In 2015, Audemars Piguet unveiled the Royal Oak Concept RD#1 – the most sonically considered concept watch of modern times, propelling acoustic performance in chiming watches to unparalleled levels. Eight years in the making, with the watchmaker as key sound producer, that concept timepiece presented dynamic innovations that defied practical restrictions, such as waterproofing.
Now, just 12 months later, that concept has become reality. In 2016, Audemars Piguet presents an outstanding new wristwatch: the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, a minute repeater of superior acoustic intensity with a supremely clear, sustained tone. Three new pioneering chiming sound developments have become technological achievements, patented innovations. Presented in a super-light titanium case, this exclusive production timepiece is precision-made to awaken sound. It brings unprecedented acoustic performance, exceptionally refined sound quality and the clear, harmonic tone of traditional pocket-watches to a contemporary minute repeater wristwatch.
Since the Manufacture was founded, generations of watchmakers have progressed complex mechanisms created in Le Brassus into future-forward technologies through every decade of the 20th and 21st centuries.
That tradition continues through pioneering chiming watches sound study programme, started in 2006, in collaboration with the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). Today, sound-measurement facilities are installed at the Manufacture, where various amplification methods, such as an anechoic chamber and microphone recordings, assist a dedicated team of watchmakers, artisans, technicians and academics in creating chiming technologies for the future. Restrictions of necessary technology, such as waterproofing, which diffuses sound, are being overcome; acoustic performance is scientifically augmented.
The outcome of the study programme is a new method for pre-preparing the steel used to create the gong structure, to achieve a unique minute repeater sound. A scientific system of performance targets was devised according to material cross-section, length and rigidity. Today, these pre-defined targets anticipate the final performance of the steel used by the watchmaker to make the gongs, assisting him to hone the right pitch, tone, and harmony. The result is a shortened, precision-mastered tuning process and a unique sound.
The Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie presents a newly developed case construction that prevents sound absorption, boosting amplification. In traditional minute repeater technology, the gongs are fixed to the mainplate. In the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie they are attached to a new device, a material spread beneath the movement that acts as a soundboard. Now, the gongs transmit vibrations directly to the soundboard – not to the mainplate. The technology functions like the upper body of a guitar. With the vibration-to-air system improved, sound quality, tone and amplification are richer.
The striking regulator – the device that sets the pace of the striking sequence of hours, quarters and minutes – is redesigned. The anchor system is more flexible and becomes a shock absorber so that unwanted shock noise – created on action – is eliminated. Noise is almost imperceptible; poor frequencies are diminished and the pure, clear sound created by the watchmaker is freed. The result: a brighter, cleaner tone.
The Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie is not simply a striking watch; it is devised as a musical instrument. In an acoustic guitar, the strings are pulled tightly over the bridge. When plucked, the strings vibrate at a certain frequency and produce a beautiful, tonal sound. This sound is then carried into the body of the guitar – the soundboard – via the bridge. As it travels around the body of the instrument, the sound is amplified. No longer controlled by the player, the sound is freed.
In the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie:-
- The gongs behave like guitar strings
- The hammers are the guitar player’s fingers
- The gong stud is the guitar bridge
- The internal soundboard spread beneath the movement is the body of the guitar
- The sound is amplified, the tone improved
In traditional chiming systems, when there is no quarter chiming sequence – for example, at 10.08 – there is a long silence between the hour and minute chiming sequences. In the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, time spent waiting for the gongs to strike is reduced by up to 50 per cent. Furthermore, a security function prevents the user altering the time display while the striking mechanism is active. Timing is improved.
The Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie looks as good as it sounds: a visionary timepiece with a gleaming, futuristic character. The case is architecturally constructed in super-light titanium, while the blackened mainplate is the backdrop for the steel of the high-tech regulator. Not only does the open-worked dial reveal the visionary technology within, it illuminates the true essence of this extraordinary timepiece: the movement. Decorated by hand, it is bevelled, polished, engraved and finished to perfection by the artists of Le Brassus.
Model: Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie
Hand-wound Manufacture Calibre 2937
Total diameter: 29.90 mm (13 ¼ lignes)
Total thickness: 8.28 mm
Number of jewels: 43
Number of parts: 478
Minimal guaranteed power reserve: 42 h
Frequency of balance wheel: 3 Hz (= 21,600 vibrations/hour)
Minute repeater on two gongs
Chronograph with central sweep-seconds hand
Titanium case, glare-proofed sapphire crystal, titanium bezel, black ceramic screw-locked crown, black ceramic and titanium push-pieces, titanium push-piece guards, water-resistant to 20 m.
Black dial, open-worked, satin-brushed, black counters, white gold hands with luminescent coating, black inner bezel
Black rubber strap with titanium AP folding clasp