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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#3 vs Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked

By Aaron Voyles
11 Nov 2022
5 min read

The Royal Oak’s versatility in the world of haute horology is second to none. Here’s a face-off between two new 50th anniversary releases, which demonstrates the multifaceted nature of this legendary timepiece 

There’s no dearth of icons in the watch world across the design spectrum but one timepiece that has stood above the rest and made its impact on a variety of watches over the last five decades is — the Royal Oak. A vessel for extraordinary complications and several fascinating iterations, the Royal Oak is perhaps one of the most versatile watch designs to ever make its way to the market. Over the years, Audemars Piguet has used its inimitable creativity on the Royal Oak canvas to yield watches that have been truly ahead of their time. The Royal Oak RD#3 and the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref. 26735ST are two timepieces that put that in plain sight.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref. 5402ST 相片:Wristcheck
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref. 5402ST 相片:Wristcheck

The Royal Oak’s Influence

Watchmaking has come a long way since the early 70s. From the precipice of collapse under the sheer weight of the Quartz Crisis to the unbridled success that seems to have no end in sight these days, it’s hard to imagine a more plainly obvious 180-degree U-turn. Arguably the watch that facilitated that U-turn was the Royal Oak. Its striking design, exorbitant price and focus on traditional craftsmanship reframed how the public saw mechanical timepieces. Since then, the Royal Oak has come to define the luxury watch market and stand as the champion that everyone else would strive to emulate from a stylistic and ceremonial standpoint. Knowing they have quite the watch on their hands, Audemars Piguet have sought to celebrate the Royal Oak whenever possible, and in 2022 for its 50th anniversary, this was quite obvious, particularly with the RD#3.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#3 39 毫米和Royal Oak Ref.5402(從左到右)©Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#3 39 毫米和Royal Oak Ref.5402(從左到右)©Audemars Piguet

The RD#3

Often when a novelty is released, the watch community discusses and deliberates over the design details, much like this article, in a bid to absorb as much of the watch as possible and understand the logic behind its launch. While most of the time, the changes introduced in an existing collection are quite apparent, sometimes less so. The RD#3 conforms to the latter, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Royal Oak RD#3 腕錶直徑39毫米,配備Royal Oak標誌性的八角形錶圈、沒有護橋的八角形錶冠、一體式鏈帶和的非常吸引的Bleu Nuit、Nuage 50 PVD“Petite Tapisserie”錶盤
Royal Oak RD#3 腕錶直徑39毫米,配備Royal Oak標誌性的八角形錶圈、沒有護橋的八角形錶冠、一體式鏈帶和的非常吸引的Bleu Nuit、Nuage 50 PVD“Petite Tapisserie”錶盤

The RD#3 is a strikingly gorgeous watch. As any Royal Oak enthusiast will tell you, it looks exactly like the original Royal Oak ‘Jumbo,’ the Ref. 5402, but with the addition of a tourbillon, and it’s no accident. Instead of redesigning the Royal Oak to accommodate a tourbillon, Audemars Piguet have taken the rather costly approach of designing a new movement from the ground up that allows them to fit the Royal Oak with an automatic flying tourbillon, all while maintaining the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’s’ iconic extra-thin profile. This movement, the automatic cal. 2968, features a skeletonized commemorative 50th-anniversary rotor and an expertly finished architecture built upon a rhodium-plated 22kt pink gold base.

2968自動機芯厚度3.4毫米;RD#3採用39毫米不銹鋼錶殼,厚度僅8.1毫米,與原祖Royal Oak Ref.5402 相比,厚度增加了1.1毫米。

As a result of the cal. 2968’s incredibly slim 3.4mm profile; the RD#3 features a 39mm stainless steel construction that stands just 8.1mm thick, a relatively minimal 1.1mm increase in thickness over the original Royal Oak Ref. 5402. Combined with the Royal Oak’s trademark octagonal bezel, unguarded octagonal crown, integrated bracelet, and beautiful Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 PVD ‘Petite Tapisserie’ dial, the RD#3 is a wonderful celebration of the Royal Oak’s original 'Jumbo' design – a particularly fitting release for the watch’s 50th anniversary.

By staying so close to the original Royal Oak design, Audemars Piguet have showcased precisely how important this watch is to them. For a landmark anniversary like this, some brands might launch models that look different and expand the collection’s footprint, Audemars Piguet, on the other hand, have done just the opposite  by launching a watch that focuses on elements that made the Royal Oak so important in the first place. However, that certainly isn’t to say Audemars Piguet have been afraid to venture outside of their comfort zone. Instead, it’s quite the opposite, as illustrated by their other big launch this year – the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref. 26735ST.

Ref.26735ST直徑41毫米,具有Royal Oak一貫的殼形,但尺寸與39毫米的RD#3有所不同

Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref. 26735ST

If you were asked to picture the Royal Oak in your mind, the RD#3 is far closer to what you might imagine than the Ref. 26735ST. However, instead of paying homage to the first Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ like the RD#3, the Ref. 26735ST celebrates the first-ever self-winding tourbillon wristwatch movement – the cal. 2870 featured in the Ref. 25643BA from 1986.

Ref.26735ST是慶祝品牌首款自動上鏈陀飛輪機芯2870,此機芯搭載於1986年推出的 Ref.25643BA  相片:Christie's
Ref.26735ST是慶祝品牌首款自動上鏈陀飛輪機芯2870,此機芯搭載於1986年推出的 Ref.25643BA 相片:Christie's

While maintaining the Royal Oak’s overall shape and architecture, the Ref. 26735ST features an enlarged 41mm diameter that steps away from the RD#3’s traditional 39mm ‘Jumbo’ design, and moves into the world of modern constructions. The Ref. 26735ST is decidedly contemporary and its openworked display makes this no secret. The Ref. 26735ST celebrates the Royal Oak in a modern context, while the RD#3 celebrates the origins of this icon. Like reflections of the opposite ends on a spectrum, each watch has been designed to replicate different periods of AP’s history.

Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref.26735ST
Ref.26735ST 不論在錶盤還是錶底也能一覧其鏤空設計,絕對體現其現代風格

While both models feature automatic flying tourbillons, their exhibition is entirely different. Instead of homing its tourbillon inside of a case that’s as faithful to the original Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ as possible, the Ref. 26735ST uses an openworked display that puts its tourbillon on centre stage amongst an army of rhodium-toned labyrinthine bridges that combine expertly executed internal and external anglage with brushed and polished surfaces and an appealingly symmetrical layout that immediately sets the Ref. 26735ST apart as a watch to be ogled for hours.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref.26735ST(左); Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#3 39mm(右)

Combined with this incredibly unique display is a modern 41mm x 10.6mm stainless steel construction that adds the appropriate wrist presence to the Ref. 26735ST’s unique openworked display. An evolution of the Cal. 2950 from 2018, the Cal. 2972 is fully openworked on both sides and can be admired through the watch’s exhibition caseback.

Tying Them Together

Indeed, while fitted with similar complications and stainless steel constructions that feature everything that has come to define the Royal Oak, the two timepieces offer entirely different packages, and therein lies the Royal Oak’s strengths. The Royal Oak has undoubtedly stood the test of time as a sports watch, but its ability to venture into the world of Haute Horology is second to none – as these spectacular timepieces prove in completely different ways.There couldn’t have been a better time for Audemars Piguet to prove this year than now – in the Royal Oak’s 50th year.

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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#3 39mm(左);Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked Ref.26735ST(右)