It is one of the most famous timepieces in the history of watchmaking – and for good reason.In 1972, Audemars Piguet made waves by launching the first luxury watch in steel.
Designed by Gérald Genta, the original Royal Oak – the first in a long line – shook up the world of classic watches. The sporty-chic icon has become an object of desire for all self-respecting collectors, and is reinventing itself again this year. For its 50th anniversary, the manufacture is unveiling new selfwinding models (hour, minute and date in 37mm) and chronographs (in 38 and 41mm) that will delight watch enthusiasts. Although these references remain faithful to the aesthetics of the 1972 original, they have undergone slight modifications to enhance their contemporary appeal. The watchmakers, designers and engineers of the Swiss manufacture based in Le Brassus have worked closely together to push the limits of design and precision. So what does this mean in the detail? Subtle changes to the case have improved the ergonomics of the bracelet, making it more comfortable to wear, while the aesthetics of the Tapisserie dial have been harmonised across the various models to incorporate reworked minute scales, index and hands, and the signature logo. As a tribute to the 1972 model, the new versions give pride of place to the iconic Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 colour, available on the Petite or Grande Tapisserie dials. In short, everything has been done to amplify the existing design. Enhanced by the special oscillating weight in rose gold, with the 50-year logo and Audemars Piguet signature engraved on the surface, the anniversary editions are powered by three different calibres, one of which is brand new. The 37mm models are now equipped with the selfwinding hour, minute, second and date Calibre 5900, and Calibre 4401 makes its debut in the Royal Oak collection on the 41mm chronograph models in stainless steel. The movement, which is endowed with a flyback function, offers improved chronometry and an instantaneous date-change mechanism. The sapphire crystal case back allows you to admire the watch mechanisms, including the vertical gear system and the integrated column wheel.
Pushing the boundaries of design and technology
While they wait for more new models to be released this year (in 34mm and 41mm diameters), purists will also be impressed by the latest additions to the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin collection, into which the manufacture has incorporated its most recent extra-thin (3.2mm) movement, Calibre 7121. Available in stainless steel, 950 platinum (exclusively from AP boutiques), yellow or rose gold, these four future collectors’pieces are equipped with the “50-year” oscillating weight, which matches the colour of the case. Of these variations, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” in steel is set to win over watch enthusiasts from the very beginning. In homage to the 1972 Royal Oak, it retains all the original design features, with a steel case and bracelet, Petite Tapisserie dial in Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50, baignoire-shaped index and hands, and polished gold AP monogram applied at 6 o’clock. The only notable distinction? The contemporary version has a sapphire case back so the wearer can admire the new extra-thin movement and anniversary oscillating weight, here in rhodium-plated 22ct rose gold. Let’s not forget that the Royal Oak has constantly reinvented itself over the years to reflect the world that inspired it. In 1976, the first women’s Royal Oak, designed by Jacqueline Dimier, paved the way for a dedicated collection. The family grew the following year, with models in gold, new diameters and new calibres. In fact, between 1977 and 1981, the manufacture created 27 new models! With the addition of gem-set dials and cases in 1978, non-guilloché dials in 1980 and the sapphire back in 1992, the icon has never ceased to amaze us. And the story continues!
By Julie de los Rios