Audemars Piguet Unveils Watch Honoring Racer Michael Schumacher
Audemars Piguet's Concept series includes some pretty crazy watches. There's a white ceramic GMT-tourbillon and one of the world's loudest minute repeaters. Now we can add the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher to the list. It's a new kind of split-seconds chronograph made from space-age materials that was created in collaboration with the legendary Formula 1 driver. Buckle up, things are about to get complicated.
This is far from the first watch to bear Michael Schumacher's name. The F1 champion made racing-inspired Speedmaster chronographs with Omega before introducing his first collection of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore chronographs in late 2012. The color palette here is much more understated than it was on previous models, though, and you might not even realize it's a racer's watch at first glance.
In December 2013, Schumacher was involved in a skiing accident that sent him into a monthslong coma. It's unclear what his current condition is (the family is keeping things quite private), but a full recovery is not expected. The design of this watch was finalized before Schumacher's accident, and Audemars Piguet was prepared to table the project indefinitely, but the Schumacher family encouraged it to proceed anyway.
Now to the watch itself. The case has the familiar profile of the Audemars Piguet Concept series, with the large angular lugs and beefy 44mm diameter. This one is rendered in forged carbon (a compressed carbon composite) with a brushed titanium bezel sitting on top. Accenting this are chronograph pushers and a crown made from a mix of black ceramic and rose gold, adding a little color to the otherwise stark appearance. This looks like a sports watch from the future.
As you'd expect from a watch bearing Schumacher's name, this is a specialist racing chronograph. It's technically a split-seconds chronograph but with some extra functionality to make it easier to time racing laps. When you start the timer with the pusher at 2 o'clock, the two hands start together (one on top of the other, as with any split). If you want to use the watch like a normal flyback chronograph, you can hit the pusher at 4 o'clock to bring both hands back to zero while they start timing another lap immediately. Simple enough, right?
It gets complicated when you hit the pusher at 9 o'clock. This locks one hand where it is and returns the other to zero while starting it again immediately. This lets you read the time of the first lap while also timing a second lap. From there you can either fly back just the one hand in motion or use the pusher at 9 again to lock the moving hand and return the locked hand to zero for more timing.
Making this all possible is the totally insane caliber 2923 movement. Seriously, this one is nuts. The openworked dial lets you see the elaborated, skeletonized, and blacked-out movement in all its glory. There are 413 total components, three column wheels for controlling the chronograph functions, and 80 hours of power reserve. I saw an early version of this movement being constructed at Audemars Piguet's headquarters and can tell you from firsthand experience it's about as elaborate and technically complex as mechanical watchmaking gets.
Beyond the racing-specific complication, there are a few other nods to Schumacher on the watch. On the left side of the case and the bottom of the caseback are black tonal "MS" signatures, with the one on the side accompanied by seven stars symbolizing Schumacher's seven world championship titles. Also, the watch is a limited edition and is being produced in 221 examples, one for each point-winning F1 race of Schumacher's carer. Overall these are subtle nods that will appeal to the diehards but won't distract for those who want something less obviously tied to the racer.
The Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher is limited to 221 pieces and is priced at $229,500. Distribution will be limited to flagship boutique locations, which include New York and Bal Harbour in the U.S.