Audemars Piguet’s R&D Lab

Audemars Piguet’s R&D Lab Unveils A New Innovative Ceramic In Preview

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Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet is proud to unveil a new polychrome ceramic, marking a first in the watchmaking industry. The chroma ceramic, which features an unprecedented camouflage aesthetic, was developed by Audemars Piguet’s R&D teams using the latest Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) technology, which allows the ceramic powder to be sintered rapidly. This innovative technique will also be applied to other materials, notably gold, the first prototype of which will be unveiled in the coming months, opening up new creative perspectives for the brand.

A cutting-edge manufacturing process

Driven by the desire to push the boundaries of Haute Horlogerie, the Manufacture is committed to innovating constantly to offer its clients an ever-wider range of choices. The chroma ceramic has been made possible by the latest Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) technology, which significantly reduces the sintering time from several hours to just a few dozen minutes.

To create this multi-coloured camouflage motif, powders of different coloured ceramics are carefully placed in a circular graphite mould. The mould is then sintered using a powerful electric current that is conducted through the graphite. This current generates a meteoric rise in temperature, which, combined with the mechanical pressure on either side of the mould, allows extremely rapid sintering, giving rise to a ceramic disc.

This process requires great skill on the part of the teams, who have gone through numerous tests before achieving the desired result. The compression of the ceramic powders during the sintering cycle makes each piece unique, as the pattern varies slightly each time. Despite these variations in pattern, this technique ensures visual consistency between the different ceramic components. In addition, each disc produced can be used to create a case or a bezel, reinforcing the unique aspect of the material. As each colour reacts differently, the risk of breakage or cracking during the rapid firing and cooling phases is multiplied, making the process very delicate.

The resulting discs, which are extremely hard, are then machined until the desired shape is achieved. Each component is then pre-polished and pre-satin-brushed before being meticulously hand-finished to obtain the Manufacture’s trademark alternation of satin finishing and polished chamfers.

Constant reseach into innovative materials

Throughout its history, Audemars Piguet has combined a variety of materials and developed avant-garde and sometimes disruptive aesthetics. This boundless creativity reflects the pioneering and free spirit that the Manufacture has preserved and nurtured for generations. It is thanks to the meticulous work of artisans that materials such as steel, titanium, carbon or ceramic have been ennobled and given a place in the world of watchmaking.

In addition to the launch of the iconoclastic Royal Oak (5402ST) in 1972, with its steel armour featuring high-end finishes hitherto reserved for gold, Audemars Piguet has used a wide range of materials over time. Since its launch, the Royal Oak Offshore collection has kept introducing numerous materials, including titanium in 1998, forged carbon in 2004 and ceramic in 2008 – a material already used in the Bamboo collection in the late 1980s. The Royal Oak Concept took the search for materials even further when it was launched in 2002 with a case combining titanium and Alacrite 602, a light and extremely resistant high-tech alloy. In 2008, the Royal Oak Carbon Concept Tourbillon and Chronograph saw the light of day, marking a new milestone in avant-garde design. In 2023, Audemars Piguet introduced a precious form of Bulk Metallic Glass (BMG) in its catalogue with its Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin model (ref. 16202XT), a first in the watchmaking industry.

With the chroma ceramic – a first for Audemars Piguet and the watchmaking industry as a whole – the Manufacture is expanding the range of possibilities in terms of material combinations, personalisation and design, heralding a colourful future. 

“Our first multi-coloured ceramic, the result of our materials research, opens up a whole new field of creative possibilities for years to come. We look forward to its debut in our collections.”

Lucas Raggi
Research and Development Director, Audemars Piguet

“Seek Beyond.”

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