Royal Oak, synonymous with luxury stainless steel watches. From the octagonal bezel, the ‘Tapisserie’ checkered dial, to the integrated bracelet, this characteristic design from 1972 is timeless. Not only has it named a series, but it has also become a symbol of the Audemars Piguet brand and the industry .
This is a familiar name for watch lovers. When it comes to watchmaking, it’s always so easy to come to our minds. Royal Oak is the flagship collection of Audemars Piguet, which has evolved over the past 40 years: different sizes, different materials, different movements. But even if the interpretation is far from the original model, its instinct and recognizable characteristics are always the same.
Royal Oak Quartz, stainless steel case, black dial, 33 mm diameter, launched in 2016
Royal and nautical inspiration
At Baselworld in 1972, Audemars Piguet officially launched the Royal Oak. But in fact, the overall design was completed a year ago and it was launched in Italy to test the water. At that time, Italy was the main market of Audemars Piguet. The designer, Gérald Genta, is said to have been inspired by the diving helmet worn by maintenance crews on the Rhone dam in Geneva. Audemars Piguet named it after the Royal Navy (HMS), referring to the octagonal portholes on the Royal Oak. For Britain, the ‘Royal Oak’ is also a symbol of the monarchy. In the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the future King Charles II relied on an oak tree to avoid the Round Skull chase, and then he made a comeback, defeated and defeated, and the historical process changed. Therefore, the oak is a symbol of strength, longevity, and majesty … what better name than Audemars Piguet’s latest creation?
Royal Oak Original Watch, launched in 1972
Royal Oak has achieved results, but it will have to wait a few more years. The Swiss watchmaking industry was facing an uncertain future in the early 1970s, to say the least. The first oil crisis was approaching; more seriously, the quartz revolution had risen. Watchmakers are conservative and stable. Most of the finest watches are petite, with classic designs and made of gold. The introduction of the Royal Oak is a sunny thunderbolt: large size, industrial style, and made of steel, it is a luxury watch! Its fate depends on Italy, a country that is not slow, unhurried. After all, there is too much to consider carefully. There is no doubt that Royal Oak’s pricing has discouraged enthusiasm: steel watches have never been more expensive than gold watches. However, Royal Oak’s unexpected success was largely due to the famous collectors. Giovanni Agnelli, head of Fiat, is said to have worn the Royal Oak watch in 1974. The famous French actor Alain Delon also appeared on the screen wearing a Royal Oak watch, ‘self-reliance’ in 1976, ‘the words of the police’ in 1985, and ‘the police who do not sleep’ in 1988.
‘Tapisserie’ plaque on Royal Oak watch dial
The Royal Oak made of steel has earned the reputation of ‘the first luxury sports watch’. Steel generally means robust architecture, but here suddenly it becomes refined and elegant. In addition, creating such a complex structure with high-grade steel was a huge challenge to the processing ability at that time. As for polishing and brushing, Royal Oak is no different from other top-end watches. From a design point of view, Royal Oak is bold and strong and will never lose its appeal. The deliberately created angular shapes, especially the eight-sided bezel and hexagonal screws, always catch people’s eyes immediately. Don’t forget the waterproof gasket, which is clearly visible and adds a technical touch to Royal Oak. The original case has no lugs, and Zunda equips it with a special bracelet, which gradually narrows inwardly in a trapezoidal shape, for precise and perfect integration. At the same time, the dial introduces a raised square and groove pattern, a unique ‘Tapisserie’ check pattern. Perhaps the only thing that changed the Royal Oak was its size: 39 millimeters, which was commonplace today, but too generous at the time.
Royal Oak 40th Anniversary Slim Watch, launched in 2012
In 2012, Audemars Piguet launched several new versions to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak. This includes a 39mm version, which is almost identical to the original 1972 model. The brand inscription and blue date dial with changed style are the only nuances. Even the Calibre 2121, the movement in the watch, remains the same. Calibre 2121 automatic movement is only 3.05 mm thick, a model of ultra-thin movement, still in production today. The slim and slender silhouette balances the radical avant-garde design and maintains people’s expectations for the elegance of luxury watches. It is undoubtedly one of the important factors that contributed to the success of the original Royal Oak.