Royal Oak 40th Anniversary Exhibition in Paris - From Avant-Garde To Icon
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Royal Oak 40th Anniversary Exhibition in Paris – From Avant-Garde To Icon

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and it is being celebrated by a number of very cool exhibitions throughout the whole year. After the exhibitions in New York and Milan, it was now time for an exciting event in Paris, France. Audemars Piguet hosted the exhibition in the center of Paris, near the Eiffel tower, in Palais de Tokyo.

Fratellowatches was invited by Audemars Piguet Switzerland for the opening reception on Tuesday the 5th of June and the next morning on the 6th of June for press-only. At 13:00h on the 6th of June, the exhibition opened for the public. On Tuesday evening, the exhibition was opened by Tim Sayler (Chief Marketing Officer) and Octavio Garcia (Art Director). Below, you see Mr Sayler on the left and Mr Garcia on the right.

Tim Sayler and Octavio Garcia

Jasmine Audemars (Chairwoman of the board of directors) and Nicolas Besancon (Director of Audemars Piguet France) were also there to welcome the guests. Over 700 people attended the opening reception, including a number of international and French celebrities. What to think of Lambert Wilson, Omar Sy (The Intouchables), Patrick Bruel and so on.  The place was packed!

AP Royal Oak Exhibition Paris

The next morning the 6th of June was reserved for press. An interview was arranged for us with Octavio Garcia and we were happily surprised that he answered all our questions with a lot of passion and openness.

Octavio GarciaOctavio Garcia, Audemars Piguet’s Art Director

Mr Garcia, we know that you’ve been working on the Millenary collection for quite some time (with amazing results). Was it challenging for you to make the switch from Millenary to Royal Oak (ref. 15202) to re-work a design of which the creative/design possibilities are so framed?

It was actually quite refreshing to create a new model. The Millenary obviously also has a history which started in the early 1990s actually. With the Millenary, we pushed the boundaries quite far and collaborated with Renaud & Papi. Going back to the Royal Oak… although the frame work is much more defined, it is also a wonderful challenge because we are talking about hundreds of a millimeter of changes. Arguments with product management, whether indexes should be a tenth of a millimeter longer or shorter.

We also used a lot of feedback we received from clients, among them a lot of Royal Oak collectors. Their perspective on the Royal Oak is very important to us.

Interview with Octavio Garcia

You probably wouldn’t tell us if it was the case, but we’ll try anyway: Did AP ‘dare’ to even consider using a different or new movement for the new Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ instead of the caliber 2121?

 Actually, the caliber 2121 is already a different movement than it was in 1972. We haven’t sat still on this movement and it has evolved during the years. The fundamentals are still the same though. We don’t know yet what the future will bring us though, we are constantly discussing these items.

Interview with Octavio Garcia

The stainless steel Royal Oak is known to be a scratch magnet (especially the bezel), is there anything – besides being careful with it – that can be done about that or did you already perhaps did some tweaks on the new Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ to avoid the watch from being scratched easily?

One of the strengths of the Royal Oak is the hand finishing of the steel case and bracelet. On this new model, over 400 surfaces are finished by hand. That gives the steel a particular shine that you don’t get from another type of finishing process. A Royal Oak that’s being worn by the owner will get a certain patina over time which is actually quite beautiful. Also, the wear on the Royal Oak tells a story about the person who wears it. So there is a personal relationship with it which you wouldn’t get when a watch is always perfect.

Do you follow the growing interest in the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ (both vintage and new) amongst collectors and the on-line community like watch blogs and forums?

I try to follow it as much as I can, but it is very time consuming for me. Personally, I take time to look through these sites and think they are very important. Sometimes they can be a bit destabilizing because critic is hard but that’s actually where it becomes interesting. We have to listen to these blogs, because I think there are some pertinent things coming from them. I think blogs are the future way of communicating and involving clients into the process.

What car design or specific model would you use as a comparison to a Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ wrist watch?

The obvious answer would be a Porsche 911. Like the Royal Oak, it is an icon that has evolved in terms of technique and tolerances. New technologies that has allowed us to do things differently and more efficiently but always in the spirit of the original.

Rumor is that the production number of the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ has been very low during the last few years. Do you foresee the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ to become even a more sought-after icon watch than it already is in the next coming years?

We reorganized the Royal Oak family because we wanted to put the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ on a pedestal. The 15202 is our iconic piece and then we have eight new models that represent the contemporary interpretation of the Royal Oak. So yes, perhaps it is also going to re-interested collectors.

What is your favorite Audemars Piguet watch?

The Royal Oak 15202, the original. From Genta, el maestro.

Interview with Octavio Garcia

As we already wrote above, the exhibition was located in Palais de Tokyo in Paris and has this very industrial look. Artists Sébastien Léon Agneessens, Quayola and Dan Holdsworth were responsible for the art work representing the forest/wood, the rocks and the video images of the Vallée de Joux.

AP Royal Oak Paris

Royal Oak Exhibition Paris Palais de Tokyo

AP Royal Oak Exhibition

AP Royal Oak PAris

AP Royal Oak Exhibition

AP Royal Oak Exhibition Report

AP Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exposition Paris

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Paris

Creating ‘Clous de Paris’ dials is a very interesting and special process at Audemars Piguet. The dial maker of Audemars Piguet was present during the exhibition and brought his machine as well. He gave a few demonstrations and told us that all the dials of the Royal Oak are being manufactured this way. Using a machine that ‘reads’ the Clous de Paris motif from a larger dial and translates it into a small tool that produces them in the correct ratio. The dials are being galvanized, this explains the differences in color between similar models.

Royal Oak Exhibition Paris

AP Royal Oak Exhibition in Paris

AP Royal Oak Exhibition in Paris

AP Royal Oak ExhibitionOur own watch photographer Bert inspecting the dial of a Royal Oak.

Audemars Piguet also brought a watchmaker to the show, who was able to give some explanations and do a demonstration on disassembling and assembling a movement. Look what he’s wearing. We asked around and it seems that most watchmakers receive their own Royal Oak at the start of their career. In some cases, it is ‘their’ watch which means they created/assembled it themselves.

AP Royal Oak Exhibition in Paris

Audemars Piguet brought a lot of Royal Oak watches along to the exhibition, not only from their private museum in Le Brassus but also from collectors and clients willing to lend their watches to AP for these events. Below, an overview of some of the watches that were present during the event. Starting with the original Royal Oak ref.5402 from 1972.

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition

Royal Oak Exhibition Paris

Royal Oak Exhibition

Gerard of in2watches blog, being a huge Genta fan himself, accompanied us through the whole tour as well and we found some time to capture our own Royal Oaks together with the Eiffel tower.

Royal Oak Exhibition in Paris

We want to say a BIG Thank You to Audemars Piguet Switzerland for the invitation and warm welcome!

More information about the Royal Oak 40 Years Anniversary exhibitions can be found here. Also make sure to go to our Facebook page and click the Royal Oak Exhibition album for more (and high-resolution) photos.

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Robert-Jan Broer

Founder & Editor at Fratello Watches
Robert-Jan Broer, born in 1977, watch collector and author on watches for over a decade. Founder of Fratello Watches in 2004.
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