John Mayer collaborates with Audemars Piguet on a new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar

The John Mayer AP Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is a revelation in white gold with a “Crystal Sky” dial.

Gazing at the new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar designed by musician and watch collector extraordinaire John Mayer, in collaboration with Audemars Piguet, is like looking through a window into the cosmos. The visual effect of what the brand calls its “Crystal Sky” dial is like peering into the vast inexorable future, which is fitting as this watch is the very last of its kind.

There’s no looking back after this. It’s the final Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar featuring the caliber 5134, based on the venerable ultra thin caliber 2121, with its signature week-of-the-year indicator read off the perimeter of the dial.

After this, it’s done. Finito. Basta. Over. I say this with some emotion as this is THE watch that made the perpetual calendar relevant to an entire new generation of customers, and it is now created in its final outing as an incendiary swansong co-designed by the man that made watch collecting relevant to an entire new generation.

Because Mayer is exactly that bridge, that Constantin Brâncuși-like electric transom, that “Creative Conduit,” which is in fact his new title bestowed upon him by Ilaria Resta, the very smart new CEO of AP. She very correctly states, “Audemars Piguet is not a cause-and-effect brand.

“We do not set out certain financial objectives first. Instead, we focus on empowering our greatest asset, which is our creativity and [we] love working with people like John who can help to empower this creativity.”

Says Mayer, “The thing I look out for the most in watches is an element of surprise. Because too often we want to frame the watch world according to our expectations, and to define it according to our tastes, to our values, as if we are rushing to create a social media consensus when we should just be taking it in and processing.

“When a watch comes out of nowhere and surprises you, that’s truly magical. And it takes a while for you to fully understand a surprising watch.

“That’s why I never rush to comment on something that I see. I want to sit back, think about it and try to understand it before I form my opinion… It’s a lot like in music; when someone plays me a song, the first thing I’ll say afterwards is, play it again.”

The Crystal Sky dial, which looks like the result of cosmic stalagmites smashing into each other, leaving a random crystalline pattern, provides just that element of surprise. And now that I’ve lived with the ensuing surprise I felt at viewing it, let me try to articulate my emotional response with some degree of eloquence.

In 1970, Led Zeppelin’s tour of Germany, Bath and Iceland brought them to Reykjavik, but a civil servants’ strike almost canceled their show until the local university stepped in. The result was one of the most epic shows of their career.

Robert Plant wrote the lyrics “The hammer of the Gods will drive our ships to new lands / To fight the horde, sing and cry / Valhalla, I am coming” for his masterpiece “Immigrant Song” to commemorate the experience. The song begins with an insane-sounding, plaintive wailing war cry powered by a pounding orgiastic riff created by Jimmy Page, John Bonham and the immortal John Paul Jones.

The result is sheer sonic energy that brings to mind a flight of Valkyries descending out of the sky at full charge. In the words of The Rolling Stones’ brilliant Lester Bangs, “Plant’s double-tracked wordless vocal crossings [echoes] behind the main vocal like some cannibal chorus wailing in the infernal light of a savage fertility rite.”

That is what the John Mayer Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar feels like to me, as I stare into the startling blue infinity of its dial creating a bridge of light to Valhalla.

And it’s just this powerful element of surprise that is the aesthetic asset of this remarkable new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar. Crystal Sky is, according to my friend Yoni Ben-Yehuda of Material Good, a hyper complex embossing technique that creates a crystal in depiction of the vast canopy of blue overhead.

But its immediate effect is to create a sense of transcendence, and that there is something further beyond. It is, in fact, the perfect symbol for the last of AP’s current generation of perpetual calendars and the vast unknowable future that lays ahead, both for this model and for the brand, now helmed by a new CEO.

The Design Acumen of John Mayer

John Mayer has not just been selected to create this watch because of his cultural clout. Rather, the watch is a tribute to the fact that Mayer has become one of the single most important cultural forces in watch collecting for the new generation of aficionados.

To my mind, he was the public person that defined the current obsession with Patek Philippe complications worn with hoodies, which essentially set the entire tone for West Coast watch collecting. His understanding and appreciation of watches, his capacity to identify hidden gems, and his ability to uplift a specific model that he has a passion for, such as the yellow gold, green dial Rolex Daytona reference 116508, now bestowed with the fitting sobriquet, the “John Mayer Daytona,” has become part of modern legend.

He has also, for many years, had the opportunity to create pièce unique watches for some of the world’s most hallowed brands, and he’s showed me a recent image of a pièce unique perpetual calendar chronograph he’s commissioned but with hands taken straight off one of my favorite perpetual calendar references, the 3448. Only the most hardcore watch nerd would get that detail.

 

The point is, the man has incredible watch knowledge and a hell of a lot of taste.

Mayer has had plenty of experience — over a decade’s worth — when it comes to designing pièce unique watches. But when it came to this Audemars Piguet collaboration, he wanted to bring the most valuable lesson to the watch, which was to create a sense of purpose, to bestow it with precision, to create balance, to not proverbially throw the aesthetic kitchen sink at it as first-timers invariably do when they have the opportunity to go crazy on a collaborative watch.

No, Mayer wanted to create something singular, unique, specific and, yes, fucking awesome. He says, “There’s a quality that I like to call ‘edible’ when you know something is perfect, when a song is great, when it’s not overdone, where there’s balance. It’s the same thing with watches when you look at it on the screen and you just want to reach through a screen and grab it and eat it, because it’s so perfectly rendered, and that doesn’t mean adding more to it; sometimes it means stripping away, keeping restraint in your mind.”

Sitting on Mayer’s Crystal Sky dial is a series of four subdials, all in the same matching blue metallic tone. One of the things that has always bothered Mayer related to the date indicator was the red “31” for those months that contain this additional day.

Here, he replaces the red “31” with a step-down “31” and the new typography is both unique and cool. He also wanted to keep the week-of-the-year indicator somewhat muted; as such, it is rendered in a tone-on-tone blue, which does precisely the job of “disappearing” when your eyes are not searching for it but it reappears instantly when you need to look at it.

The case of Mayer’s watch is white gold and I applaud the restraint of both AP and Mayer here. They could have gone crazy with white ceramic or bulk metallic glass, but white gold creates a sense of subdued perennialism, which brings an underlying elegance to this watch.

 

The John Mayer AP Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar will be made in just 200 pieces, with an additional special piece with a sapphire bezel for John. It is priced at 150,000 Swiss francs.

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