Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402 B – 52Mondayz, Week #49
When a friend offers you to wear
a the luxury sports watch for a week, only a fool will pass on it. Today’s 52Mondayz is about the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402.
It is not the end of the year yet, but I could not resist the urge to look back on the last eleven months. I managed to spend quality time with quite a few generally beloved and admired watches, including the already reviewed Omega Seamaster CK2913, Rolex GMT Master 1675, and the Mido Rainbow Diver ref 5907, that I have yet to review on #TBT. All three watches mentioned were on my radar for some time, so obviously, I took the chance when it came. What I would not have been expecting in my wildest dreams would be wearing the legendary first-generation Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Spoiler alert – I, shockingly to me, actually liked it a lot.
Royal Oak 5402
Why I thought the Royal Oak is not for me
Let’s start with an honest disclaimer. My knowledge of this manufacture started and ended with knowing that Audemars Piguet and the Royal Oak exist. I remember reading a few articles, by which I mean I scrolled through them and looked at pictures. Yes, I am guilty of ignoring the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, including all the references, generations and re-editions and more. I always thought that I don’t like the shape. I also thought the watch case is unwearable and I felt that if I would need to wait at least another twenty years to put it on my wrist for the first time.
I thought wrong
But it is not what I believe anymore. The scary part about the 180 degrees turnaround is that I didn’t need much time to change the mind. One week to be precise. And usually, I’m not swayed easily. I thought I hated the Royal Oak, and last week while sporting the watch on my wrist, I kept trying to identify the reason why. One of the reasons might be the fact that if there was a list of watches triggering immediate extreme opinions, the Royal Oak would occupy the top ranks. Today, I will try to explain my feelings on the Royal Oak 5402.
Royal Oak Basics
Debuted in 1972, designed by Gérald Genta, it was first produced in four series marked A, B, C and D, each with tiny changes to the bracelet or movement. From a reference perspective, you should narrow your focus down to the Royal Oak 5402, 14802ST, 15002ST, and 15202ST. Our colleague, Gerard, already wrote a piece on ref 14802ST here. Reference 14802ST was released 20 years after the first one, in 1992. It came out in a limited run of 1000 watches, with the movement visible through the sapphire crystal.
What you see here is a body crafted to perfection, as Jean-Claude Van Damme used to say.
RJ’s Royal affair(s)
Let‘s not forget about the other man on the team, Fratello Magazine, and #SpeedyTuesday founder Robert-Jan. If you read this article thoroughly, you know Gerard sold him his first Speedmaster 20 years ago. What might surprise you is RJ’s other weakness (or strength). In his heart, he keeps a safe and warm space not only for Omegas but also for some precious Royal Oak pieces. You can read more about his royal affairs here, here and here. Or here. Enough! After reading it all, you might be ready to get back to the very beginning of the Royal Oak story. If I am not mistaken, it is the first time we have a hands-on review of the first Royal Oak 5402 here on Fratello Magazine.
Royal Oak ref. 5402ST
Around 2000 exemplars were produced from the A-Series, with an initial run of 1000 pieces followed by another 1000 pieces. As one would understandably expect from a first production release, the A-Series models are highly sought after among collectors. The B-Series was limited to 1000 pieces, which is half of the A-series, making it equally interesting in my non-AP educated mind. Both the A-Series and B-Series have the original caliber 2121, which was produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
B-series dial mystery
The Royal Oak 5402 I had the pleasure to wear for a week was stamped B1311. The A-Series is distinguished by the placement of the AP logo just above 6 o’clock, compared to later examples typically bearing the AP logo at 12 o’clock. There are a lot of internet rabbit holes with lengthy discussions on whether the B-Series dials with an AP logo at twelve are original or not. The example on my wrist has an AP logo at twelve, it comes with a lower 1311 serial number, and we believe it has a replacement dial. UV pictures, as seen below, will shed more light on that. Also, the signed AP crown might suggest that this example has seen a watchmaker before.
AP Royal Oak 5402 on the wrist
Let’s forget the crowns and the different types of Petite Tapisserie dials for a while. Now comes the highlight, or what it’s like to wear the Royal Oak 5402. I had no expectations whatsoever, approaching it as merely educating myself on this serious vintage piece. After all, it does not happen every week that you get to wear a +40K Euro watch. An important note to highlight, I don’t have the Royal Oak 5402 with me anymore. Usually, when I write my reviews, I have the watch sitting in front of me, so this time it’s more a stroll down memory lane.
What surprised me right after a few hours was realizing there aren’t that many watches with such great contact with your skin.
Unique wrist feeling
If I were about to capture a primary feeling, I would opt for the word intimacy. Don’t get me wrong, don’t get bewildered. How can one feel intimate with a watch shining as boldly as an HMS Royal Oak battleship in your backyard? Most of the pictures of Royal Oak you see are full-frontal. With an integrated bracelet, the Royal Oak visually feels like a big thing. What surprised me right after a few hours was realizing there aren’t that many watches with such great contact with your skin. It is flat with a spacious case back bleeding till the edges. At a 7millimeter thickness, the Royal Oak redefines the merging of a watch with your wrist.
With most watches, the feelings they evoke while wearing them are relatively easy to put into words. But I believe that wearing the Royal Oak is a un-transferable experience, like explaining the entrepreneurial spirit to a full-time employee or the feeling of being a father to a teenager. They understand the concept, but they don’t feel it fully. And they can’t. Besides, the Royal Oak 5402 is surprisingly comfortable. The bracelet is so thin, with the last link integrated so smoothly with the case that the watch and bracelet become one homogenous sleek element that slides under the cuff quickly and easily. Of course, it is nearly a fifty years old watch, so it’s seen its fair share of wear and tear. My example stamped B1311 had a slightly damaged clasp on a spot where it connects to the first link. Could the soldering job have been done better? You decide.
The length of the markers, the framing, edge rounding, and thin luming all remind me of Van Damme in the legendary Epic Split commercial for Volvo: “What you see here is a body crafted to perfection.” I would not expect that such a simple shape would fascinate me so much. Readability is just perfect. I was never ‘that fancy boy’ who enjoyed guilloche or waffle dials, but the Royal Oak’s dial grew on me super-fast.
Up for grabs
A friend that offered me the Royal Oak for a weekly test is more of a Daytona guy. When I was giving the watch back to him, he said he is about to sell it. When I asked why he just said he doesn’t like it that much. Funnily, a week ago, I wouldn’t have given AP a single thought, but now I found myself pitching his own Royal Oak to him. I suggested that he should wear it for a few consecutive days and swore to him that he would get hooked. ”I wore it for a full month, but it didn’t grow on me, so I decided to let it go,” my friend replied. Do you smell an opportunity to refresh your collection? Drop me a message, and I’ll connect you to my friend. If he hasn’t sold it yet, it might be one of your luckier Mondayz too.