Off the back of a story my colleague Jasmine recently wrote about two new 34mm Royal Oaks, we received word earlier today that AP is doubling down on this slew of July goodies with yet another addition to the burgeoning family of frosted 41mm Royal Oak chronographs. Showcasing a case and bracelet decorated with the same ‘diamond dust’ finish introduced in 2016 (by Italian jeweller Carolina Bucci) this new release bears a distinct connection with multiple other Royal Oaks. Notably: the identically sized ‘plum purple’ model released back in 2019, and the smaller monochrome ref. 26315.
However, unlike those previous examples, AP is kitting out its latest generation of 41mm Royal Oak chronos with a certifiably fully-integrated in-house movement — the Calibre 4401. It’s a vertical clutch flyback chronograph that features a column wheel and a flyback function that allows the wearer to stop, reset and start the chronograph in one swift motion. Here, the column wheel works in conjunction with a vertical clutch system, so that when the chronograph is started or stopped, the hands respond instantaneously. The whole process can be observed through the open caseback, which makes for quite the visual delight.
Limited to 200 pieces, these appear to be available at both authorised dealers and boutiques directly operated by the brand — not that this will make them any easier to get ahold of.
Evidently, the most visible drawcard (or drawback, depending on your aesthetic inclinations) of this 41mm chrono is the frosty finish. Created using a hand-hammering technique that has its origins in traditional European goldsmithing, around 90 percent of the watch’s external surfaces (from bracelet to bezel) exude a shimmery, granulated texture — a finish that Carolina Bucci herself was invited to teach to the watchmakers of AP.
The effect, especially in conjunction with sunbeams or directional lighting, certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but amongst jewellery obsessives is considered highly desirable, due to the unique diamond-like sparkle which can only emanate from surfaces possessing so many miniscule abrasions. In white gold, I find myself erring on the side of fandom; and the effect is somewhat softened by the present model’s brushed mid-case and choice in muted grey dial.
Shades of Grey
For many Royal Oak enthusiasts, the other big appeal of this frosty chrono will be the dial, which aligns AP’s signature Grande Tapisserie pattern with a palette of cool, tonal grey. As we alluded to earlier, this isn’t the first time the brand has employed this style of monochrome dial configuration — and I suspect it won’t be the last. On the smaller sized Ref. 26315, the effect of the ‘Ruthenium’ dial was to make the watch’s overall appearance that much cleaner and streamlined, but here, the textured grey squares of the tapisserie add contrast (albeit not an aggressive amount) to the frosting on the watch’s various external surfaces.
Finally, despite the appearance of a trivial gesture, this new release benefits from further tweaks in the arrangement of the dial. I’ve personally found that the sense of balance in the 41mm dials is usually superior to those of the 38mm variety, and this frosted gold example upholds that streak — mainly because of the date window. Now overlaying the seconds track (and as you can see from the images, parallel with the 4 and 5 o’clock hour markers) the date window feels comfortably distanced from the three chronograph registers that account for the majority of the dial’s real estate. It’s a small tweak, no doubt: very much in line with other quirks of good design that seem ‘90 percent invisible’. It’s what you notice that other 10 percent of the time that’s so memorable.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold Self-winding Chronograph / 41mm
Reference number: 26239BC.GG.1224BC.01
Case material: Hammered 18-carat white gold
Movement: Calibre 4401
Functions: Flyback chronograph, hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Frequency: 4 Hz / 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 70 hours
Bracelet: Hammered 18-carat white gold with matching ‘AP’ folding clasp
Availability: 200 pieces
Price: HKD $586,000
For further information, visit Audemars Piguet online