05.05.2022 - Audemars Piguet

King of watches: Royal Oak celebrates its 50th anniversary

ONE of the world’s most iconic watches is celebrating its golden anniversary – with a showcase of new offerings.

Octagonal bezel, integrated steel bracelet and hexagonal screws on show? Everyone instantly recognises the Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak design that revolutionised watchmaking.

Fifty years on, more than 500 different models of the Royal Oak have been created in different sizes and materials. Celebrities including Serena Williams, Jay Z and Ashely Olsen wear different versions, proving its popularity 50 years on.

And to mark the occasion, Phillips is holding a special 50th anniversary auction until May 6, with 88 Royal Oaks up for grabs.

Let’s check out how the model became so popular and what’s new for 2022.

Basel Fair debut

The Royal Oak certainly turned a few heads on its debut back in 1972 as it had a 39mm case, which was quite unusual for the time. It was the most expensive steel watch available at the time.

Due to its size it coined the nickname ‘Jumbo’ and it wasn’t long before other designers got on the bandwagon to create their own versions of the luxury steel sports watch.

Plenty of Royal Oak Jumbos have been launched since then, with 39mm cases and most with self-winding calibre 2121. These included a Jubilee, which was limited to 1000 pieces, to commemorate the model’s 20th anniversary and reference 15202ST which was redesigned for the ruby anniversary.

One for the ladies 

Jacqueline Dimier joined Audemars Piguet in 1975 and was asked to create the first female Royal Oak model. At the time, petite watches with fancy gems were all the rage but she reduced the Royal Oak’s size and its movement to create a more feminine design. She went on to become head of design for the brand for nearly 25 years.

Flagship watches

Although many of the Oaks had 39mm, there were some other changes.The 15300 had a thick case to house the calibre 3120 movement – and with it a seconds hand which was unseen before – and a solid bracelet. It was discontinued in 2012 but replaced with two others – the 15400 with a 41mm case which was updated to 15500 with a mega power reserve,  and the 15450 with a 37mm case which upgraded to the 15550. The large AP logos on the former models at 12 o’clock were also replaced.

Limited editions and midsizes

Introduced from 1878 until 1992, the midsize models at 36mm were finally discontinued in 2005.

The 2000s were also marked by the launch of several Royal Oaks in limited editions, in association with celebrities of sport and screen. 

After the futuristic creations of the previous decade, the Royal Oak entered a new phase in 2010. The Jumbo 15202 unleashed a dial that was faithful to 1972. It had a petite tapisserie dial and Bleu Nuit colour. Reference 15400 with its 41 mm dial reinforced the 2014 collection, while the next years were marked by the revival of bimetallic variants, not seen since the 80s.

Jewellery collaboration

Designer Caroline Bucci collaborated with AP to create the Royal Oak Frosted Gold.She transformed the bracelet by beating the metal by hand with a diamond-tipped tool to create a sparkly finish. It was also a big hit with men and a testament to great design, still as relevant as when Genta first created it.

New for 2022

And obviously, there are new models to mark the anniversary itself – a large number of new models presenting slight evolutions in terms of case, bracelet and dial design as well introducing new calibres, most of them equipped with the dedicated Royal Oak ‘50-years’ oscillating weight.

Aesthetic codes have remained but designs are even more streamlined. Bevels at the top and bottom of the case have been enlarged to enhance light between the satin-finished and polished surfaces. The caseback has been integrated into the case middle for improved ergonomics. The integrated bracelet’s first four links are now trapezoid-shaped and not parallel, with thicker links.

Here are just a few of them:

  • Four new Jumbo extra-thin reference 16202 models in steel, pink gold, yellow gold and platinum, all boasting the new self-winding calibre 7121. 
  • Three new Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon reference 26730, available in steel, titanium and pink gold, with 41mm dials. All three boast the calibre 2950.
  • Eleven new Royal Oak Selfwinding 37 mm reference 15550, all with the calibre 5900, second and date movement and a thinner mechanism with 60-hour power reserve.

Fancy your own AP watch?

Here at Luxe Watches we sell Audemars Piguet watches but we’re also interested in buying yours from you at a competitive price. If we can help you find your dream watch, or indeed, buy yours, contact our team today.