impression of it was that it was very, very impressive. I’ve always been a fan of the Royal Oak in general, especially after seeing it for the first time years ago when my now good friend had a 15300 on his wrist. In fact, I can even attribute our friendship to that watch as it was when we first met and I was just getting into watches when I saw it and blurted out ‘is that a Royal Oak?!’.
The integrated bracelet, the masculine octagonal shape contrasted with the relative slimness of the watch was enough to get me excited. The fact of how the exposed screws match the angle of the octagon were small details of the watch that I appreciated more than most. Suffice to say that we spent the rest of that night talking about watches, while my girlfriend (now -ex understandably), who was the only other person present, stood there with no clue wondering how two grown men could talk for so long about a glorified bracelet. Anyway, I digress.
So, back to my story; when the nice folks at AP offered the Openworked Double Balance for me to test drive, I had to say yes.
Beginning with the main event of this watch, the calibre 3132 inside the AP is a first, and as the name suggests, incorporates two balance wheels working in tandem. The Royal Oak has been skeletonised before in previous references, but none featuring innovation on this level. The idea behind the use of two balance wheels is an interesting one, as the basic function of a single one is to coil and uncoil a balance spring and in the process powers the watch. But where problems arise, is the fact that the balance wheel has to consistently deliver energy to ensure accurate timekeeping, amidst the forces of gravity and bumps and knocks wearing a watch entails. Of course, a single balance wheel can more than cover for these variances, but when we are talking about haute horlogerie, it is all about increments in quality and details that makes all the difference (and bragging rights). Audemars Piguet have said that their patented mechanism of integrating two balance wheels on the same axis cancels each wheel’s errors and self-regulates in varying positions, improving stability and precision.
Openworking this watch to reveal the mechanism makes sense, and watching the two wheels work makes for a dizzying experience as the wheels working in slight variances blurs its overall form. The balance bridge is highlighted through the tasteful touch of rose gold, which match the hands and stand out to ensure easy reading of the time.
The Royal Oak Double Balance Openworked’s case is based on the 15400, a 41mm more modern interpretation of the original which was sized at 39mm. I’ve always been ardent that the 39mm sizing of the Jumbo 15202 and the discontinued 15300 is far more proportionate and beautiful than the more common 15400, but when the dial is skeletonised and the detail is immense, this watch regains the proportionality that I felt was lost in the time only version.
On the wrist, the watch feels comfortable as it is well accepted that the Genta designed Royal Oak bracelet is one of the most wearable. I have friends with far more arm hair than me lament other bracelets for catching their hair, but never about this one and I can only take their word for it and convey that here. The bracelet itself is sturdy, and when resting on a surface, is solid enough to sit upright without buckling. The finishing is fantastic, with all the brushing, polishing and bevelling catching and reflecting light to make for a showstopper.
I must say, despite my conservatism in watches (36mm is the perfect size dress watch for me), I was pretty comfortable wearing this 41mm beast of a watch and even though I have handled far more valuable watches, this one really did feel special.
Make no mistake, this is a bold watch that needs no introduction. One look at it and you know it is a serious watch. I’ve mentioned a plain Royal Oak is enough to turn heads, but this is on a whole new level. The skeleton work is as you would expect in quality with the added bit of rose gold a nice touch. This is a statement piece.
Oh, and did I mention that ALOT of people want this watch and it is close to impossible to get at the moment. I met a guy at Red Bar London last week who when he found out I had a week with it grab me to a corner with eyes alight telling me that he will pay tomorrow if I can get him one…
The Royal Oak Double Balance Openworked is only available in pink or stainless steel and is priced at £61,600 and £35,400 respectively. For more information on the Double Balance Openworked, visit the official Audemars Piguet website.