We should be really honest with ourselves upfront on this one: a blue ceramic Royal Oak (fully blue!) is a crazy thing. Like, it’s not normal, and it wouldn’t be normal to wear one. But since when is watch enthusiasm a normal activity? We don’t call ourselves nerds and geeks for nothing. Those monikers are badges of honor, the kind of thing that keeps us from lusting after the same steel sports watch over and over again.
Of course, today we’re looking at a six-figure, integrated bracelet watch from Audemars Piguet that amounts to unobtanium to anyone not named John Mayer, Kevin Hart, Draymond Green, or LeBron James. To some people, that represents everything that’s wrong with this hobby – to me, it represents the beauty of it. We can pine for this watch from afar without any delusions that we might someday own one, in the same way we would for a Francis Bacon painting or all the vintage Porsches we showed you just yesterday. If one of you readers should be so lucky as to have one of these new QPs, send me a wrist shot on Instagram (@glassofmilt) – you’ll make my day and I’ll genuinely be so happy for you.
Enough small talk, let’s get into a hyper-complicated piece of haute horology housed in fully blue, brushed, ceramic in a form factor that shocked the watch world upon its release in the early 1970s: The Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar in blue ceramic.
In 2017, AP released a QP in black ceramic based on a 2015 release in full steel. In 2019, it upped the ante with a boutique-exclusive variation on the theme in white ceramic. We loved both, and we love blue. So when AP announced yet another colorway into the ceramic QP family in blue, we got excited. The HODINKEE Slack channel was abuzz, the phone lines were lit up, we instituted a new company holiday and people took the day off.
But only one HODINKEE staffer had a chance to go hands-on with the piece, and you’re reading his article right now. I remember it like it was only two weeks ago, being handed a small Audemars Piguet leather watch case, unfastening it, and seeing this blue beauty in front of me.
This new piece is like the movie Pleasantville, when Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon turn their black-and-white world into Technicolor madness. After putting this watch on my wrist, I can assure you that wearing a vibrant blue ceramic timepiece is quite different from the standard ceramic offerings of black and white.
And I mean this in the best way. If you’re comfortable with something as loud as this on your wrist, you’re going to find that it’s extremely comfortable. Let’s start with how miraculously light it is. Picking this piece up, I anticipated something with serious heft, but instead had a watch that gave off strong titanium vibes (a case material AP also uses very well).
The next thing that really stood out to me was the level of finishing on the case. Creating a brushed ceramic surface is not an easy feat, but this watch makes it look that way. For one thing, ceramic is always going to give off a bit of a sheen, and especially when dealing with a watch with this loud a monochromatic color scheme, the brushed surfaces help to mute the noise.
You notice all of the hallmarks of Royal Oak design on this one, from the dial texture to the bracelet design to the bezel to the clasp. It’s a Royal Oak just turned all the way up. At 41mm, the watch and dial surface are just large enough to give breathing room to the rather complicated dial display with sub-registers for the month, day, date, and phase of the moon. That moonphase indicator is a design cue that I think plays really nicely against the full blue aesthetic. It’s like the night sky blends into the blue dial which then blends into the case. Who needs contrast?
I was also surprised at the way the bracelet really drapes around the wrist. In my mind, ceramic is stiff, unforgiving. In practice, the fluidity of the links is just as pronounced as it would be in steel, titanium, or any precious metal. And it all comes together with the discreet butterfly-enclosed clasp construction.
Seeing as this is a color update on an existing model, the movement inside remains the caliber 5134 with its 40 hours of power reserve. You can see through the caseback, which is where you’ll also see the only portion of the watch (save for the clasp) that is not made from blue ceramic. Consider it like taking a break from all the blue and instead gazing at 374 components of quantum perpetual.
Second Opinions: I Can’t Afford Any Of These Watches. And That’s Just Fine.
Take a journey back into the HODINKEE archives with this piece on appreciating watches, even if we can’t afford them.
Deep down, I know this watch isn’t for me, but I can also recognize that it’s cool, that it’s a hot watch, that it’ll end up on the wrists of celebrities whose net worth and buying power could end global hunger and the climate crisis. I also can admit that in the hour or so I had the chance to see it, I came to really understand it. With a watch like this, AP is showing its ability to thread its design language into modern materials and modern watchmaking. This watch is executing on a high level because it’s bringing a serious complication into an unabashedly flashy exterior.
But at the same time, we are dealing with a general design object – the Royal Oak, itself – that generates a lot of feelings from the broader watch world. Whether the frustration is RO fatigue, or the inability to buy one at retail, one can’t help but notice that this model has a certain horological power. It’s safe to assume that those who don’t like it are going to absolutely hate this one. And I get it, but I also think it’s worth applauding the manufacturer for creating a stunt piece that also has real watchmaking chops.
If it were easy to create all-ceramic everything, then every brand would do it. If it were cheap to create high-end perpetual calendars at scale, then everyone would do that, too. But both take serious investment, not to mention technical know-how. Which explains the $100k-plus price point.
When the watch was taken back from my hands, ready to be returned to AP, I’ll admit, I wasn’t ready to give it up. If they’d given me another 30 minutes I would have completed the creation of an entirely new persona. You’d be looking at a new Danny, the Danny who wears BC QPs. People would say, “Wow, that watch really brings out the blue in your eyes.” And I would say, “I know,” before heading to my private jet with my new friend Draymond. A guy can dream.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Blue Ceramic. 41mm x 9.5mm. Blue ceramic case with integrated blue ceramic bracelet. Blue grande tapisserie pattern dial, Super-LumiNova luminescence, and 20m of water resistance. AP caliber 5134 movement with perpetual calendar (week, day, date, astronomical moon, month, leap year) hours, and minutes functionality. Price is approximately $132,000 and is available upon request.
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You can learn more about Audemars Piguet online.
The HODINKEE Shop sells pre-owned examples of the Royal Oak and other Audemars Piguet watches; click here to discover our collection