Recently announced as part of Audemars Piguet’s ongoing celebration of the Royal Oak’s 50th birthday, this is the new Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3 and it has a very purple dial. While this is far from the brand’s first time fitting a Royal Oak with a purple dial, the dial isn’t the only change to the RD#3 platform. Just as Mark teased in his introduction for the 39mm blue dial 26670 back in April, the new 26660ST wraps that metallic purple dial in a 37mm steel case. Maintaining the same 8.1mm thickness of the 39mm RD#3, the new 37mm model is also water resistant to 50 meters and has a steel bracelet with the usual AP folding clasp.
The movement, too, is the same found in this year’s earlier release, AP’s ridiculously-thin (just 3.4mm) automatic caliber 2968, which ticks at 3 Hz and offers a 50-hour power reserve with which you can watch the lovely titanium flying tourbillon, set flush at six on the dial. Audemars Piguet calls the dial color “plum” and the 26660 uses a petite tapisserie pattern with white gold luminous markers and hands. The watch is finished with a display caseback that offers a view of the 50th Anniversary rotor design. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin has a retail price of $165,400 for the new RD#3 and though it is not a limited edition, production is most certainly limited and few will be made. To AP aficionados and speculators alike, the RD series (which stands for Research and Development) represent the cream of the crop when it comes to Audemars Piguet’s work with the Royal Oak. Offering an RD#3 in 37mm is a huge vote of confidence from AP in a sizing of the Royal Oak that has come to be something of a sweet spot, alongside the proportions of the Jumbo. While I may forever be in love with the look and high-level execution of the RD#2 of 2018, a platinum 41mm Perpetual Calendar with a crisply modern dial design and a case that was just (checks notes … ) 6.3mm thick, the RD#3 does feel more like a core Royal Oak, no? Maybe it’s that it started with the Jumbo silhouette, or maybe it’s that both the 26670 and 26660 are made of steel, but both feel like Royal Oaks that have existed for some time, despite being special creations.
While I don’t think I’d go as far as to call a brightly purple-dialed and tourbillon-equipped Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin subtle, within the world of the Royal Oak, the RD#3s manage to blend in nicely with a bit of added “if you know, you know” appeal. For the few collectors who will actually be able to buy this very rare version of an already very hard-to-buy watch, the big stick of the RD#3 must offer some appeal. If you want a deeper look at what makes the RD#3 so special, don’t skip this story. As an extension of the RD#3, this new variant is more than just a new dial color. With a smaller case – and the plum coloring – the RD#3 26660 has a distinct appeal that complements the previously-released 39mm model while continuing the run of extra-special models for the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary.