This was a year bookended by the launches of many amazing ladies’ watches that came to be seen as milestones for the industry. I’m thinking here of the world’s smallest tourbillon, the Serpenti Seduttori, or Zenith’s first-ever Defy Midnight. Most watch brands, it seems, are finally making timepieces for women that say something about both our times and lifestyle. And Audemars Piguet with its 34mm Royal Oak is no exception.

The Audemars Piguet’s 34mm Self-winding Royal Oak feels like the coolest and most-needed concept of the year. It perfectly displays the versatility of this industry stalwart. It is a testament to the appeal of Genta’s clean-lined design that a watch can be both masculine and feminine at the same time, based upon little more than its decoration. The silhouette is one that has been endlessly copied. Furthermore, it has inspired countless offshoots. But now, as this new 34mm iteration hits the shelves, we are reminded of the power of its DNA. That, and the fact that nothing can be beat the original…

So why does this model feel like a revelatory release despite the fact that it’s the downsized version of a man’s watch? Well, what I admire with this particular model is its embracing simplicity and wearability. As such, it is one of my top ladies’ watches of 2020. Thanks, in large part, to the fact it highlights the coolness of laid-back femininity.

The Royal Oak for ladies

Looking at the Royal Oak women’s collection, before the launch of the 34mm version, the smallest self-winding watch came in a diameter of 37mm. Therefore, women who prefer smaller sizes may just opt for the 34 or 33mm variations with the quartz movement. For a while now, female watch enthusiasts have craved an AP automatic that keeps things petite.

AP Royal Oak steel women

Consequently, AP is treating its clientele to the first self-winding 34mm Royal Oak. The execution is there (as always). The versatility is undeniable. And its character as a sporty watch? That remains, albeit somewhat embellished by a fresh helping of diamonds on the bezel.

Audemars Piguet 34mm self-winding Royal Oak

Iconic design

Audemars Piguet’s willingness to play with the interpretation of its own DNA is compelling. In this new collection, we find the strongest AP’s statements: the “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, and the legendary bracelet.

AP Royal Oak for ladies

Let’s start with my favorite element — the bracelet. Satin and polished finishes, and perfect integration with the case nod to the art of craftsmanship. Personally, all aspects — the finish, brushed and polished edges, the way it reflects the light — leave me speechless. It is not another intricately detailed bracelet, the design is actually very smooth, and it sits comfortably on the smaller, feminine wrist. When we look at the dial, the devil is in the details. The grain pattern between the squares, as well as thick hands and indexes, signify Audemars Piguet’s in-depth exploration of women’s needs.

AP Royal Oak 77351OR.ZZ.1261OR.01.009

The details of AP’s 34mm Royal Oak

Because of its minimalist looks, what immediately stands out here (besides the three-dimensional impression) is its diamond-paved, octagonal bezel. It adds a certain depth to the well-known dial and, depending on the light, highlights the raw design. 

AP 34mm Royal Oak for ladies steel

Speaking of design, the dimension of the case fused with the automatic mechanism is not the only novelty. This Swiss brand has made the watch slightly thicker (8.8mm). Unfortunately one always came at the cost of the other — in this case, it’s the thicker case, and the lower power reserve. The presence of a screw-down crown, however, ensures water resistance to 50 meters.

AP Royal Oak side 34mm for ladies

One thing I would have changed here is the date window. I’m not at all keen on date windows on dials. They are too small to actually see the date, and setting the date is simply bothersome. I have two watches with date windows and never bother correcting them (if you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed…). Obviously, it’s a very personal viewpoint, but could you imagine this watch with 12 divine indexes instead of just 11?

AP Royal Oak for ladies steel

Gold, or steel, that is the question.

The 34mm Royal Oaks come in pink gold, steel, and a mix of both. Here we present two versions: pink gold with silver-toned dial and 40 brilliant-cut diamonds, and stainless steel with blue dial and also 40 diamonds. 

hands-on AP Royal Oak 34mm for ladies steel

I’ve stuck with steel watches for too long. Suddenly, I’m catching myself looking at gold watches. I must admit that the gold variation looks stunning, but the color could be more unique. What do you think? Let me know in the comment section. As for the steel version… Well, its classic AP.

hands-on AP Royal Oak 34mm pink gold

The retail price for diamond-encrusted models is $24,700 for the all-steel option and $47,600 for pink gold. Learn more by visiting the Audemars Piguet website.

Calibre 5800

AP’s signature calibre 5800 powers the watch, with its reserve of 50 hours. It provides basic functions: hours, minutes, center seconds, and date. It measures 23.30mm × 3.9mm and beats at 28,800vph. 

AP’s signature calibre 5800

Regardless of its amazing materials and unblemished quality, the winding rotor represents a refined embellishment, being specially made for the most recent release. And while the central area has a frosted look, the rest is adorned with brushed or polished surfaces.

AP’s signature calibre 5800 rotor

Redefining the notion of ladies watches

Even though the 34mm Royal Oak is the downsized version of a men’s watch, there’s a feminine edge to this release. I find this model in this size as a must-have addition to the women’s line at Audemars Piguet. What’s more, it feels like it has been designed exclusively for women. In a world of diamond-paved watches, this is a cool timepiece to highlight one’s (read my) love for diamonds without seeming too ostentatious.

AP Royal Oak 34mm women details

If I could summarize 2020 in just a few words, I would say that it’s been a mind-blowing time to be a woman and to be passionate about watches. The ground-breaking shift in female clientele’s needs has found its alignment with an innovative stance. Identifying the values that ladies have brought to the table and creating timepieces exclusively for women has been the major highlight. Hopefully, this will continue to evolve.