Audemars Piguet x 1017 Alyx 9SM: Hyper-Minimal Royal Oaks

Audemars Piguet x 1017 Alyx 9SM: Hyper-Minimal Royal Oaks

Last Thursday, Audemars Piguet released a limited series of Royal Oak watches in collaboration with New York fashion label 1017 Alyx 9SM. The label was co-founded by Matthew Williams: original member of art collective Been Trill, current creative director at Givenchy, and native of my hometown Evanston, Illinois.

Time-Only Yellow Gold AP x Alyx Royal Oak

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The collaborative series with AP includes five Royal Oaks, four of which are commercially available (albeit hard to obtain): a 37mm time-only model in yellow gold (above), a 41mm chronograph in yellow gold, two 42mm Offshore chronographs (yellow and white gold), and a one-of-one auction piece: a 41mm two-tone chronograph with a black-dial (below). This is AP’s second collaboration with Matthew Williams’ label, the first arriving in 2021 with similarly styled Royal Oaks, limited to just 40 pieces. Like their predecessors, these new watches are decidedly minimal and feature a transferred “1017 ALYX 9SM” signature at 6 o’clock. 

Design Language

Two-tone AP x Alyx Royal Oak Auction

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The new AP x Alyx watches make one thing immediately clear: fashion is the priority. There are no indices whatsoever: no minutes track, hour indices, chronograph subdials – nothing. The chronograph readout (on both the 41mm and Offshore models) is simply a trio of indeterminate hands. While timekeeping may not be a priority for those buying these watches, it’s out of the question in terms of their usability.

Chronograph Yellow Gold AP x Alyx Royal Oak

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The time-only and chronograph models feature just three lines of text: “Audemars Piguet”, “1017 ALYX 9SM”, and “Swiss Made”. The Offshore models – with a 12-6-9 chronograph readout – feature a simpler “AP” logo at 3 o’clock in place of the “Audemars Piguet” text. To the right of this logo is a small color-matched date aperture: a mainstay in AP’s Offshore collection.

White Gold AP Royal Oak Offshore 1017 Alyx 9SM

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The simplicity of these dials emphasize their vertically-brushed satin finish. This finish seamlessly connects to the brushing on the bezel, case, and bracelet: a pretty cool look if you ask me. The modern Royal Oak commonly employs a waffle-like guilloche dial: a hallmark that’s absent in these collaborative models.

My Thoughts

Yellow Gold Offshore Royal Oak AP x Alyx

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I appreciate Matthew Williams and his contributions to the fashion world, as well as pop culture as a whole. I recognize that these watches are culturally significant, stylistically unorthodox, and overall worth talking about. That said, the watch nerd in me has a bone to pick.

The price point of these watches – $73,500 to $111,500 retail – is based largely on their mechanics. Audemars Piguet’s 5909 and 440X movements are marvels of engineering. The 440X movements are column-wheel flyback chronographs with a vertical clutch: technically amazing, dead-accurate calibers from one of the best watchmakers on the planet. However, where the rubber meets the road, this accuracy is nil. The minimalism of these watch's dials is a bottleneck their mechanics. Of course, this is nothing new. There are plenty of naked dials in the world of haute horology, usually with time-only models. A complete lack of chronograph subdials is a bit less common from what I’ve seen, but I’m sure there are parallels. Regardless, the mass appeal of these watches ostensibly lies in their 6 o’clock signatures, premium materials, and minimal design. If you want a functional chronograph or an otherwise legible watch, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

I like what Matthew Williams has done here. The design language is clear, consistent, and original. I just wish that these watches were a bit more legible, if not for the wearer, for the watchmakers who crafted such impressive movements.

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