Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the 5 Reasons They Are Exceptional
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is one of the most sought-after watch models among horologists and watch enthusiasts. It is known for its unique design and interesting backstory. Famous owners of Royal Oaks are the Shah of Iran, Jay-Z, LeBron James, Prince Michael of Kent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Novak Djokovic to name a few. Among Swiss luxury watches, it is one of the most groundbreaking and arguably has the most revolutionary design. Before the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, there has never been a watch like it made by the “Holy Trinity” of Swiss watchmakers, namely, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. Today, it has spawned hundreds of designs, from some that have been faithful to its original design to the most experimental such as the Royal Oak Concept. As its classic design celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look at five reasons why the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak an exceptional watch.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Has an Interesting Backstory
The rise in the popularity of quartz watches in the early 70s prompted a rethink among traditional Swiss watchmakers. Quartz watches were seen as a threat because they are more affordable and enable accurate timekeeping. Realizing that the market at that time was adopting more active lifestyles, an Audemars Piguet executive called on Gérald Genta to design a luxury sports watch that was made of stainless steel, waterproof, and innovative. Overnight, Genta came up with a revolutionary design. The Royal Oak had an octagonal bezel with visible screws that could withstand high water pressures, like the deep sea helmets that inspired it. Its tonneau-shaped case has a 39mm diameter earning it the nickname “Jumbo.” The first Royal oak models were fitted with the caliber 2121 movement, the world’s thinnest self-winding movement. Thus, the Royal Oak was born.
The adoption of steel as a case material for Swiss luxury watches was unconventional for its time. Named after the Royal Navy ship and the oak that saved King Charles II of England in battle, the Royal Oak was destined to make stainless steel preferred material for luxury sports watches renowned for being tough as well as having all the mechanical qualities that have endeared Swiss watches for generations. The Royal Oak suffered from poor reception when it was first introduced. The price point was higher than comparable Patek Philippe watches and Rolex Submariners. It took three years for the market to warm up to this unique design before sales picked up.
One of the current Royal Oaks faithful to the original design is the Royal Oak Selfwinding Ref #15500ST.OO.1220ST.02. With a stainless steel 41mm case, the classic “Grand Tapisserie” dial pattern, and strap links descending in style make this watch one of the closest representation of the original piece. Powering it is a self-winding caliber 4302 with 257 parts and 32 jewels which beats at 28,800 cycles per hour, providing excellent accuracy despite being only 4.9 mm thick.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Is Always on the Forefront of Revolutionary Swiss Watch Design
The list of firsts didn’t end with its revolutionary design. Though watchmakers such as Patek Philippe, Jaeger-Lecoultre, and Omega are offering luxury sports watches, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak will always be able to boast being the first. Its unapologetically futuristic approach to design has always been its hallmark through the years. Its internals starting with the caliber 2120/2800, ushered the stage for critical technical breakthroughs in mechanical accuracy that Audemars Piguet is known for. With its experimentation with cutting-edge materials used in the aeronautics industry and innovative and resilient alloys employed in its micro-mechanism, the Royal Oak Concept pushes Audemars Piguet beyond the limits of haute horlogerie.
The open-worked, self-winding Royal Oak Concept Ref # 26587TI.OO.D010CA.01 is the first self-winding movement of the Royal Oak Concept line. It has the pioneering case aesthetics that keeps to the tradition of Royal Oaks. Its ingeniously designed chronograph mechanism with its platinum oscillating weight and highly crafted tourbillon and hand-finished movement are visible. Its exact internals are powered by the caliber 2949 movement with 391 parts, 34 jewels, and beating at 21,600 cycles per hour. With a 44mm case size made of sandblasted titanium and glare-proofed sapphire crystal front and case back, it can withstand up to 100m of water.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Defies Established Conventions
Starting in 1993, the watch designed by Emmanual Gueit that soon bore the name “Royal Oak Offshore” was launched. With extreme proportions in thickness and width, the first Royal Oakshore was deemed huge for the time, hence was nicknamed “The Beast.” Its design was initially meant to appeal to younger audiences, particularly men. Ever the pioneers in luxury sports watches, the first Offshore has a Faraday cage to protect the caliber from magnetic fields and has rubber crown pushers and visible gaskets between the bezel and case.
With just 650 made, the Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix Chronograph retains the tradition of heft and toughness that has characterized the Offshore models since 1993. The Grand Prix embodies the influential association between automobiles and watchmaking and their mutual pursuit of mechanical perfection. The sub-dials remind of dashboard instruments, while the brushed aluminum bezel evokes images of gears and brake disks. Its distinctive ceramic and forged carbon bezel stands out over the hefty 44mm 18k pink gold case. Its complications include a self-winding chronograph and date powered by the 59-jewel, 365-part caliber 3126 movement beating at 21,600 cycles per hour.
There Are a Wide Array of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Models To Choose From
Since its introduction in 1972, Audemars Piguet has pushed the envelope in luxury watch design. Today, there are over a hundred models to choose from, ranging from the traditional Royal Oak models such as the Jumbo Extra-thin, Titanium, Ref#152021P.00.12401P.01, the high complications of the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, Black Ceramic Ref#26579CE.00.1225CE.01, to the comparatively affordable quartz-powered Ref#67620ST.00.D010CA.01. Each model is characterized by its uncompromising faithfulness to Royal Oak’s design concept, innovative choices of materials, integration of function, and quite surprisingly, providing affordable versions as well.
The distinct paths established by the Royal Oak Offshore line in 1993, and the Royal Oak Concept since 2002, have given birth to even more innovative qualities that evoke masculine appeal and the adaptation of cutting-edge design, respectively.
Despite Their Hefty Appearance, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Watches Are Ultra-Slim and Highly-Precise Pieces of Cutting-Edge Engineering
With its thick screw-bearing bezels and substantial widths, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has always provided an impression of heft and sturdiness. However, the thickness, or lack thereof, is striking upon close inspection. Barely measuring over 15mm, each Royal Oak is exceptionally slim. Most notable is that Audemars Piguet keeps with this design principle despite producing watches with ever-increasing levels of complexity. Being renowned for making the most precise movements in the Swiss watchmaking industry in-house, Audemars Piguet has repeatedly pushed itself and everyone in the industry for accuracy and engineering excellence.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref#26065IS.OO.D002CR.01 exemplifies the company’s commitment to engineering precision. The self-winding caliber 2885 with 648 parts and 52 jewels powers the watch’s minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar, week indicator, and time. A single master watchmaker crafts it with a thickness of 8.6mm. Combining the three categories of horological complications, the Royal Oak Grand Complications contain short-time measurements, astronomical indications, and striking mechanisms.
Takeaways: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Bears All the Qualities That Make a Watch Universally Appealing
From a brave and revolutionary step to solving an existential crisis, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has now become an established line that has gained acceptance across a the broad market that can afford it. With its distinctive design that initially went against the conventions of Swiss high-luxury watches, it has now become an established platform for further experimentation with state-of-the-art materials and engineering to usher in the future of traditional Swiss watchmaking. Nowadays, it is often associated with Hollywood actors, athletes, CEOs, and collectors who seek to own a piece of groundbreaking history that started a totally new trend in haute horlogerie. Diamond Source NYC has one of the broadest selections of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches with over a hundred models. We invite you to enjoy a virtual shopping experience by setting an appointment with us to view our collection. If you want to know more about Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches, or if you intend to sell your luxury watch, call us at (212) 730-5959.