In the lead-up the SIHH 2012, Audemars Piguet have just released images of the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak Limited Edition 40th Anniversary watch.
You don't have to be a watch afficionado or a collector of fine timepieces. Even if you are a complete novice, who doesn't know a ligne from a lug, there are a few essential and influential watches you should know about - one of these is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
It was created by the late Gerald Genta, a designer of consummate importance to the industry - also from his sketchpad came Patek's Nautilus, Omega's Constellation and Seamaster models and the IWC Ingenieur. The Royal Oak took its name and design inspiration from the British Royal Navy's Royal Oak war ships and its porthole-shaped bezel with eight hexagonal screws became an instantly recognisable characteristic of the piece.
It caused rumblings in the industry because it was a high-end sports watch constructed from stainless steel, the cheaper material allowed for a chunkier case and distinctive integrated graduated bracelet. At 39mm is was considered to be an outsize model. First presented in 1972, the Royal Oak continues to be an enduring and evolving model in Audemars Piguet's portfolio. The 40th anniversary model is presented with a complex skeletonised movement taking centre stage in complete contrast to the clean, textured and understated dial of the original.
Just like the 1972 piece, the 2012 model measures 39mm across, the "extra-thin" refers to the movement which is just 3.05mm thick, quite an achievement considering the intricate hand finishing techniques involved in reducing a calibre to its bare bones - in the skeletonisation process only the essential components remain, these components are then finished to the utmost of high standards, tricky and meticulous work which is rewarded with an end-product which is as exquisite as it is labyrinthine.
The slender movement inside is the self-winding in-house Calibre 5122 with 40 hours of power reserve - notable is the 22 carat gold oscillating weight, of monobloc construction which bears the dates 1972-2012. The case is constructed from platinum and is water resistant to 50m.
With all that painstaking hand finishing and hollowing of the calibre, you would expect this to be a limited edition and it is, just 40 pieces will be made.