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Audemars Piguet - When is a skeleton not a skeleton?

Audemars Piguet When is a skeleton not a skeleton?

When it’s a Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph.

According to the Berner watchmaking dictionary, a “skeleton watch” is a watch “in which the case and various parts of the movement are of transparent material, enabling the main parts of the watch to be seen.” Like some of the other definitions in the dictionary, it is a huge generalisation (the dictionary also defines “complication” as “the state of being complicated”) that is far removed from the reality in the industry. 

A number of watch brands disagree with the definition by the former principal of the Biel School of Horology. For them, skeletonisation (or “open working”) is about removing as much material from the watch movement as possible, usually by hand, leaving just the skeleton to bathe the movement in light and showing off its naked inner workings. True skeletonisation, they would argue, elevates the movement to the level of a work of art. Watchmakers like Armin Strom even made it their signature.

When is a skeleton not a skeleton ?

Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph © Audemars Piguet

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph may look to some like a skeleton watch and satisfy the requirements for Berner, much in the same vein as the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon Skeleton with Three Bridges. But for Audemars Piguet, things are very clear: if it doesn’t have the word “skeleton” in the name, then it isn’t a skeleton watch. Both of the aforementioned watches claim an inspiration from architecture, both have distinctive bridges whose sculpted and latticework designs have clearly been inspired by the structure of the world’s most famous bridges. But one is a skeleton and the other isn’t. 

What’s in a name?

If you are looking for a skeleton watch from Audemars Piguet, you will be directed to this year’s Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked models. They incorporate the patented geometry of the calibre 3132 self-winding movement that has two balance wheels and springs fixed on the same axis. This is a great technological feat in itself, but what is more important in this context is that the movement mainplate and the individual movement components are painstakingly skeletonized by hand, which in addition to simply removing material also includes bevelling, chamfering, polishing, satin-brushing and circular graining. 

When is a skeleton not a skeleton ?

Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked, rose gold © Audemars Piguet

There are two versions of this 37mm watch available, both with precious metal cases and bracelets. The rose-gold model has a classic look and costs 68,800 Swiss francs, whereas the white-gold model has a case and bracelet that has been hammered to give the “frosted gold” look that is particular to Audemars Piguet and costs 76,400 Swiss francs. 

When is a skeleton not a skeleton ?

Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked, white gold Frosted Gold © Audemars Piguet

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Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent family-owned watch businesses and has been based in Le Brassus, in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux region, at the heart of the fine watchmaking industry, ever since the company was first established in 1875.

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