Happy Birthday, Royal Oak! — Hands-On With The Gold Royal Oak “Jumbo” 16202
Exactly 50 years ago today in Basel, Switzerland, Audemars Piguet introduced the Royal Oak. You can read the background on the original Royal Oak 5402 here, as well as all models that succeeded it up till today’s Royal Oak “Jumbo” 16202.
What better way to celebrate an anniversary with a very special watch? Meet the Royal Oak 16202 in pink gold, also known as the 16202OR.OO.1240OR.01. We already announced this new reference last January as the worthy successor of the 15202 in rose gold. But for this special occasion, we go hands-on with this beauty from Audemars Piguet.
Royal Oak “Jumbo” 16202
This 39mm Royal Oak “Jumbo”, or Extra-Thin, marks the 50th anniversary of the icon designed by Gérald Genta. Audemars Piguet decided to create a special rotor for this year’s Royal Oak models indicating the 50th anniversary of the watch. But AP will only produce these rotors for one year, putting a high standard in place for its weight-mass decoration. So next year, the 16202 will still be there, but without this special decorative rotor.
Some of you might remember — if you’ve been following us for a while — that I used to own the Royal Oak “Jumbo” reference 15202. I sold it a few years ago (no regrets, though) to fund something else. But I vividly remember wearing the 15202 for many years. It used to be my daily beater for a long time, as snobbish as that may sound. Things looked different back then (2009–2019), as the demand for these watches wasn’t incredibly high. Prices were even lower than what you’d pay for a Rolex Datejust these days.
My, how things can change in such a relatively short amount of time! Anyway, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” I wore back then didn’t look or wear very differently from the new 16202. Wearing this new model felt a bit like coming home, but with one significant difference. The 16202 I’ve been wearing for this article is made of gold. Yes, gold, baby! The heft is noticeably different than that of the steel version. Besides that, the wrist presence is simply amazing.
The 18K pink gold version has this smoked slate-gray dial featuring the famous “Petite Tapisserie” motif. This was something that was outsourced on the version I used to own. However, since 2012 or so, Audemars Piguet has brought the craftsmanship and production of these dials back in-house. That same year, AP also moved its logo to the 6-o’clock position. Before that, and since the ’80s, it had sat at 12 o’clock.
The smoked dial looks so stunning with the pink gold, I feel it’s one of the main attractions of this version for me. Another version with a smoked dial is the yellow gold 16202BA, as well as the platinum 16202PT with a smoked green dial. The latter comes without the iconic “Petite Tapisserie” motif, though. For me, it’s between the pink gold and the yellow gold versions. Honestly, I’d have a hard time choosing which I’d wear more. That said, I don’t need to because there’s this pink gold 16202OR in front of me. It’s the version that AP had available for our review, so thankfully, that makes things easy.
From 15300 to 15202
In terms of dimensions, not much has changed. The Royal Oak “Jumbo” ref. 16202 has the same old 39mm diameter and measures only 8mm in height. What changed, however, is what got me into buying the 15202 in the first place — the movement.
Before I bought the Royal Oak 15202, I had owned the reference 15300. This Royal Oak model, also 39mm, came out in 2005 and housed the AP in-house caliber 3120. That watch had a bit more body, a thicker bracelet, and a double-folding clasp. Compared to the 15202, even though the diameter was equal, it was a bit of a Royal Oak on steroids (or sugar) — a bit fat. But I liked it, and I had it for about a year or two, max. Looking at the 15202, however, I realized there’s only one Royal Oak for me. It was the “Jumbo” with its super-slim case. And that case was only possible due to the extra-thin (3.05mm) movement.
Inside the original “Jumbo” was caliber 2121. It was based on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s caliber 920 and used since the original Royal Oak reference 5402. Vacheron Constantin also used it for its model 222, and Patek Philippe did for the first Nautilus reference 3700/1A. Jaeger-LeCoultre itself never used it, and at some point, the license to manufacture the movement was transferred to Audemars Piguet. To make a long story short, the caliber 2121 was one of the main reasons for me to “upgrade” to the Royal Oak “Jumbo”. Not only because it made the case thinner than the one on the Royal Oak reference 15300, but also because I felt that the caliber 2121 was one of the most beautiful self-winding movements out there.
Instead of using ball bearings, the rotor glides on a rail, and it has a variable-inertia Gyromax balance wheel. And though, technically, Patek Philippe owns the rights to the Gyromax name, I will use the word anyway, as it’s the exact same construction. By adjusting the eight masses located on top of the wheel, a watchmaker can more accurately regulate the wheel’s balance. What I didn’t know until I visited the Audemars Piguet manufacture a few years ago was that this movement was hand-finished, unlike the caliber 3120.
Anyway, the caliber 2121 is no longer. The new Royal Oak 16202 reference uses the 7121. It has a higher frequency than its predecessor (28,800vph instead of 21,600vph), and a 55-hour power reserve instead of 40 hours. To be honest, I don’t care too much about these numbers. Rather, what I never liked about the previous movement was the lack of a quick-set date. It was incredibly annoying, but luckily, Audemars Piguet fixed that with this new 7121 movement. The ball bearings are back for the rotor, though, and the movement’s thickness has increased from 3.05mm to 3.2mm. According to Audemars Piguet, the introduction of caliber 7121 marks a new generation of movements. I assume that means it will be the base for future watches with complications.
That bracelet is just awesome
Just like its predecessor(s), the integrated bracelet is razor-sharp when it comes to finishing, but wears incredibly comfortable. There are only a few bracelets that come even close to the level of comfort that AP offers with the Royal Oak bracelet. Vacheron’s 222 bracelet that was introduced just the other week in Geneva does feel good, but I’d like to spend some more time with it to come up with a definitive answer. Patek’s Nautilus bracelet is another bracelet that comes close, but the Royal Oak bracelet does the “integrated” job a bit better. The double-folding clasp is not something I prefer over the one that was used pre-2012, but it does the job properly and feels more solid than the single-folding clasp.
The 16202 “Jumbo” on the wrist
Putting the Royal Oak “Jumbo” 16202 on your wrist, especially in gold, is something special. It’s a sensation that is difficult to describe in words, and if possible, I urge you to visit an AP House and give it a try yourself. It’s a watch that needs to be tried before you buy one. That said, even in gold, I find it a very easy watch to wear with its modest dimensions and thin (8.1mm) case.
And you don’t need to be worried about scratching the bracelet or case, because scratches will appear sooner or later anyway. You just need to be prepared to live with that fact. In the end, I think scratches give character and show you wear and enjoy the Royal Oak.
Price and availability of the 16202
The CHF 63,100 price tag puts me back on the ground immediately. I will never spend this much on a watch, even if my watch budget allowed it. Yes, I could sell off some pieces to get the job done, but there’s this inner voice that always tries to reason with me. The steel version though, which retails for approximately half of this amount, could be something that works for me. I thought I didn’t miss my Royal Oak 15202, but wearing this 16202 surely put some doubt in my mind. Aside from the price tag on these Royal Oak watches nowadays, it’s the lack of availability that comes into play as well. Oh well… perhaps one day. Anyway, happy birthday, Royal Oak! And here’s to many more!