Friday, 10 January 2014

#25 Audemars Piguet Grande Complication 40th anniversary

Whether you are a fan of AP or not, this should be considered as a serious timepiece. This is THE piece that embeds all the essential elements and qualities of the 140 year old Le Brassus based manufacture. This piece is a time capsule that contains significant parts of the history of haute horlogerie. This piece is personal, cherished and somewhat sentimental (I know some of you're going "huh?" but don't worry, I'll elaborate more on this point later!).

Needless to say, AP has a very rich history. They have always been pioneers in complicated watchmaking, setting standards for others to follow. They were the first ones to achieve many of the great things that revolutionised the art. They were the first ones to create a wristwatch with minute repeater. They were the first ones to create a jumping hour wristwatch. They were the ones to create the first selfwinding Grande Complication watch. They were the first ones that showed (quite rebelliously) the world that steel can be 'luxurious' through Royal Oak and the list of their milestone extends... 
In the context of the piece that we're discussing here, the important thing to take on board is that this is the watch that is packed with some of the AP's proud landmarks, landmarks that not only transformed AP themselves but also the industry. 

Aesthetically, this 40th anniversary Grande complication captures a lot of the iconic elements of the standard Royal Oak. The case, bezel and bracelet are all made from steel. Unlike most other variations of Grande Complication Royal Oaks, this features the blue Petite Tapisserie dial as it was in the original 1972 Royal Oak. The case measures 44.00mm and 14.80mm in width and thickness respectively, and yes, you might argue that it is bigger than the 'conventional' Royal Oaks, but Cal. 2885 inherently makes it bigger - I mean if you have a bigger brain, you need a bigger head. Don't you? 
When it comes to finishing on the case and the bracelet, as I mentioned about a million times in other AP posts, I think there's nothing quite like a Royal Oak - The brushed and polished finishing all the way down to the clasp is nothing short of magical. I don't believe I need to do much talking to explain or convince you how beautiful this piece is. I'll let the photos do the talking (There are more photos below). 

Let's talk a bit about the technical stuff now. This beast is powered by the automatic cal. 2885, which is an in-house movement that is composed of 648, mostly hand-finished parts with 52 jewels - just from the number of parts, you can probably understand why this watch is a "Grande Complication". Those 648 parts harmoniously work together to perform series of acts, which are otherwise known to us as: perpetual calendar with moon phases, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph, week-indicator and hours and minutes. 

Unlike many other Grand Complication watches, this piece is powered by an automatic movement. The  rotor is made from 18-karat solid gold and the winding is unidirectional. I know some watch snobs might argue that you would want a manual-wind movement on Grande Complications to feel and absorb the piece but I would flip the argument and say having that extra complication of automatic winding makes it extra special, and of course, you are also getting a piece of gold! On top of that, AP allows you to customise the rotor should you wish to add a personal touch.

Pushers for split-seconds chronograph and correctors for day and date on the right side of the case

Lever for minute-repeater and correctors for leap-year, week and moon-phase on the left side of the case

I genuinely think that this is one of the most exciting, unusual Grande Complication watches around, both technically and aesthetically. When you talk about Grande complications, you generally would expect them to be quite 'conservative' with the case deisgn, but scrap that, this really is one of its kind. Even just the idea of having Grand complication in what is supposed to be classified as a sports watch is somewhat mind boggling - some of you might even get confused by this fusion of super complcated movement with a sporty case. Having such complex mechanism in a way defeats the purpose of a sports watch as it significantly reduces the resistance to water and so on but like I aforementioned, I think this is one of its kind, a watch that has its own rights, a watch that is neither a sports watch nor a dress watch but a watch that is simply "Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grand Complication".

In the opening of this post, I have mentioned that this is a watch that is somewhat 'personal, cherished and sentimental' - I said this because, each and every Grand Complication piece created by AP is assembled and finished by a designated master watchmaker and when it comes back for servicing, it will be the same watchmaker who will service the piece. By owning one of these, you form a bond with the maker, which I think is something very special.  Above all, what I like most about this piece is the fact that this is a watch that shows what AP as one of the most prestigious watchmakers stand for. It's a piece that encapsulates a part of history of fine watchmaking - and if you are a bit of watch aficionado, I would imagine it would be hard for you to resist admiring a piece that tells a story (and that does plenty of other things!).

More images (Click to enlarge)

Assembling the Royal Oak Grande Complication

#24 "Time Machines" by James Wills & Tom Bolt

"The watch guru", Tom Bolt (you may have seen him on Channel 4's The Four Rooms) & James Wills takes a trip into the world of wrist watches - highly entertaining!