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50 years of Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak

Kristen Shirley 10/19/2022
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The Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet

Image: Audemars Piguet

It’s a testament to the stunning, groundbreaking design of the Royal Oak that the watch looks as modern today as it did when it debuted in 1972. Audemars Piguet has spent the past year celebrating the monumental milestone of its most popular watch, which remains one of the most sought-after watches today.

The Royal Oak was one of the first luxury steel sports watches, and it caused quite a sensation when it was released. After all, Audemars Piguet was known for its high complications, including mastery of chiming watches. It’s difficult to imagine now when every brand makes a steel sports watch and people wear them to formal occasions, but luxury steel sports watches didn’t exist back then.

Sports watches were for sports, and dress watches were for the office and evening. The Royal Oak was designed for both, and it had bold looks. The octagonal case with visible screws, integrated bracelet, and Grande Tapisserie guilloché dial remain a striking combination today

The Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet

Image: Audemars Piguet

Even today, Audemars Piguet finds ways to excite its collectors without straying from the watch’s design codes. The Swiss manufacturer combines wild colors and materials with high complications, showcasing its bold aesthetics and mastery of complicated mechanical movements.

The recently unveiled Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar comes in a brilliant blue ceramic, an unconventional color in horology, and it’s the first time blue ceramic has appeared in the Royal Oak collection. The bracelet, case, dial, and subdials are all blue, giving the watch a bold monochromatic look. Combining a color this bright with such an expensive and rare complication in a difficult-to-use material perfectly encapsulates the Audemar Piguet ethos.

The watch features an ultrathin automatic movement, so it measures just 9.5mm in height despite including a perpetual calendar. The dial features four subdials for the month and leap year, day, date, and astronomical moon phase. There’s also a 52-week scale around the dial flange; the week number is indicated with a long hand topped by an arrow. It has 40 hours of power reserve, which isn’t huge for a perpetual calendar, so you would need to keep it on a watch winder when not wearing it, or you’d need to reset all of the functions, which can be a time-consuming process.

The Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet

Image: Audemars Piguet

The Royal Oak appeals to a wide range of collectors. Those who love the classic steel watch with a blue dial, others who adore wildly gem-set versions, and some looking for high complications. Audemars Piguet released timepieces to appease them all this year, celebrating the vast range within the collection.

Very few watches are coveted by such a wide range of people with varying taste. Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon, a new book from luxury publishing house Assouline, chronicles the rise of the watch, its influence on pop culture and horology, and showcases the breadth of the collection. It’s a fascinating read for fans of the Royal Oak, even if you can only dream of having one on your wrist.


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