Significant watches through time #7 The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

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Those in the watch loving world often rant on about how brilliant the Audemars Piguet (that’s ‘Oh duh marr piggay’ – or ‘AP’ for short) Royal Oak is.

“Designed by Gerald Genta in less than 24 hours”, “Changed the face of watchmaking by being the first luxury sports watch”, “The first luxury stainless steel watch”,  “Helped to save the watchmaking industry from the quartz revolution”.. blah blah blah.

The thing is, I never got it.  For me, there was always something wrong with every Royal Oak I ever saw. Too big, too brash, wrong strap, screws the wrong colour, dial too busy…

Then one day, a chap came in to see me with a box full of watches that he wanted to sell (“I have too many…”), one of which was a very plain 39mm, white dialled AP Royal Oak 15300.  This watch stood out amongst everything else in the box like it had a spotlight on it and it made me realise that I’d been looking at the wrong APs all along.

Genta may have designed this watch but I’ve seen the original sketches and they look ok but they’re not outstanding.  And that’s the thing, this watch is OUTSTANDING.  (I’ve added one of the sketches at the top of the page).  It was the geniuses at Audemars Piguet who took Gerald’s design and turned it into a piece of impeccably crafted horological beauty – for instance, the way that the much talked about integrated bracelet fits the wrist and flows into the case is sublime.

And speaking of the case, the shape, the multiple bevels, the mix of satin and polish, the octagonal bezel, the white gold screws, all that stuff that people rave about, combine to make this particular Royal Oak one of the most beautiful watches I’ve ever seen.

The standard ‘Jumbo’ Royal Oak is sophisticated enough to wear with a dinner jacket (and it will fit easily under a shirt cuff) and casual enough to wear with jeans and trainers so the “First luxury sports watch” moniker was totally deserved.

These days the Royal Oak, and Royal Oak Offshore or ‘ROO’, is available in a number of sizes, styles and complications and prices can easily run into six figures.  For me however, Monsieur Genta and Messieurs Audemars & Piguet nailed it first time back in 1972.  A 39mm automatic in stainless steel on a bracelet with either white, black or if you’re very fortunate a blue tapisserie dial, and you have pretty much the perfect gents watch.

There, I’ve said it.

By the way, not many things find their way into my personal watch box but I’m delighted and incredibly fortunate to be able to say that this one did – and it’s not going anywhere.

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