The Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph Squelette was launched in platinum at the 2017 SIHH, however, you will see two different models here – one in pink gold and one in titanium, with a new pink gold-tinted version of the caliber 2396 as well. The design for these fake watches was firstly produced in cooperation with the best-kept-secret SoHo luxury boutique Material Good, which opened in 2015 as a kind of high-end shoppable speakeasy. Material Good is available only by elevator and offers vintage and modern watches, as well as fine art, custom furniture, and more, all in an environment that seems more ultra-hip private home than a traditional luxury boutique, which is located on the second floor of a Wooster Street building. They’re an authorized retailer for the best replica Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet, and the walls feature art by Basquiat and Warhol. AP says the watches were, “…conceived out of a creative dialogue between the fake Audemars Piguet and SoHo luxury retailer Material Good.”
The replica watches are showcases for the full repertoire of high-end Swiss watchmaking in every respect. The case-work, movement finishing, and level of complexity are all textbook examples of classic top-tier hand craftsmanship. The “hand craftsmanship” can be anything from a mildly to a badly abused term in the context of luxury watchmaking, but in the case of these two watches, it’s completely true and the results are worth studying not only for the sheer pleasure they provide visually but also for what they provide as a kind of gold (or titanium) standard against which to measure other examples of these crafts.
Of course, these are somewhat larger than standard model Royal Oak watches but they’re totally in the Royal Oak family, not the Offshore, despite the 44mm diameter (and 13.2mm case thickness). As you would expect, the case finishing is both well done and totally complex, with the choices of brushed and polished surfaces producing the jewel-like reflectivity and visual drama for which the Royal Oak has been famous since its debut in 1972.
As a matter of fact, the major attraction of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has always been the degree to which the bracelet is integrated with the fake watch head. One of the significant things about the Royal Oak, and part of what made it as revolutionary as a design, is that it did away with the usual visual separation between the watch and the strap or bracelet. For most of the history of watchmaking, these were distinct elements, reflecting the origins of wristwatches as pocket watches to which straps had been affixed.
The integration of fake watch head and bracelet is taken one step further in the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph through the integration of the movement into the overall design as well. Caliber 2936 is not a particularly huge diameter movement – at 13 1/4 lignes, or about 29.90 mm, it’s a pretty classic width – but it is 8.07mm thick and is a better fit in a slightly larger case. The whole movement has been elaborately and very artistically open-worked and, other than the pretty mind-blowing finishing of the case (after all these years, the ability of the Royal Oak to dazzle the eye remains undiminished) this is where plenty of the value-added of these watches can be found.
It keeps the real thing that sharp internal angles on finished movement components are not really possible to execute well by machine and are a hallmark of hand-finishing. It’s very difficult to say whether this will remain true for the foreseeable future, however; lasers can do some hair-raising things already. As we all know that the movement both front and back is all you could hope for in terms of refinement, with polished, brushed, and sandblasted surfaces interacting in a most mouthwatering fashion.
As you will see, there is a rather considerable difference between the two models in terms of wearing experience. Each is pretty nice in its own way but the pink gold model is unabashedly, deeply satisfyingly luxurious, while the titanium version has a more futuristic, urban-cool kinda vibe.