Audemars Piguet caused a huge stir at SIHH 2017 when they dropped the best fake Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic. Nobody had ever seen a watch quite like this before, and AP, the masters of hype that they are, handled the release deftly. They didn’t make too big a fuss, instead letting the collector community and watch-loving celebs create the excitement for them. This became a model for most of their releases since then (a certain new family of watches notwithstanding).
Since then, we’ve seen four other all black-ceramic case copy Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks join the collection: the Perpetual Calendar Openworked, the Tourbillon Extra-Thin, the Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked, and, as of a few weeks ago, the Double Balance Wheel Openworked. There have also been quite a few Offshore models with black ceramic cases and even an all-white-ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar too.
These watches are all complicated and expensive. At a hair over $80,000, the Double Balance Wheel Openworked is the most affordable of the non-Offshore models (which are a bit of a different beast and don’t have ceramic bracelets), and the only one under the six-figure mark. All of this despite it being almost four times the price of a standard, time-and-date Royal Oak in stainless steel.
“This Swiss movement replica watch is a product of the constant pursuit of perfection in open-working, hand-finishing, avant-garde design, and material innovation, and I’m all for it,” says Austen Chu, an Audemars Piguet collector and the founder of Wristcheck (you might know him as @horoloupe on Instagram). “Open-working is one of the hallmarks of AP, and what they’ve done with it here shows how creative and talented watchmakers are when they’re passionate about their craft.”
So far, the black ceramic Royal Oaks have all been limited edition and “limited production” watches, and all but the Tourbillon Chronograph Openworked are exclusive to Swiss made copy Audemars Piguet’s own boutiques. This means they’re hard to get. Like, really hard to get. You need to be an existing customer with an AP boutique, and a good one at that. If you’re walking in off the street, hoping to buy your first Royal Oak, even a duffel bag stuffed with $80,300 in non-sequential unmarked bills can’t help you.
Because “limited production” is a nice way of saying, “We’re only making a few, and we’re not saying how many,” it’s tough to know how rare these cheap fake watches actually are. Demand is so high, even at those prices, that AP could likely make a relatively large quantity and still maintain waitlists. I asked Bennahmias if he could share any production figures, and after demuring and saying that he couldn’t really share too much, he did offer one very helpful detail: With the launch of the Openworked Perpetual Calendar, production will cease on the original Perpetual Calendar, and AP will have made just over 600 examples of the original black ceramic Perpetual Calendar when everything is said and done.
That’s still pretty damn rare, especially when you consider it in the context of AP’s overall production numbers. Audemars Piguet makes about 40,000 watches per year and launched the ceramic QP in January 2017. That means about 160,000 watches have left the factory over that four-year span. Of that, just one-third of one percent are black ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars.