One of my all-time favorite watches is the Royal Oak. It is actually one of the models that got me into mechanical watches in the mid-1990s. Love at first sight, you could say, and as you know that is something to cherish. However, these watches come at a certain price and with those perpetual annual price increases these watches seem to be only available for the lucky few. The low production number and high demand for them – by the lucky few – enables Audemars Piguet to stay exclusive and only available for those who are able – and willing – to spend so much money on their watches.
This shouldn’t come as a shock, as Audemars Piguet was always high-end and the stainless steel 1972 Royal Oak 5402 model was said to be as expensive as 10 Rolex Submariner watches. It took me quite a while to actually purchase a Royal Oak and I had to make quite some sacrifices. My first Royal Oak was the 15300ST with a silvery-white dial that I traded later on for a pre-owned Royal Oak 15202ST ‘Jumbo’ with the famous caliber 2121 movement from 2006. For me, that’s the pinnacle of Royal Oak models, although Audemars Piguet themselves might think differently about this. Their former designer, Octavio Garcia, re-designed it a bit in 2012 for the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, with great success. The new version has a dial that looks a bit more similar to the first references and the bracelet has been updated a bit as well. The prices on the former 15202 execution (the model I have) went up quite a bit as well, which made me a bit more careful when wearing it.
However, you and I both know that a brand can’t live of one specific reference. Even though sometimes we would like to see that happening. Customers want choices and options, like they do when buying a car.
This year, Audemars Piguet treated us with a lot of gold for their Royal Oak models. Purists might have frowned a bit when seeing them during the SIHH in Geneva, as Gérald Genta mission was to design a luxury sports watch in stainless steel. But again, people need to be able to make choices and not everyone is a purist. Neither are journalists and editors like us or those from any of the other on-line watch magazines or blogs representative for the majority of watch buyers.
That said, and already having the stainless steel Jumbo/Extra-Thin Royal Oak with caliber 2121 in my personal collection, gold does give the Royal Oak something special. It seems that the stunning brushed finish combined with polished facets on case and bracelet does extra well with gold. As Audemars Piguet states on their website “The new collection of Royal Oak watches and chronographs glows with the solar energy of yellow gold, the universal emblem of beauty, energy and light.”.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Gold
“To break the rules, you must first master them” and you could say that Audemars Piguet perfectly mastered the Royal Oak in stainless steel. So let’s move on to have a look at the new gold collection of Royal Oak watches. Audemars Piguet decided to introduce a number of references in gold, from the 37mm Royal Oak Selfwinding up to the stunning 41mm Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar and Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked.
15450BA.OO Royal Oak Selfwinding
The first Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gold watch I’d like to start with is the 37mm “Selfwinding” model. I actually don’t get the “Selfwinding” name, as most of these models are selfwinding anyway. I vaguely remember that the – now discontinued – 15300 was in the catalog as “Royal Oak Date”, which makes more sense as all the other models are also referred to by their complication(s). Well, perhaps new insights led to the “Selfwinding” name for this model. This model is available with a blue dial, as pictured here or with a silver dial. I personally love the combination of blue and yellow gold.
The 18-carat yellow gold case and bracelet look awesome in my opinion. The 37mm make it either a watch for men with smaller wrists (remember that this watch wears a bit bigger than the specifications imply, due to the case shape) or women. Inside there is the Audemars Piguet caliber 3120 movement, that was first introduced in the Royal Oak 15300 around 2005. A nicely finished movement with a beautiful 22-carat gold rotor with stunning engraving and a balance spring with variable inertia blocks (or “Gyromax”). It also has a 60-hours power reserve.
Although not as thin as the “Extra-Thin” 15202ST reference, 9.8mm is still not very thick for a sporty watch.
Price: € 43.805,00 (incl VAT)
26320BA.OO Royal Oak Chronograph
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph is one of the models I like best, next tot the 15202. I had one in my personal collection as well a few years ago, the previous reference in 39mm (26300ST). Although I feel that the 39mm version had a better ratio for its dimensions, the 41mm size is more actual or up-to-date to today’s standards.
The only thing that I have issues with is the large and bold printing of ‘Audemars Piguet’ on the dial. This used to be a bit more modest, which I personally like. No need to scream ‘Audemars Piguet’ from the rooftops as everyone knows it is one, by the shape. You can recognize an Audemars Piguet from a mile’s distance, so I don’t get this. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gold chronograph is however, a wonderful piece with the dials in silver and blue.
What did not change over the years is the movement inside the Royal Oak Chronograph, Audemars Piguet caliber 2385 which is based on the F.Piguet 1185 movement. A column-wheel chronograph movement that has been used by a couple of brands over the years. From my own experience it is a very nice movement to operate and the finish seems to be very well done as well, although this can’t be seen through the case back. Audemars Piguet chose to use a sold gold case back for their Royal Oak Chronograph models. The question when Audemars Piguet is going to introduce their own chronograph movement is quite old in the meanwhile and the answer remains to be vague. Anyway, this movement seems to be a wise choice for a non in-house developed movement. The only thing I noticed myself with this movement is that when you set or correct the time, the moment you push the crown back in position 0 (winding), the minute hand seems to creep a bit. Quite annoying to be honest.
On the other hands, this watch belongs to one of the most beautiful modern chronograph watches in my book. The classic lay-out with registers on 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and the beautiful Grande Tapisserie pattern on the dial are awesome ingredients. The date is between 3 and 4 o’clock and do not interfere with any sub dial, hour marker or whatsoever. A very clean solution. Like the Rolex Daytona, the pushers need to be unscrewed first before you can use the chronograph function. Not a problem, as the 6 sided pushers are very easy to grasp and use.
Price: € 56.255,00 (incl VAT)
26574BA.OO Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
One of the coolest complications – besides a chronograph – is of course a perpetual calendar. The fact that you never need to correct your calendar due to some highly complex mechanical combinations of wheels and gears is just mind-boggling for most wearers of these watches. This particular calendar doesn’t need to be adjusted for 125 years and 317 days.
Again available with a blue dial and silvery dial. Due to the use of the famous thin caliber 2120 movement as a base, Audemars Piguet was able to keep this watch relatively thin with its 9.5mm. Caliber 5134 consists of 374 parts and is able to tell you the week, day, date, astronomical moon, month, leap year, hours and minutes. According to Audemars Piguet, the rotor can be customized upon the request of the buyer.
A cool detail is that the moon is laser microstructured on the disc, made of (synthetic) aventurine.
Where the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gold chronograph did not have a transparent case back, this perpetual calendar obviously has one. Those familiar with the Audemars Piguet caliber 2120 and 2121 movements will recognize this caliber instantly in this reference 26574BA. Furthermore, you will see the correctors next to the winding crown that are used to set the calendar functions.
Price: € 99.260,00 (incl VAT)
15407OR.OO Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked
Last model of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gold watches in this article is this Double Balance Wheel Openworkd model, reference 15407OR. The RODBWO (to make it a bit easier) is the watch that received a lot of positive comments during the SIHH exhibition last January.
According to Audemars Piguet, the double balance wheel construction results in a higher accuracy of the movement and improved stability. It is unknown to me whether Audemars Piguet will introduce this caliber 3132 in other Royal Oak models any time soon.
This is actually a variant of the reference 15400 and therefor has the 41mm case. However, the interior is totally different of course. The AP caliber 3132 movement can be witnessed from both sides, due to the slate grey openworked dial and the transparent case back. Just look at that balance wheel bridge now will you? S-t-u-n-n-i-n-g! The pink 18-carat rose gold and bracelet look wonderful with this slate grey dial and dark grey movement color. The hands and hour markers are also in rose gold, while some of the movement parts have more yellow-ish tone. It gives a great contrast.
Although I absolutely love this reference, the minor point of criticism here is the case back. The movement’s diameter is 26.59mm and the case diameter measures 41mm. The gap is literally filled with red gold, making the movement look tiny (or the case look big). It doesn’t really match-up. Nevertheless, the caliber 3132 is brilliant and I am sure that the lucky owner of this piece will often take his watch off his wrist to admire the movement.
Price: € 76.305,00 (incl VAT)
These watches were a joy to look at and Bert had a great time taking pictures of so many gold pieces. Each of them have their own little unique feature but all housed in the same Genta designed case made of gold. Even though rose gold seems to be the most accepted color of gold watches, the yellow gold surprised me in a very positive way. If money wasn’t a problem, I might have jumped on the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar with blue dial, but perhaps I would refrain from spending so much money on one watch anyway and go for the €40K cheaper Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gold chronograph (yellow gold and blue dial) and spend what’s left on another 15202ST or a vintage 5402.
Compared to a couple of other high-end brands that operate in the same league as Audemars Piguet, I’ve seen higher price tags. I also think it isn’t that important in this price range to discuss the price tags. What I’ve found more important is that I realized I will never own one of these gold pieces (I shed a little tear) and will keep on cherishing my stainless steel Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’.
More information via www.audemarspiguet.com