I must admit, I'm not exactly a gem-set watch kind of guy. I'm actually pretty conservative in the designs that I like for the most part, but I would be lying if I pretended the Royal Oak Chronograph Amethyst ref. 26319OR.AY.1256OR.01 didn't enamour me. Released as part of AP's blinged-out July drops in 34mm and 41mm that we covered earlier this week, this is undoubtedly a loud piece with a lot of bling. Still, it carries an air of aesthetic sophistication that should be appreciated.
Achieving an Aesthetic
Central to any timepiece's design is the materials used in its construction. The Royal Oak Chronograph Amethyst blends 18ct pink gold with purple amethysts to achieve a beautifully balanced aesthetic that is somewhat loud and paradoxically understated. Not to say that this timepiece isn't flashy, it certainly is, but it feels like it isn't trying to be too much, and that is the sign of a successful attempt at tastefully achieving an aesthetic. I often find it tiresome to have a watch try so hard to be something that it's not, but this watch is another story.
Featuring 32 baguette-cut amethysts and an entirely 18ct pink gold construction, it would be easy for the Royal Oak Chronograph Amethyst to be over the top with its plethora of case finishes, shimmering jewels and iconic wrist presence. Still, it is quite the execution of a balanced design. Let me explain why.
Central to that balanced design, and the watch in a literal sense, is its new purple Grande Tapisserie dial. While the dial's design is not new as it featured in the 38mm Royal Oak Chronographs that debuted in 2019, it does showcase a new manufacturing technique that is quite innovative indeed, and I think it will be interesting to see how it finds its way across AP's offerings further down the line.
Developed by the AP's very own artisans, the timepiece's dial displays an eclectic mix of purple hues that "dance and change colour in the light." Produced via a new colour treatment technique consisting of multiple layers of PVD being laid onto the dial, the resulting dial can reflect pinks, purples, blues and an array of other colours depending on the watch's orientation in light. As every watch writer has to say once per article, this dial really does play with the light.
Devil is in the Details
I find this to be such an effective use of detailed design because this "colour-changing effect akin to that of a chameleon" works in tandem with the 38mm pink gold construction and amethyst-encrusted bezel (a first for the Royal Oak, by the way). One of the Royal Oak's often overlooked design aspects is just how ridiculously complex its case and bracelet are. Ask any watch polisher, and they will confirm that a Royal Oak's bracelet takes longer to polish than most watches in their entirety from other brands. With that kind of detailed craftsmanship on show through polished bevelled edges, satin-brushed flat surfaces, and polished curves, the Royal Oak's case is chameleon-esque too. All of its surfaces play with light differently, which can be said for amethysts too. They are notoriously difficult to colour match and reflect light in their own way specific to that exact stone – after all, no two are the same.
This marriage between the Royal Oak Chronograph Amethyst's dial, construction and amethyst-encrusted bezel all reflecting light as they so please creates a wonderfully balanced aesthetic that works in total harmony, even if the colours aren't exactly the same. There seems to be a measured approach to just how well they all work together in harmony, and that is hard to achieve, so kudos to AP.
One detail I am surprised AP omitted from the Ref. 26319OR’s design is an exhibition caseback to view the beautifully finished cal. 2385 movement. Sure, a solid caseback is reminiscent of the Royal Oaks of old, and the focus with this watch isn't its movement, but I do think it would have been a tasty cherry on top to finish off this otherwise perfect showing from AP. It would have been the best kind of sensory overload and to be honest, I’d have been all for it.
Merging aesthetic consistency with unparalleled attention to detail in perfect matrimony, it is difficult to look at the Royal Oak Chronograph Amethyst and say there is something you would change. Sure, its date window isn't centred, but that's common amongst the 38mm Royal Oak Chronographs and pretty easy to overlook. In its totality, this is about as perfectly balanced as a precious metal timepiece with a gem-set bezel and unique purple dial could ever be, and that is seriously impressive, especially considering how avant-garde the Royal Oak's design is. I might not usually like gem-set pieces, but this has certainly changed my tune.
Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph / 38 mm
Case size: 38 mm
Material: 18-carat pink gold
Crystal: Glareproofed sapphire crystal
Movement: Cal. 2385
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph
Frequency: 3 Hz (21,600 vibrations/hours)
Power reserve: 50 hours
Bracelet: 18-carat pink gold bracelet with AP folding clasp
Availability: Regular production (Boutique Only)
Price: 75,500 CHF / $81,900 USD
For more information, visit Audemars Piguet online.