Over the next few weeks, in conjunction with the arrival of The Wristcheck Experience in Central (Hong Kong), we’ll be highlighting a handful of ‘Editor’s Picks’ – as selected by colleagues and contributors in the Wristcheck community. Rather than simply focusing on putting sales inventory in the proverbial window, we’ve opted to source some genuinely intriguing pieces from the global #WatchFam: examples of high watchmaking worth seeing in the metal, that speak to our mission of elevating horological culture.
From cutting-edge chronographs made to endure the breakneck speeds of circuit racing, to a few of the most regionally significant limited editions released this past decade, here are 5 exciting timepieces you can catch in our space, even if you’re just in the neighbourhood.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked (Ref. 26585)
Using the familiar, ever-desirable platform of the Royal Oak as a launchpad, AP unveiled its latest generation of skeletonised perpetual calendar just two years ago. For added wow factor, the brand did so in black ceramic; even going so far as to develop a new movement (the calibre 5135) optimised for the current set of 41mm Royal Oak dimensions. From build quality right through to mechanical complexity, this watch is nothing short of a tour de force.
The case and bracelet surfaces, machined using sintered (i.e. pressure-compressed) black ceramic, are finished to the same standard that AP demands of its steel watches; resulting in an interplay of light and reflective contrasts that is the oft-imitated, seldom-equalled signature of the Royal Oak. Meanwhile, the calibre 5135 expands on the know-how AP acquired from previous generations of perpetual calendar movements manufactured in the late 2010s, giving this skeletonised iteration a dynamic new aesthetic that is complicated, but never convoluted. Traces of rose gold – traditionally, a precious metal reserved for a watch’s handset and indexes – find practical application in this piece, helping to ensure the calendar indications remain visible against an at-times dizzying array of cams, levers, and springs. Naturally, those are all also finished with obsessive attention to detail.
A unique Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore (Ref. 77199SC)
With its hulking case size and distinctive fang-like crownguards, the Royal Oak Offshore is a design that requires little in the way of introduction. But a 34mm Offshore set with orange sapphires? Now that’s certainly something you don’t see everyday. Conceived as a Piece Unique at the behest of a longstanding AP client, this ‘Offshore Lady’ transports the essential characteristics of the Offshore’s design – comfort, adventure, athleticism – to the realm of smaller daily wearers.
Contrary to what you might expect, the results are pretty damn satisfying. It’s clear that the original owner was partial to a smidge of orange: with the bold, electrifying colour used to accent three of the piece’s most visible areas. The most riotous of these is the bezel, which is set with over 35 baguette-cut sapphires; and punctuated by the ‘exposed’ screws that are a classic motif from the world of the Royal Oak. Considering how the design language of the Offshore is often defaultly linked with oversized chronographs, this piece represents an interesting heel turn – certainly one worth seeing up close. And seeing as it’s the only one on Earth, you won’t find this anywhere else.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer ‘Michael Schumacher’ (Ref. 26221)
The Audemars Piguet ‘Laptimer Michael Schumacher’ – a limited edition in the Royal Oak Concept collection dedicated to one of the most highly decorated F1 drivers of all time. What you’d nominally call a ‘split-second’ chronograph, the Laptimer takes that (already complicated) horological premise even further, by combining the traditional ability to measure intermediate time with flyback functionality – thus making it possible to time multiple consecutive laps, all conveniently from a single wristwatch.
Watch brands often bombard their clientele with apocryphal stories about how involved celebrity athletes are in the development of their own namesake watches, but here, there’s credence to the idea that Schumacher played an essential role. According to APRP Director Giulio Papi, the F1 champion specifically requested a chronograph capable of timing multiple consecutive laps in a competition setting: necessitating the development of a new chronograph mechanism (patent pending) incorporating three column wheels. Highly complex and visually impressive to say the least, the best way to get a feel for this technology is to go hands-on – the epitome of a watch that you need to see ‘in action’.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ‘China Edition’ (Ref. 26609)
Uniquely significant to many of us here at Wristcheck HQ, the ‘China Edition’ is AP’s first all-titanium perpetual calendar to be released in the modern era. In line with certain beliefs stemming from Asian numerology, only 88 of these limited editions were brought to market: making them an unusual sight in the wild, and the perfect excuse to visit us for a closer look (and a highball or two).
By now, the story of Wristcheck founder Austen Chu’s involvement in the creation of this release is well-documented as the first time a collector had collaborated with a high-end Swiss watch brand for a commercial release – but even if you strip away all that, you’re still left with a watch worthy of detailed scrutiny. A healthy marriage of traditional watchmaking and contemporary design, the ‘China Edition’ QP is yet another compelling example of how AP has leveraged its heritage in service of the future. At the time of its release it was the lightest Royal Oak the brand had ever serially manufactured (i.e. 104 grams); and an expansion of the handsome but highly functional design language introduced with the reference 26574 half a decade prior. Comfortable, classic, and yet entirely an artefact of the internet era, this is one piece worth checking out if you’re interested in the state of the luxury watch industry in 2021. And the cherry on top? This piece belongs to Austen himself.
The Richard Mille RM 035 ‘Ultimate Edition’
More of a conceptual feast than an expression of approachable everyday watchmaking, Richard Mille’s ‘Ultimate Edition’ of the RM 035 offers a pretty exhaustive case study in everything distinctive about the watchmaker most famous for crafting ‘racing machines on the wrist’. Made to honour French alpine skier Alexis Pinturault (and developed with his sport in mind) it is, to get all literal and pedantic for a moment, a time-only wristwatch outfitted with a manually-wound movement. Admittedly, that’s a little like describing Illmatic as “words, spoken over a beat track”.
Produced in the notoriously small batches horologists have come to expect (i.e. 35 pieces globally), the ‘Ultimate Edition’ will give anybody who isn’t terribly au fait with Richard Mille’s unique brand of over-engineering a comprehensive introduction: the openworked movement displays an intricate web of wheels, springs and barrels; whereas the external surfaces exude the inimitable Damascene sheen of Carbon TPT – a case material that’s lightweight, confoundingly shock-resistant and a real pain to machine. In the proverbial metal, that all adds up to a watch that’s surprisingly easy to ‘get’: something that speaks to the crossover between supercar and watch culture, without becoming unwearable.
The Wristcheck Experience officially opened its doors to the public on the 4th of September.
Shop 116A, 1/F, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central
Opening hours: 11-8pm Mon-Sun
See you there!