Editor’s Pick: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Minute Repeater Supersonnerie in titanium (ref. 26591TI)

The latest incarnation of the Le Brassus behemoth’s proprietary chiming watch rings loud and clear with sportif energy...
By Randy Lai

 

After its now characteristically perfunctory fashion, AP dropped four iterations of the new Royal Oak Supersonnerie online late last month. Originally produced as a narrow run of limited editions – for the influential Tokyo-based retailer Yoshida – these releases signify the Supersonnerie’s arrival in the horological mainstream (albeit with availability restricted to AP’s own boutiques). Available in three 42mm titanium iterations or as a platinum-cased dress watch, it adds an intriguing new layer to the mainstay Royal Oak collection. The ‘smoked grey’ model is one we’ve been obsessing about over at Wristcheck HQ – and the subject of our latest Editor’s Pick.  

 

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Stealthily stylish


Though the Supersonnerie’s primary claim to fame is that it is the “loudest luxury sports watch” on the market, it also possesses a range of aesthetic qualities that will likely make it appealing to anybody who is even vaguely interested in sporty-chic watch design. The overarching presentation calls to mind ‘entry-level’ references like the 15400 and 15500 – the archetypal time-and-date versions of the Royal Oak. The case is tonneau-shaped and vertically brushed, which in turn, helps to accentuate several highly polished surfaces present throughout the bracelet, lugs, and bezel.  

 

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For the dial, AP’s watchmakers decided on a prismatic grey hue: I wouldn’t quite describe the effect as fumé, but the precise shade does indeed vary with different segments of the dial (note how the colour darkens to a charcoal-esque grey around the chapter ring). In tandem with the Supersonnerie’s minimally appointed layout and grande tapisserie (one of AP’s three signature lozenge-shaped dial finishes) the choice of colour creates a kind of ‘under-the-radar’ aesthetic – with the repeating slide across the left flange the only obvious indication of complexity. 

 

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So far, visually, this will all be familiar ground (even the tension between diameter and thickness vaguely resembles what you’ll find in the current-gen 15500) however, the Supersonnerie does add one minor update to the dial that feels sufficiently bold, when taking into consideration the remainder of the Royal Oak collection. In place of the typical centre seconds hand you’ll find in most non-complicated Royal Oaks, AP’s watchmakers opted to introduce a ‘small seconds’ display. This sub-dial, situated right above the 6 o’clock position, is a design detail that is more commonly associated with chronometers and historic styles of dress watches (i.e. the Calatrava). Happily, those connotations work well alongside the remainder of the Supersonnerie’s visual execution: lending a whiff of refinement to an aesthetic that could otherwise feel too stoic, monochrome, or redolent of an industrially-made tool watch.

 

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Inside the ‘small seconds’ itself, there is a robust amount of detail. The sub-dial is split into two segments (one plain, the other with a radial motif) and utilises a railway-style track to indicate the seconds – another seeming 
anachronism that works well in the scheme of the larger dial.


Crafting a sound case


The lack of any overt mechanical complexity in the Supersonnerie’s dial and caseback belies the fact that it is one of the most advanced minute repeaters ever to have been manufactured by AP (and consequently, much of the Swiss watch industry at-large). Traditionally, watchmakers have managed to enhance the acoustics of such watches by focusing on the chiming complication itself; and it’s here that the Supersonnerie diverges, thanks to its equally experimental case construction. (Quick sidebar: the name ‘Supersonnerie’ does not allude to the eponymous grande or petite complication. Rather, it’s a stylistic term that is meant to emphasise the volume of this minute repeater.)

 

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Modelled on proprietary technology AP introduced back in 2016, the caseback for the Supersonnerie is actually bifurcated into two pieces. A circular metal disc, onto which the minute repeater’s gongs are attached, is placed between the mainplate and outer caseback. When the Supersonnerie is activated, the repeater hammers in effect strike this disc, which in turn creates a ‘soundboard’ effect, imbuing each chime with a louder, brighter timbre. In comparison to other traditionally manufactured minute repeaters (e.g. the Patek Philippe Ref. 5539) the sound emitted here is clearer, more tonally consistent and rings out longer. 

 

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Material innovation was yet another means of enhancing the Supersonnerie’s sound quality. Despite its resistance to corrosion and high tensile strength, titanium is also much less dense than gold or 316L steel – making it ideal for the transmission of sound. Notwithstanding the classic, radially aligned Royal Oak screws (made in white gold) the Supersonnerie’s external surfaces are all machined in titanium. To improve the material’s innate acoustics, the outer caseback is designed with a series of open apertures, through which more of the noise from the soundboard can travel. It’s an elegant solution: technically achievable, whilst being theoretically simple enough for most laypeople to understand.

 

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As one final bonus, AP’s watchmakers have also managed to incorporate an impressive 50m of water resistance – a rarity in the case of chiming watches. Within the case, the ‘soundboard’ is secured using a rubber gasket, transforming the Supersonnerie into the closest thing watch collecting audiophiles have to an ‘everyday’ minute repeater. To my thinking, that puts this in the same thematic category as something like the Octo Finissimo ‘Tadao Ando’ – a watch which takes a rather fusty element of haute horlogerie, and redistills it into a package that embodies the look and sound of tomorrow. 

 

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Specifications

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Minute Repeater Supersonnerie
Reference number: 26591TI.OO.1252TI.03

Diameter: 42mm
Thickness: 14mm
Case material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water-resistance: 50m

Movement: Calibre 2953
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and minute repeater
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 3 Hz/ 21,600 vph
Power reserve: 72 hours 
Strap: Titanium bracelet with AP folding clasp.

Availability: Non-limited
Price: CHF 324,500 / Around HKD 2,750,000

For further information, visit Audemars Piguet online.
 

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