One of the earliest perpetual calendar watches that is part of the Audemars Piguet museum was made even before the company was established. Jules Louis Audemars’ school watch was completed in its first incarnation prior to 1875, and transformed in the workshops over the following two decades. The complicated 18-carat pink gold pocket-watch masterpiece combined a perpetual calendar with a quarter repeating mechanism, and included the rarely seen independent deadbeat second function.
During the 1910s and 1920s, Audemars Piguet began to produce stylized unique perpetual calendar pocket-watches that were highly differentiated from those being made by other leading Swiss firms. As the 20th century progressed, the very first wristwatches with perpetual calendar emerged. While these were exceptional, they all lacked the defining element of the perpetual calendar pocket watches that preceded them – the leap year indication.
In 1955, Audemars Piguet began production on the very first series of perpetual calendar wristwatches in the world to feature the essential leap year indication. A total of only 9 examples of this celebrated and elusive model were created.
By the late 1970s, the Quartz Crisis hit critical mass and buried many traditional watch firms while requiring others to greatly adapt their entire way of manufacturing and marketing timepieces. Audemars Piguet was one of the only traditional high-end Swiss watchmakers that not only continued to produce mechanical masterpieces throughout the Quartz Era, but also continued to innovate.
One of the greatest horological innovations of the late 1970s was Audemars Piguet’s 1978 release of the world’s thinnest selfwinding perpetual calendar wristwatch. Conceived in secret, the groundbreaking perpetual calendar wristwatch achieved its extra thinness (3.95 mm) by adapting the exceptional calibre 2120 movement which was launched in 1967.
This new perpetual calendar calibre was central in attaining stability for Audemars Piguet during the Quartz Crisis, but also in ushering a new era of growth as it proved to be massively successful. Only a couple of brands were offering perpetual calendar wristwatches at the time and following the success of the new models, Audemars Piguet proceeded to revive and reinvent many other classic complications in years that followed.
During the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Audemars Piguet introduced a wide variety of perpetual calendar watches with varying design codes, ranging from the Royal Oak and the Royal Oak Offshore, to the Jules Audemars and the Tradition.
In 2015 the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar returns to center stage with 4 different versions (2 in steel, 2 in pink gold). Continuing the shift in watch case size that began in 2012, the new Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar is now 41 mm, yet still extremely thin.
The enlarged size has resulted in a “Grande Tapisserie” dial design that greatly increases the overall aesthetics, balance and legibility of the perpetual calendar indications.
The layout of the dial includes all of the traditional indications of a perpetual calendar watch: day, date, highly detailed astronomical moon, month and leap year.
In addition, the 52 weeks of the year are indicated by an outer chapter ring with corresponding central hand, adding another layer of time measurement.
The new automatic caliber 5134 is based on its predecessor, calibre 2120, however it has been enlarged in accordance with the updated 41mm case size. The highly finished 4.31 mm thick movement is fully visible through the glare-proof sapphire crystal caseback.