A DOUBLE BALANCE WHEEL
EVERY mechanical watch has a balance wheel and a balance spring, but there's often confusion between the two. The balance wheel is the timekeeping device in the mechanical watch, like the pendulum in a pendulum clock. The balance spring, or hairspring, is its essential counterpart. The balance spring is attached to the balance wheel and causes the latter to swing when the timepiece is running, which determines the rate of the hands' movement.
Watchmakers are forever trying to improve the stability and thus precision of the watch. Introducing another balance spring is one way to do it, because having a double balance spring helps to counter the effects of gravity - a big destabiliser of timekeeping in watches.
Audemars Piguet has produced timepieces with two balance springs in the past. They include the Millenary Quadriennium and Millenary Minute Repeater with AP Escapement. Now, it has unveiled for the first time a watch with two balance wheels, which is supposed to make the watch even more stable.
Unlike a stationary pendulum clock, the ever-moving wristwatch is subject to the effects of gravity, motion, temperature changes and all manners of shocks which can upset the working of the watch. The double balance wheel, along with a double balance spring, will tackle these disturbance.
Not only is the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked a world first, it's also an imposing combination of art and architecture. Which is why the watch is an openworked piece. This allows you to see the beauty of the movement and double balance wheel.
(Openworking is itself an art, the delicate balancing between the beauty of the revealed components and the safeguarding of their performance.)
But a double balance wheel has its downside - it consumes more energy. So the power reserve of the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked is only 45 hours, lower than the usual 65 hours.
The watch comes in a 41mm stainless steel or pink gold case, which houses an automatic movement.
A RETURN TO YELLOW GOLD
The Royal Oak was the first luxury watch to break with the gold standard and went stainless steel when it was launched in 1972, the move ultimately a game-changing triumph. Forty-four years on, Audemars Piguet is again defying convention by going back to yellow gold when rose and red gold is still in vogue.
AP's chief executive Francois-Henry Bennahmias has reportedly said there's now almost no yellow gold in collections from the big brands.
Some may disagree with him, pointing out that yellow gold has already made a timid comeback with dress timepieces two or three years ago.
But Mr Bennahmias is not wrong if he was referring to luxury sports watches, like those in the Royal Oak collection. These have been mostly in rose or red gold.
The Royal Oak first appeared in gold in 1977 - and it was last seen in this "most elemental material" of luxury watchmaking seven or eight years ago. This year, AP has unveiled four models in yellow gold in its Royal Oak line:
- Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar - The perpetual calendar is the most classic complication in watchmaking, with useful indicators such as day, date, month, the moon phase, week and leap year. In the Royal Oak model, such information is set against a blue dial held by a 41mm case. The watch is powered by a new automatic movement, which can be viewed through a sapphire crystal case-back.
- Royal Oak Chronograph - An older version of this chronograph first appeared in 2012 in a smaller, 39mm case.
The updated model has not only a bigger 41mm case, but it also sits more comfortably on the wrist. And with a bigger case comes a bigger dial - blue or white - and clearer display.
- Royal Oak Self-winding - Similar to the refreshed 2012 anniversary model, the latest version has a 37mm case with silver-toned or blue dial.
- Royal Oak Quartz - This quart-powered timepiece is obviously for the ladies. It features a diamond-decked bezel on a 33mm case.