The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT is about as avant-garde an offering as one will find from a top-tier Swiss manufacture today, which seems to me to be an interesting thing to consider. The line and the basic design of its case have been with us for 18 years. The first Royal Oak Concept watch, designed by Claude Emmenegger, was presented in 2002 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak, and it came with a movement developed by Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APR&P). As its name would lead you to believe, the Royal Oak Concept line tends to be a bit more experimental than, say, the Royal Oak Offshore. It’s been a springboard for technical developments. The first AP Supersonnerie was a Concept piece, for example.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT watch we are introducing today is actually the second Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT. The first version came out two years ago and was itself a refresh of the slightly differently named Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon. What made the refreshed 2018 version different was its asymmetric design and its use of a bridge-less (or flying) tourbillon.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT watch of two years ago combined a titanium case, a black ceramic bezel, a blacked-out dial/movement, and applied rose-gold accents, which added up to a pretty flashy look. Today, in a limited edition of 30 pieces to be sold through Paris AP retailer Arije, we’ve got a Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT that delivers a much more low-key vibe. Virtually everything about it is a muted, monochromatic grey, including the display, the rubber strap and clasp, and even the movement’s back.
The large case is made from sandblasted titanium and has been fitted with a bezel that is also made of sandblasted titanium. There are still some ceramic components, namely the screw-down crown and the push-piece on the side of the case, but they are also rendered in grey. The manually wound caliber 2954 delivers nearly 10 days of power reserve (237 hours, to be exact) on one full wind via two large barrels visible when you turn the watch over. On the dial side, everything is rendered in muted grey tones, from the wheel displaying the second time zone at three o’clock, to the function selector at six o’clock, to the flange with the hour / minute track. From the supplied photos, I get the sense that there is enough contrast between the skeletonized, lume-filled hands and the dial/movement surface that I do not expect legibility would be an issue. The movement comprises 348 parts.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT is about as practical a watch as you are going to find in the RO Concept line. Granted, there is very little about a tourbillon-equipped wristwatch that screams practicality, but this one offers an extremely long power reserve matched with what I think is the most useful of all complications, the GMT. I think it’s fair to say that AP’s Royal Oak Concept pieces aren’t for every high-end watch lover. Consider the size alone. At 44mm in diameter by 16.1mm thick, this watch is a statement on the wrist, even if you’ve got a big wrist. And while it certainly may attract the same die-hard AP fan as, say, a far simpler Royal Oak Jumbo, this watch scratches a vastly different itch. I think enthusiasts might come to this watch from a few different angles. But to me, it’s a compelling demonstration of what AP can do not just with complications, but also from a design standpoint. I think the fact that the Concept has been with us since 2002 is also a testament to the company’s fierce independent streak.