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By Chris | November 26 2013
Bright, white, sleek and powerful, the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon by Audemars Piguet is to be presented for the first time at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2014 (SIHH) in Geneva.
A watch for avant-garde collectors and connoisseurs, it makes no compromise in either technical or aesthetic terms.
Its sculpted titanium case middle and integrated rubber strap combine with a white ceramic bezel to frame the highly architectural array of tourbillon carriage and second ‘GMT’ time-zone display inside: case and movement in perfect harmony.
New for 2014, however, is the flash of pure white at centre stage: an intricately machined upper bridge made of white ceramic – only possible now, thanks to Audemars Piguet’s ongoing advances in materials science.
The Royal Oak Concept was first unveiled in 2002 as an avant-garde, 30th-anniversary tribute to Audemars Piguet’s legendary octagonal Royal Oak – designed by Gérald Genta as the world’s first luxury watch in stainless steel.
This year’s Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon features a white ceramic bezel, crown and
pushpieces instead of black, all heightening the contrast with the titanium case middle.
However, in typical, trailblazing style, the Manufacture has now gone one step further and incorporated ceramic into the movement itself, replacing the blackened upper bridge of calibre 2913 with white ceramic. As a result, the new Calibre 2930 is visually transformed, its dazzling, hourglass-shaped bridge further enlivened by the double symmetry of the tourbillon bridges and GMT display.
White ceramic is about nine times harder than steel, meaning the manufacture of the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon’s bezel, pushpieces, crown and especially its intricately shaped upper bridge was a complex and lengthy process.
Ceramic is an almost totally scratch-proof composite material that can be scratched only by diamonds, calling for the use of special milling-cutter machines equipped with diamond-tipped tools. Treating the roughed-out surfaces and edges to a polished or satin-brushed finish represents a daunting technical challenge, due to ceramic’s inherent resistance to abrasion.
It takes around 8 hours to make the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon’s bezel, compared with 45 minutes if it were steel, calling upon all the savoir-faire of the watchmakers and engineers.
As well as giving an exceptionally smooth final appearance, ceramic has a practical purpose,
displaying extreme resistance to wear.