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No doubt : The best sound ever so far

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Audemars Piguet has a rich history of experimenting with technology in pursuit of future-forward horological concepts.
Since it was established by Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in the Vallée de Joux in 1875, Audemars Piguet has gained deep insight into the ‘king of classical complications’. Its watchmakers know that chiming watches are sought after not only for their technological prowess and excellent craftsmanship but also for the singular quality of their chiming sound.
Having revealed the Royal Oak Concept RD#1, a sonic concept watch, in 2015, which developed the acoustic tone of chiming watch technology, Audemars Piguet launched a new minute repeater wristwatch in 2016: the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, a timepiece defined by exceptional sound quality, a remarkably clear tone and unprecedented volume in a chiming watch.
More than 140 years of innovation and a dedicated 10-year sound-research programme have propelled the creation the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie. Inspired by the sonic qualities of minute repeaters in the company’s archives, Audemars Piguet instigated an in-house Sound Lab programme in collaboration with the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland in 2006. Since then, this dedicated community of watchmakers, technicians, academics and musicians has explored not just the expressive nature of minute repeater sound but new performance potential. As a result they have devised a targets system designed to assist watchmakers achieve an almost perfect sound and an unprecendented volume.
The daring rethink of traditional minute-repeater technology means that classic horological methods have been revised. Usually, the steel gongs are fixed to the mainplate so that the chiming sound is transmitted via the watch’s movement: hammers strike the carefully filed gongs, creating vibration, which travels to the mainplate through screws and other components. These elements disrupt the transmission of vibrations and inhibit the natural flow of sound, as does modern waterproofing, which requires cases to be sealed. But the Royal Oak Concept
Supersonnerie has a highly considered case design that acts like the body of an acoustic guitar or other stringed instrument. Now the gongs transmit vibrations directly to the soundboard, not the mainplate. This new vibrationto- air system has augmented the quality of tone, creating a minute repeater wristwatch with a distinctly pure
harmony, a sizeable sound and a beautifully clear resonance: 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
Behind each minute repeater timepiece is an expert watchmaker; a craftsman possessed of rare skill who adds colour to mechanical sounds. Listening to chiming sounds of the past and learning techniques from previous generations of watchmakers adds to the unique nature of each chiming watch design. Now, having considered aspects of what influences our perception of sound, the Audemars Piguet Sound Lab has created a new chapter in its history of technological innovation.
Audemars Piguet uses new technology and scientific research to design gongs with a unique sonic blueprint. The gongs are then entrusted to the skilled hands of watchmakers, who tune them, adding the finishing touches thanks to their trained ear and expert ability. The targets, in combination with the watchmaker’s trained ear result in a particularly pleasing sound – an almost ‘perfect’ tone at a volume and quality level never achieved before.
The creation of the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie also demanded another engineering development: the redesign of the striking regulator – the device that sets the pace of the chime sequence of hours, quarters and minutes. This alteration was needed to eradicate a key problem: noise interference. When the sound of the minute repeater is amplified, naturally, the noise interference from the watch is also augmented, particularly from the striking regulator anchor. Now, the anchor system design is more flexible so that it absorbs the hum created on action. In effect, it is silencing the ‘noisy’ sound frequencies. Because the sound is now clean, the tone is clear and bright too.
It took just one year for the applied-for patents of the initial Royal Oak Concept RD#1 to bear fruit. Now, with the creation of the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie wristwatch, prototype has become product and the technology a reality. The watch boasts a new chiming watch mechanisim that reduces the quarter-hour silence, and a further technological device to protect the mechanism.
The first enables the move from striking hours to striking minutes to take place within a shorter timespan when there is no quarter hour strike. Now, there is no lengthy wait time while the watch chimes specific periods, a development that highlights considerable progress compared to the traditional system, where the wearer has to watch and wait for several seconds.
A further development is the automatic security function that shields the crown. This protects the movement, preventing any possible damage that might occur when a wearer activates the hand-setting function while the minute repeater is striking, an action which can be detrimental to the internal mechanism.
The concept, creation and realisation of the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie marks a new era in the Audemars Piguet tradition of pioneering horological chiming technologies, its openworked dial and titanium case further underlining its carefully considered design qualities.
Since the Manufacture was founded, in 1875, generations of watchmakers have progressed complex mechanisms created by the first engineers of Le Brassus into future-forward technologies through every decade of the 20th century to today. As a result of the ongoing Sound Lab study programme, in just one year, three new patents have resulted in one new watch: a bold, new minute repeater with unrivalled sound quality. Hence, the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie nurtures the rarity and quality of traditional horological skills while offering new possibilities in chiming watch design today.

Technical specifications

- Titanium case,
- Glareproofed sapphire crystal,
- Titanium bezel,
- Black ceramic screw-locked crown,
- Black ceramic and titanium pushpieces,
- Titanium pushpiece guards,
- Water-resistant to 20 m.
- Black dial
- Openworked,
- Satin-brushed,
- Black counters,
- White gold hands with luminescent coating,
- Black inner bezel.
- Hand-wound Manufacture calibre 2937.
- Total diameter: 29.90 mm (13 ¼ lignes).
- Total thickness: 8.28 mm
- Number of jewels: 43.
- Number of components : 478
- Minimal guaranteed power reserve : 42 h.
- Frequency of balance wheel: 3 Hz (= 21,600 vibrations/hour).
- Black rubber strap
- Titanium AP folding clasp.

Who's who

Audemars Piguet is above all a family story.
Over the centuries, the company’s management has always included at least one descendant of distinguished founders Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet. In spite of the crises it has been through, in particular the 1929 Great Depression, which severely impacted the luxury industry, the Manufactory has never stopped producing watches. It was however because of a completely different kind of crisis, in the wake of the discovery of quartz, that Audemars Piguet created one of its major timepieces.
And Laurent Picciotto became a part of the “AP” history thanks to another family story... “I had just turned 12 when my father took me to see the first example of this incredible watch, soon after its arrival at Place Vendôme. I could see that he was fascinated by this object, stunned by Gérald Genta’s incredible design. I was rooted to the spot, understanding that a whole new dimension of watchmaking had just been discovered.” The timepiece in question was the Royal Oak, and the new watchmaking dimension was the luxury sports watch. It was 1972, and in his mind’s eye Laurent Picciotto can still see what held his awestruck gaze as a child: “a completely new case shape, an integrated strap – sports luxury of a new kind. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for a long time.” It is true that the Manufactory originally became a part of the history of watchmaking through complications rather than as a result of bleeding-edge creative design.
The first watches with complications were delivered in Germany as early as 1895! The road to luxury watchmaking was already marked out, if not yet well worn. In 1915, Audemars Piguet presented the Grande Complication series, with no fewer than 400 watches. This was the age of pocket watches; the number of lines in this type of caliber gave plenty of space for all kinds of watchmaking madness. In 1920 the brand brought out a pocket watch that was the most sophisticated in the world, with an unprecedented total of 15 complications! The destiny of the watchmaker from Le Brassus was significantly affected by the arrival of the wristwatch, which became widespread in the interwar years. There was temporary respite in the race for complications, with the race for miniaturisation taking its place. In 1946, Audemars Piguet presented the smallest caliber in the world (1.64 mm), followed 20 years later by the flattest automatic movement in the world (2.45 mm), with a gold central rotor.
The arrival of Gérald Genta and the very atypical design of the Royal Oak challenged the brand’s design codes. It had not previously been present in the sports segment and was used to a more traditional design. “Even now, the watch is laden with emotion,” explains Laurent Picciotto. “When I met Gérald Genta and, one morning in 1992, I put my first Royal Oak in my window display, it was a momentous occasion. I told myself that there is no such thing as chance and that I had become the custodian of my father’s heritage. But that was only the beginning of the adventure!” At that time the brand had not yet become established as the must-have in luxury watches that it is today. These watches are more of a specialist interest for informed enthusiasts than an organised commercial trend. Audemars Piguet long had only one outlet in its own name in the world, in Geneva. And since the brand is above all a family story, it was only natural that it should entrust the privilege of opening its second shop, in rue Saint Honoré, Paris, to none other than Laurent Picciotto. “It was 1997 and we were starting from scratch.
The Royal Oak was at last beginning to carve out its iconic place in watchmaking; the future lay before us,” recalls Laurent Picciotto. This journey went on together on an exclusive basis for a decade and now continues with Laurent as an official agent. ‘‘Together we wrote a chapter in the history of the Manufactory, creating limited series and more besides. And the emotion is still just as real today!” 
Journalist : Olivier Müller
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