AUDEMARS PIGUET Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon
As astonishing as that might have been a couple of decades ago, there is little doubt that in 2022, it’s tough to make a splash with an ultra-thin tourbillon unless you have managed to unseat Bulgari. And not only is no brand challenging them, nobody even seems inclined to try. It’s telling, though, that to set their record, Bulgari had to unseat Audemars Piguet, and moreover, an AP watch that dropped back in 1986: The AP caliber 2870 self-winding tourbillon, which reigned as the undisputed champion of ultra-thin automatic tourbillons for over three decades until Bulgari came out with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, in 2018. While there’s no gainsaying Bulgari’s technical achievements, AP’s new Royal Oak Tourbillon does represent what is probably the single longest lineage in horology of automatic tourbillon wristwatches.
For many years, Audemars Piguet has been using basically the same tourbillon – that is, the same cage, balance, and escapement, as well as the same upper tourbillon bridge – in all of its tourbillon watches. The bridge has a distinctive, inverted “V” shape, and the cage has three arms, with a free sprung balance fitted with poising and timing screws on its outer edge. Minus the upper bridge, this is the same tourbillon used as recently as the Royal Oak Flying Tourbillon 26730, launched in January of this year. It’s also the tourbillon used in the Code 11.59 collection’s automatic flying tourbillon chronograph.
Considered the precursor of the luxury sports watch category, the Royal Oak turned fifty in 2022. As expected, Audemars Piguet went to town to fete its icon with a host of celebratory models. However, the excitement grew when AP unveiled the first 39mm Jumbo to be fitted with an ultra-thin flying tourbillon (calibre 2968). Officially known as the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin RD#3, the 39mm Jumbo was followed by a second steel model in a smaller 37mm case with a vibrant purple Petite Tapisserie dial. Today, AP releases a more luxurious version of its 37mm flying tourbillon in a white gold case gleaming with baguette-cut diamonds in the bezel.

AP’s extra-thin flying tourbillon movement – calibre 2968 – marked the brand’s third Research & Development project. As a complication previously reserved for 41mm diameters, AP’s technical team took five years to rethink the architecture to adapt it to the 39mm and 37mm models. Powered by the ultra-thin calibre 2968 with a thickness of just 3.4mm, the openworked bridges and rotor offer a view of the movement. Replacing the traditional Côtes de Genève, the mainplate and bridges are decorated with traits tirés. Beating at a frequency of 3Hz, the maximum power delivery is of 50 hours.