The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak needs little introduction, being one of the most iconic watches in the pantheon of iconic watches. Imbued with svelte, angular sleekness by the pen of Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak is largely unrivalled in its ability to project cool athleticism and a refined sense of luxury since its debut in 1972. It’s a piece of sublime design that doesn’t come often, all the more reason that it should not be tampered with too much, even for its 50th anniversary. Collectors would be happy enough with a new dial colour if the alternative meant major revisions. Remarkably though, Audemars Piguet and Carolina Bucci has produced a stunning version of the Royal Oak for its 50th birthday, wholly different yet the same.
First to set the tone is the 34mm black ceramic case with pink gold accents in the form of the signature bezel screws, facetted hour markers and hands. The star feature, though is the dial: a rainbow-hued sapphire plate with grid etching that pays tribute to the tapisserie pattern of the classic Royal Oak. To hear jewellery designer Carolina Bucci describe it, “I wanted to place a rainbow in the most unexpected of places, a little like when you see oil floating on a puddle in a city street… So here you have every colour of the spectrum on a canvas that is completely black, which is itself the absence of colour.”
The end result is a stunning black watch paired with a dynamic multicolour prism of a dial that returns myriad hues depending on the angle of incident light. This is achieved by placing a sapphire plate – etched with tiny squares to evoke the tapisserie pattern, and treated with a specially developed golden metallisation process for a mirror effect – atop a brass dial plate. The effect is stunning, like looking at a silicon wafer, or a Compact Disc for the very first time.
The case and bracelet are satin-finished with polished chamfers. Turning the watch over, the titanium and sapphire crystal caseback featuring a “Limited Edition Carolina Bucci” inscription frames the self-winding caliber 5800 with 22K pink gold oscillating mass.
Designed for both men and women, the Royal Oak Self-winding Carolina Bucci Limited Edition comes in a presentation box designed by Carolina Bucci and is available exclusively in Audemars Piguet boutiques and AP Houses.
This is Carolina Bucci’s third collaboration with Audemars Piguet; it has been a very fruitful one with pieces that are readily appealing at a gut level. The first collaboration piece was released in 2016 for the 40th anniversary of the women’s Royal Oak that was created by Jacqueline Dimier in 1976. In white or pink gold, it introduced collectors to the ancestral technique of Florentine hammering, a laborious process of making tiny indentations on gold with a diamond-tipped tool – practically sandblasting by hand – to produce a sparkly effect that Audemars Piguet has dubbed Frosted Gold. The second collaboration piece arrived in 2018, in frosted yellow gold, with a mirrored dial. This third piece with a rainbow dial is arguably the prettiest; at the very least, the change from the usual metallic lustre of the Royal Oak to black ceramic is most dramatic, one with which a dynamic rainbow dial is able to keep up with. No small feat.
Movement: Self-winding caliber 5800, beat rate 4Hz, power reserve of 50 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date.
Case: 34mm x 8.8mm, black ceramic case, 18K pink gold screws, titanium and sapphire caseback, water-resistant to 50m
Strap: Black ceramic bracelet with titanium folding clasp
Price: USD 54,200
Availability: Limited to 300 pieces