Watch Drop: Audemars Piguet unveils two new Selfwinding Royal Oaks in 34mm

We got our hands on the newest 34mm releases from AP: a non-complicated full-black ceramic watch for the first time in the brand's history, and a Frosted Gold model with an ice-blue dial. Join us for the full scoop.
By Jasmine Bastable

When Audemars Piguet launched the first 34mm Royal Oak Selfwinding models last year as the smallest automatic Royal Oak available in their present catalogue, it provided a welcome choice for those looking to purchase a smaller timepiece. Prior to this, the only other option currently offered in this range was a 33mm watch with a quartz movement, so for purists, the 34mm RO was a great addition.

It’s great now to see the evolution of the 34mm RO's a year down the line, and I’m particularly thrilled to see AP bringing black ceramic to smaller case sizes, as the material is usually reserved for larger watches in 41mm and above.

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Brand-new: the 34mm Royal Oak Selfwinding in black ceramic ref. 77350CE and the Royal Oak Frosted Gold Selfwinding ref. 77353BC


The 34mm Royal Oak Selfwinding in Black Ceramic ref. 77350CE

I feel compelled to begin with the black ceramic ref. 77350CE, the watch that piqued my interest initially, and for good reason. Note that AP’s full black ceramic models previously only came in 41mm, and that this is the first Royal Oak Selfwinding in 34mm made of black ceramic – fantastic news for those with smaller wrists who are fans of the aesthetic. 

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Its full black ceramic construction is peppered with touches of pink gold on the bezel and dial – the significance of which I’ll get into later – resulting in a striking two-tone contrast that makes for a wonderfully legible time-telling experience, especially for those that feel that Openworked dials are harder to read.

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Seeing as the ref. 77350CE is also the first non-complicated iteration of AP’s full (bracelet included) black ceramic lineup, it should rouse quite some interest from both men & women – it’s a great unisex offering for those with slenderer wrists, in my opinion. And at a thickness of 8.8mm, I can attest to the fact that they wear comfortably on the wrist. 

Historically, 34mm wasn't “small” for men, so it’s interesting to see the trend of larger watch sizes coming into play, and the general shifts in attitudes over time. It’s important to remember that in the 1950s, men’s watch sizes ranged between 33mm and 35mm, and just like in fashion, there’s a cyclical tendency for things that were once popular to creep back into the spotlight. 

When examining said trends in the watch industry, it does seem as though watches are getting smaller again (i.e. with AP launching the new 43mm Offshore and potentially phasing out the 44mm), so, again, I wouldn't be surprised to see both men and women sporting these 34mm Royal Oaks. But that’s just my two cents.


Back To Black

Ceramic first made its debut in AP’s watchmaking with their Bamboo collection in 1986, which included a range of timepieces with two-tone bracelets that combined diamond-set gold with ceramic links that mirrored the watch’s respective dial colour. This two-tone effect has been realised in many of their modern timepieces today.

AP experimented more with ceramic in the 2000’s, releasing a 37mm Royal Oak Offshore with a black ceramic bezel set with diamonds in 2009, and in 2011, the Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph with a black ceramic case for the first time ever. 

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The Royal Oak Offshore ref. 26267FS, released in 2009, with a diamond-set ceramic bezel (Photo: Audemars Piguet)
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The Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph ref. 26378IO with a black ceramic case (Photo: Audemars Piguet)

And when AP quietly updated its Royal Oak collection in 2017 with the first all-black ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in 41mm, needless to say it took the watch world by storm. This was the first time in AP’s history where a watch’s bezel, case and bracelet were entirely crafted in black ceramic. 

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The 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in Black Ceramic

More full-black ceramic pieces followed in 41mm: most notably the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked in 2019 and the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked released last year. And now, we have the 34mm 77350CE.

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Left to right: the 41mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked in Black Ceramic, and the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked in Black Ceramic


Black ceramic: a double-edged sword

Whilst a joy to look at and feather-light on the wrist, black ceramic is a notoriously difficult material to work with. According to AP, their ceramic is an alloy of Zirconium Oxide (ZrO2) powder, pigment powder and binder. These elements are combined into ceramic through a “complex industrial flow requiring different stages of high-precision machining,” and sintered at temperatures exceeding 1000°C. The result? A lightweight yet ultra scratch-proof ceramic composite seven times harder than steel. 

Anyone who’s owned a metal watch can attest to how easy they are to scratch despite the utmost care, so naturally, a scratch-proof material should provide some peace of mind and make it a great luxury daily-wearer.

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While black ceramic is often either fully polished or given a matte finish, AP takes things further by finishing their black ceramic as if it were metal. The 77350CE, like its 41mm siblings, features satin-brushed surfaces with even, vertical lines, contrasted by polished chamfers on the bracelet links and the outer plane of the bezel – the combination of which results in a sheen truly unrivalled by any other Manufacture.

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To be able to achieve that same effect on a smaller 34mm Royal Oak that yields such a fantastic play on light is a feat to be commended, I think, and is something you really need to see in the flesh to appreciate.


The Design

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As touched upon earlier, the 77350CE’s black ceramic architecture is interposed by hints of pink gold throughout. To start, its black guilloché “Grande Tapisserie” dial features 18-carat pink gold hour-markers and hands that lend to the watch’s two-tone aesthetic. And most significantly, its eight signature individually hand-finished hexagonal screws are not crafted in AP’s customary white gold – rather, they are made of 18-carat pink gold for the first time in Royal Oak history for a production watch, to my knowledge. It’s nice to see AP switch up details like this, and I’m interested to see if the use of pink gold screws will be carried through to future models. 

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The Movement

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Both 34mm releases are powered by the selfwinding Calibre 5800

Both 34mm releases are powered by the selfwinding Calibre 5800, the smallest automatic calibre from AP – developed specifically for the Royal Oak’s 34mm line. First unveiled in 2020, the cal. 5800 features centre seconds and a date display at three o'clock, with 50 hours of power reserve and water resistance up to 50 metres. Providing all the necessary information that one would need on a daily basis, these are rather useful watches to be worn on the regular; with the power reserve ensuring it can be left idle for a couple days without the need for extra winding.

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Both watches’ inner workings and pink gold oscillating weight are visible through the watch’s sapphire titanium caseback and are finished with AP’s “Côtes de Genève” circular graining along with satin and sunray brushing.


The Royal Oak Frosted Gold Selfwinding ref. 77353BC

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The brand-new Royal Oak Frosted Gold Selfwinding 77353BC, on the other hand, offers quite the visual contrast next to its black ceramic counterpart. The watch is made of 18-carat white gold that has been given the Frosted Gold treatment – a technique developed in 2016 in conjunction with Italian jewellery designer Carolina Bucci. Accompanied by the quintessential Royal Oak Tapisserie dial in an icy shade of blue, its iridescent finish is evocative of AP’s repertoire of haute joaillerie timepieces.

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AP and Carolina Bucci: a long-standing friendship  

To give some context, this is the third time Audemars Piguet have collaborated with Carolina Bucci. The two joined forces in 2016 to reinterpret the original Royal Oak for women as sketched by Jacqueline Dimier in 1976, birthing the Frosted Gold technique for application on timepieces – and the rest is history. 

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2016: The first Frosted Gold models in collaboration with Carolina Bucci in pink and white gold (Photo: Audemars Piguet)
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The 37mm 300-piece limited-edition Royal Oak in yellow Frosted Gold paired with a silver-toned mirror dial, circa 2018 (Photo: Audemars Piguet)


The Frosted Gold Effect

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The Frosted Gold finishing seen on the 77353BC takes inspiration from an ancient Florentine jewellery technique: a gold-hammering process whereby tiny indentations are created on the gold’s surface with a diamond-tipped tool, resulting in a shimmering effect similar to that of “diamond dust” that quite literally sparkles when it catches the light. Together, AP and Bucci adapted this surface treatment technique to accommodate the trademark sharp edges of the Royal Oak and the mobility of its case and bracelet. Given its success, you’ll now find an array of models across AP’s collections that have been given the Frosted Gold treatment. 

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The Design

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As outlined above, the 77353BC’s PVD-coated light blue dial features the classic Royal Oak “Grande Tapisserie” pattern. It’s an icy blue that gleams in its own right against its bedazzled bezel, case and bracelet.

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The dial features white gold hour-markers and matching hands that pair well with the white gold of its case, and the subtle contrast between the frosted case and bracelet against the polished bevels of the bezel, screws and crown offers some visual relief and ensures that its ‘bling’ isn’t overkill. 

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Final Thoughts

Personally, I foresee the black ceramic model making a splash as it showcases the material innovation and finishing that AP are so renowned for. In the same vein, the Frosted Gold is, as always, a pleasure to experience in the metal. If we’re talking personal preference though, I do prefer the tonal harmony of the cool blue dial on frosted white gold. Either way, AP have knocked it out of the park with these releases in my opinion, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the 34mm line in the future. 

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Specifications:

Royal Oak Selfwinding in Black Ceramic / 34 mm
Ref. 77350CE.OO.1266CE.01

Case size: 34 mm
Thickness: 8.8 mm
Material: Black ceramic case, 18-carat pink gold screws and titanium caseback
Crystal: Glareproofed sapphire crystal
Water-resistance: 50m
Movement: Cal. 5800
Functions: Hours, minutes, centre seconds and date 
Winding: Selfwinding
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hours)
Power reserve: 50 hours
Bracelet: Black ceramic bracelet with AP folding clasp 
Availability: Regular production

Price: HKD $338,000 / USD $45,200 


Royal Oak Frosted Gold Selfwinding / 34 mm 
Ref. 77353BC.GG.1263BC.01

Case size: 34 mm
Thickness: 8.8 mm
Material: Hammered 18-carat white gold
Crystal: Glareproofed sapphire crystal
Water-resistance: 50m
Movement: Cal. 5800
Functions: Hours, minutes, centre seconds and date 
Winding: Selfwinding
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hours)
Power reserve: 50 hours
Bracelet: Hammered 18-carat white gold bracelet with AP folding clasp 
Availability: Regular production

Price: HKD $370,000 $USD 49,400

For more information, visit Audemars Piguet online.

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