My love for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Openworked, known by most as the “Jumbo,” is well documented. It was my very first truly high end watch and I really do believe it is both one of the great designs of 20th century watchmaking, and likely the most balanced wristwatch ever conceived. The way it sits on the wrist? Ugh. It’s just so good. So, while the focus at AP this year was on the new 42mm Royal Oak Offshores, my personal highlight from the new releases was a new(ish) take on the Jumbo.
Saying that Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Openworked is known for openworking is kind of like saying that Eric Ripert is known for cooking – it’s true but does nothing to capture the excitement and artistry of the respective crafts. It’s baked into the company’s history and identity way back before the Royal Oak was ever introduced – to the point that when the Royal Oak did launch, 1n 1972, the basis for a lot of the early skepticism was that AP was known for ultra-thin, complicated, and openworked watches – what on earth was it doing turning out a chunky monkey in steel like the Royal Oak?
As it turns out, AP can handle openworking in the context of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Openworked just fine, thank you very much. The company has openworked the original Jumbo caliber 2121 (as seen here in 2014) as well as perpetual calendars, tourbillons, and (my favorite) the Double Balance Wheel. This year, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Royal Oak, AP introduced a new Jumbo – that’s the ref. 16202, which uses the new ultra-thin caliber 7121. The new movement is just a hair thicker than the outgoing 2121 (3.2mm vs. 3.05mm). In addition to the new Jumbo models, AP is also launching an extremely refined Jumbo Extra-Thin Openworked, with cal. 7124. There’s no date complication, and as as a result, cal. 7124 is even thinner – just 2.7mm in height.
Like I said, AP’s been at this a while. The Jumbo has been around since 1972’s 5402. The first openworked Royal Oak was a long-forgotten (by most of us) pendant model from 1981 (5710BA) and the first openworked Jumbo was a one-off (ref. 14811) in 1992. They were produced in a very small series, with various designs, up until 2000, and then reappeared in 2010, and again in 2012, and 2014.
Really high quality openworking is a rare animal these days – in fact it always was just because of the difficulty involved in doing it really well. There are two ways to create an openworked movement – you can design a movement that’s openworked from the beginning, like the Cartier Santos de Cartier Skeleton (for instance). The other way is to take an existing movement and openwork the plates and bridges. Traditionally, this meant using a piercing file and jeweler’s saws, and the challenge was to remove as much metal as possible without fatally compromising the functionality of the movement.
From both sides of this new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Openworked, you can see just how much handwork AP has put into skeletonizing the 2120 caliber, which, with a slate grey openwork treatment, is called the caliber 5122. The look of this watch is just spectacular. Of course, this watch retains the perfect dimensions of the 15202 Jumbo, so you’re looking at a 39mm case that’s just 8.04mm thick. Here it is on my wrist.