Hands-On: The 41mm Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 50th Anniversary
Audemars Piguet celebrates 50 years of the Royal Oak this year, and today is the official date of the anniversary. To mark half a century of one of the most iconic watches — a true masterpiece of Genta design — AP has launched a number of new models. Here at Fratello, we were lucky enough to get to see them, and even have a little bit of time to wear, shoot, and get a feeling for these watches. Personally, my highlight was the 41mm version of the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph (ref. 26240OR.OO.1320OR.01) in rose gold with a blue dial. Sure, there’s a 38mm model available. But there was something simply magical about the slightly larger version that caught my eye and had me googling the black-market price of a kidney…
All jokes aside, we were spoiled rotten by Audemars Piguet a few weeks ago. Getting to see all of the new 50th-anniversary models really was a highlight of the year so far. Getting to try them on, and having a closer look at the watches quickly had us picking favorites. You’ve probably already read RJ’s and Lex’s articles on their favorites from the lineup. Now, it’s my turn, and I’ve gone for the bigger of two chronographs. Instead of the 38mm (ref. 26715OR.OO.1356OR.01), to me, it was its 41mm counterpart that really did the trick. And though there are 41 references (that’s right, count ’em) in the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph family and 14 different new 50th anniversary models — this one is (by far) my favorite.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 50th Anniversary
It’s a matter of proportions and wearability, as well as design. I think it’s no wonder that one of the most popular watches in recent times, the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, has a 39mm case dimension. But a 39mm or 41mm watch can wear extremely differently due to its design, shape, and features. Both my Speedmaster Moonwatch, and this Royal Oak sit in the 41–42mm range. And whereas the Omega wears true to size, the Royal Oak was far more like a 39-40mm watch. This is due to the large bezel, the slim case, and the brilliant taper created by the famous bracelet. The way this watch fits my wrist is the way I wish every watch would. Everything else comes as an extra on top. But as you can see, there’s a lot of “extra” going on with the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph. Extra, as in the fact that it’s made of incredibly finished solid 18K rose gold.
The contrast between the deep brushed texture and the sparkling polished details has to be seen in the metal to be appreciated. Another significant detail is the dial’s color. Blue? Well, sure, it is objectively blue. But it’s also not just any blue. It’s a special shade of blue, which AP refers to as “Bleu nuit nuage 50” — a shade created especially for the 50th-anniversary models. The rich, deep blue of the Grande Tapisserie dial is complemented by rose gold details dotted over and around it. This includes the watch’s central hands, hour markers, applied logo, chronograph hands, and golden rings surrounding the sub-dials. You’ll also find a little bit of white, mainly in the lume on the hands and indices, but also on the outer minute track and all the markings in the chronograph registers.
On the wrist
So, how does it wear? Let me put it this way: “like a dream” would be an understatement. It doesn’t feel like a high-end piece of haute horology. Rather, it feels like a rugged tool watch, purpose-built and refined beyond anything that makes sense. However, when you look down at your wrist, where you feel the body that the gold gives this watch, and you see it shining in all of its glory, you realize that this Royal Oak is both of those things. The pushers activate with a significant and responsive click. And the crown, once screwed out, is satisfying to use, and cleanly engages at all positions. The watch is undeniably refined. But something about its weight, shape, texture, and feeling on the wrist makes it feel like a well-trained 007 agent in a tux, instead of a soft-bodied trust-fund kid playing black-tie dress-up.
Unfortunately, despite the screw-down crown and the bolted case back, this watch only has 50m of water resistance. Which, yes, is enough, but at the same time, not enough — just like the Speedmaster. Fifty more meters and you’re doing everything you want. But at 50m, you still have to be somewhat conscious of what you’re doing and where you’re wearing the watch. Inside the slim and perfectly proportioned 41mm × 12.4mm case is the Audemars Piguet caliber 2385. This 304-part movement provides 40 hours of power reserve and gives this Royal Oak its time-telling, chronograph, and date functions. If you want to see it, all you have to do is flip the watch over. Through the sapphire case back, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on the wonderful movement and specially signed 50th-anniversary rotor.
Seeing a significant slice of the Audemars Piguet 50th Anniversary collection really puts the significance of the Royal Oak into perspective. The Royal Oak has been around for 50 years at this point, and it’s no wonder why. Experiencing the watch in person, even the most modern iterations, instantly gives you an appreciation for the magic of its design. Models like this Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 50th Anniversary are the perfect tribute from the brand to a watch that will forever be synonymous with its name. It’s a true icon of the watch world, one that we’ll look back at 50 years from now and appreciate as much as we do today.
What are your thoughts on this stunning 41mm Royal Oak chronograph? As always, share your thoughts in the comments below. For more information, visit the Audemars Piguet website. And make sure to check out our coverage of the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary here.