By Rebecca Doulton
Audemars Piguet watches has just announced the completion of an exciting joint venture with Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher. The racer has been an Audemars Piguet ambassador since 2010 and, unlike many watch brands that feature an athlete or celebrity posing with their dedicated watch, the new Royal Oak Concept Laptimer is the result of a very specific request made by Schumacher. Signalling the first time a brand ambassador has influenced the creation of a new movement from the ground up, Audemars Piguet has risen to the challenge and created a timepiece that packs two independent stopwatches into one chronograph watch.
Schumacher wasn’t looking for another cockpit watch for an F1 car; he wanted a watch he could use on the trackside that allowed him to time laps. The catch was that he wanted to time and compare multiple, consecutive laps on the racetrack with one instrument. The timing and comparison of consecutive lap times is usually carried out with two or more hand-held stopwatches - as one lap is completed, the first watch is stopped and the second is started.
Five years in the making, Audemars Piguet watches has just unveiled its Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher - the world’s first mechanical watch with two angular indexing systems on a single chronograph, each endowed with an independent memory. To simplify the concept, the chronograph watch drives two central hands that can be controlled independently via the three push pieces: the first pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph; the second at 4 o’clock resets the chronograph; and the third pusher at 9 o’clock allows you to stop either of the two chronograph hands, pushing the other hand back to zero and restarting it. This means that, while the time of the most recent lap is being noted, timing of the next lap is already underway.
Dark and powerful, these new racing watches flaunt the imposing chassis of the iconic Royal Oak watch and, like an F1 car, are crafted from materials that are super resilient yet lightweight. The 44mm case is made from forged carbon - a prevalent material in F1 sports - and the bezel, case edges and caseback are made from titanium, accented with ceramic and rose gold pushers. The black dial is openworked for a view of the customised movement, protected by a glare-proof sapphire crystal. The seven starts on the left side of the case are a reference to Schumacher’s seven F1 World Championship titles, and his MS monogram appears on the laptimer pusher and the caseback.
The engine of this new Audemars Piguet watch was specially developed and fine-tuned to record times of up to 1/8th of a second. Hand-wound calibre 2923 features no fewer than three column wheels - pending patent - to control the chronograph functions and laptimer sequences, and can run for 80 hours on one tank of fuel. If you want to look under the bonnet for a view of the motor, the movement is on full display on the caseback.
The chronograph watch is a limited edition of 221 pieces in recognition of the number of F1 World Championship point-winning races competed during Schumacher’s career. He is still recovering from a serious skiing accident in 2013, which left him with brain injuries, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale will go to the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière (ICM) - a non-profit medical research centre based in Paris.