- Audemars Piguet's biggest success
- Distinctive octagonal bezel with hexagonal screws
- Integrated metal bracelet
- Stainless steel, 18-karat gold, titanium, or ceramic cases
- Available with a perpetual calendar, chronograph, or tourbillon
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: The Birth of a Cult Watch
introduced the Royal Oak in 1972. With this watch, the luxury manufacturer broke free from prevailing conventions: The Royal Oak is the first luxury watch with a stainless steel case and bracelet
. Models from Rolex, for example, were made of the same material but were significantly less expensive and viewed as everyday watches rather than luxury watches. When introduced, the Royal Oak cost over 3,600 Swiss francs - a significant amount to spend on a stainless steel watch in the 1970s. Timepieces from brands such as Patek Philippe
were only made of precious metals; some were even less expensive than the Royal Oak. At the time, the Swiss manufacturer didn't have any sports watches in their portfolio. With a diameter of 39 mm, the first Royal Oak with reference number 5402ST
was also unusually large. At the time, case diameters of around 35 mm were more common. Thus, in many aspects, the Royal Oak was ahead of its time.
What are the Royal Oak's Distinctive Features?
The Royal Oak can be identified by its octagonal bezel, eight hexagonal screws securing the bezel to the case, and an integrated stainless steel bracelet. Even the dial is a distinctive element
of the Royal Oak. A rare, automated engraving machine is used to engrave a "tapisserie" pattern on the dial. Audemars Piguet refers to these patterns as either "Petite Tapisserie" or "Grande Tapisserie." All of these features come together to resemble a ship's porthole. The Royal Oak has a retro feel to it, with a 1970s-inspired, yet timeless, design. Gérald Genta
, the most famous watch designer in the world, is responsible for creating the look of the Royal Oak. Genta also designed watches such as the Nautilus
from Patek Philippe and the Ingenieur SL from IWC
(International Watch Company).
How Much Does an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Cost?
With a Royal Oak on your wrist, you make it clear to everyone that you have style. This wristwatch says even more than that, though; it's a status symbol. Pre-owned women's quartz watches from this collection are available starting at 2,000 euros. These feature quartz movements. If you want an automatic caliber, then you should be prepared to spend at least 3,500 euros. New women's quartz models cost around 10,000 euros; with an automatic movement, new women's Royal Oaks cost around 13,000 euros.
As a men's or unisex watch
, the Royal Oak is available pre-owned starting at 6,000 euros. These models have a diameter of 36 mm. New 37-mm models from 2016 are available for around 13,000 euros. Watches with a diameter of 39 mm measure in closest to the original Royal Oak from 1972. Pre-owned models in this size cost around 13,000 euros as well. New models start at 22,000 euros. The reference number
for the current 39-mm version is 15202ST
Fans of vintage watches will be interested in reference number 5402ST, the first Royal Oak from the 1970s. This watch is available starting at 20,000 euros. Models in very good condition, however, can cost over 40,000 euros.
If 39 mm is too small for your taste, then take a look at reference number 15400ST. These watches have a diameter of 41 mm and are well suited for a variety of wrist sizes. Pre-owned models in very good condition with this reference number are available starting around 13,000 euros. For a new watch, you should plan to spend at least 15,000 euros.
If you want to be able to use your Royal Oak as a stopwatch as well, then the models with a chronograph function
are ideal for you. Pre-owned models are available starting at 12,000 euros. The prices for new watches with this complication start around 16,000 euros. If you want a watch with a perpetual calendar
, look at the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar models. A pre-owned Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar costs around 25,000 euros. New, this watch costs around 50,000 euros.
|Royal Oak Ref. 15202
||Stainless steel, gold
||Hours, minutes, date, automatic
||15,000 - 53,000 euros
|Royal Oak Ref. 15400
||Stainless steel, gold, stainless steel and gold
||Hours, minutes, seconds, date, automatic
||13,000 - 60,000 euros
|Royal Oak Chronograph
||39 - 41 mm
||Stainless steel, titanium, gold
||Date, chronograph, automatic
||12,000 - 55,000 euros
|Royal Oak Openworked
||39 - 41 mm
||9.4 - 9.9 mm
||Stainless steel, gold
||Hours, minutes, seconds, automatic
||40,000 - 82,000 euros
Currently, there are over 100 different versions of the Royal Oak in the collection. For example, the watch is available in stainless steel, gold, with or without diamonds, with two or three hands, or with a chronograph function, amongst other options. The 33 or 37-mm watches are well suited for more delicate wrists. The 33-mm version is quartz powered. Diamonds on the bezel, dial, or case increase the value of some models. You have the choice between a classic metal bracelet or an alligator leather strap in black, white, gray, blue, or brown. The case is also available in 18-karat yellow, white, or pink gold.
Highlights of the series are watches with skeletonized dials and movements
. The individual movement pieces are so finely finished that they become pieces of art in their own right. You can see the caliber from the front and back in these so-called openworked models. The watch has a sapphire glass case back, giving you a look at the automatic movement. Some of these models even have a tourbillon
Fans of the original Royal Oak should consider reference number 15202ST. The watch, like its predecessor from the 1970s, has a diameter of 39 mm. With a thickness of 8.1 mm, the wristwatch is comfortably thin; it disappears under shirt cuffs without a problem and goes well with a suit and tie. The somewhat larger 41-mm version is barely larger at 9.8 mm thick. There are few differences between the current model with reference number 15202ST and the original Royal Oak. However, you are now able to view the movement through the sapphire glass case back. Also, the color of the date disc now matches the dial; the first Royal Oaks had white date discs with black numerals.
The automatic caliber 2121
powers the 39-mm Royal Oak. This movement is incredibly flat at only 3.05 mm thick
. It also has a 40-hour power reserve. Its balance wheel frequency is 19,800 alternations per hour (A/h), equal to 2.75 Hz. The movement is comprised of 247 individual components. This Audemars Piguet movement is based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 920. Without a date function, it's an impressive 2.45 mm thick, making it one of the flattest automatic movements
with a central rotor in the world. Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin
use this movement as well.
Highlights of the Royal Oak Collection
- Models with a skeletonized dial and movement
- Super thin tourbillon watches
- Complications such as a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, or chronograph
The History of the Royal Oak
The early ideas for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak reach all the way back to 1971. At the time, Georges Golay was the general director of the family business. Carlo de Marchi, the Italian distributor of Audemars Piguet, turned to Golay in 1971 and requested a new, multi-purpose watch. The watch was to be suitable for taking a drive in your car, going on a cruise, spending a night in good company, or going out to the club. De Marchi suggested stainless steel for the case and bracelet material.
Gérald Genta was tasked with designing the first Royal Oak. Within a few days, the renowned watch designer submitted his first draft. He was inspired by a childhood memory. When he was young, he had watched professional divers putting on their helmets. The helmet's bolts and rubber seal ensured a secure and waterproof attachment to the rest of the diving suit. These memories found their way into his design sketches. The result was a wide, octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws, resembling a ship's porthole. The grooves in the screws all align perfectly, which was made possible by screwing the bolts in from the back side. Moreover, the heads of the screws are even with the bezel and connect it and the rubber seal to the case. The screws have both a practical and artistic function.
Furthermore, Genta suggested an integrated steel bracelet which gets smaller as it approaches the clasp. The responsible parties at Audemars Piguet liked the ideas so much they didn't change anything, and the watch, internally nicknamed "Safari," was presented at the 1972 Basel watch trade show.
For the first Royal Oak prototypes, Audemars Piguet used cases made of white gold, as the material is more malleable and easier to polish than stainless steel. The Royal Oak wasn't initially a huge hit. With a diameter of 39 mm, it was much larger than many other luxury watches. It was also expensive for a stainless steel watch, costing 3,650 Swiss francs. In total, only 400 watches were sold in the first three years. Above all, German customers appreciated the avant-garde and flat design. The watch eventually became a bestseller and the brand's flagship watch.