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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: An Iconic Luxury Watch
An octagonal bezel with eight screws, an integrated band, and a porthole design: That is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. This coveted Swiss luxury watch is an industry icon. Top models feature a perpetual calendar and minute repeater.
The First Stainless Steel Luxury Sports Watch
The impact of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak on the world of luxury watches is unmatched in recent history. It was the world's first luxury sports watch when it debuted in 1972. At the time, Audemars Piguet's choice of stainless steel for the case sent shockwaves through the industry, as people still expected luxury watches to be made of precious metals like gold or platinum.
In addition to the material, the design caused quite an uproar. A product of legendary designer Gérald Genta, the original Royal Oak came with an integrated bracelet and an octagonal bezel with eight decorative screws. Modern models retain this iconic porthole aesthetic. Genta also chose a then-massive size of 39 mm for the case, earning it the nickname "Jumbo."
Today, there are various Royal Oak editions available in a wide range of sizes and materials. You'll find everything from 39-mm classic two-hand versions in stainless steel and 41-mm rose gold chronographs to the 44-mm Grande Complication with a perpetual calendar, chronograph, and minute repeater. Audemars Piguet also offers women's models between 33 and 37 mm in diameter and several editions in black or white ceramic. Top models include watches with flying tourbillons and platinum cases.
Reasons to Buy a Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
- Iconic porthole design with cult status
- Top watches with a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, and chronograph
- A great investment with the potential to appreciate in value
- Excellent craftsmanship and finishing
- An alternative to the Patek Philippe Nautilus
Prices at a Glance: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Diameter, caliber, material|
|Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication, 26065IS.OO.1105IS.01||760,000 USD||44 mm, 2885, titanium|
|Royal Oak Openworked Perpetual Calendar, 26585CE.OO.1225CE.01||414,000 USD||41 mm, 5135, ceramic|
|Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, 26574PT.OO.1220PT.01||244,000 USD||41 mm, 5134, platinum|
|Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin, 26522ST.OO.1220ST.01||222,000 USD||41 mm, 2924, stainless steel|
|Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked, 15407ST.OO.1220ST.01||154,000 USD||41 mm, 3132, stainless steel|
|Royal Oak Chronograph Frosted, 26331BC.GG.1224BC.01||104,000 USD||41 mm, 2385, white gold|
|Royal Oak "Jumbo" Extra-Thin, 15202ST.OO.1240ST.01||73,000 USD||39 mm, 2121, stainless steel|
|Royal Oak "Jumbo," 5402ST||67,000 USD||39 mm, 2121, stainless steel|
|Royal Oak Automatic, 15500ST.OO.1220ST.03||40,000 USD||41 mm, 4302, stainless steel|
|Royal Oak Automatic, 15300ST.OO.1220ST.03||31,500 USD||39 mm, 3120, stainless steel|
|Royal Oak Quartz, 67651SR.ZZ.1261SR.01||28,000 USD||33 mm, 2713, two-tone (stainless steel and rose gold)|
How much does an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak cost?
The Royal Oak is the largest collection in Audemars Piguet's catalog by far. Women's watches with quartz movements serve as the series' entry-point, with stainless steel editions demanding roughly 22,500 USD. Gold timepiece with diamonds sell for about 44,000 USD. Prices for men's stainless steel models begin around 31,500 USD, while those in white or rose gold cost approximately 79,000 USD.
Vintage watches from the 1970s are true collector's items. A well-maintained Royal Oak 5402 changes hands for about 67,000 USD on Chrono24. Fans are also fond of the ref. 14802, which the manufacturer released in honor of the collection's 20th anniversary. Depending on the exact model and its condition, expect to pay anywhere from 54,500 to 232,000 USD for this timepiece.
You'll also find the Royal Oak with various complications. Chronographs are particularly popular and cost between 40,000 and 102,000 USD. Models with a tourbillon or perpetual calendar are even more expensive, with prices ranging from 150,000 to 245,000 USD.
The Royal Oak is a steady financial performer, and the value of many models increased significantly between early 2020 and late spring 2021. For example, the ref. 15202ST's market value rose by nearly 50% in this timeframe. If you look at timepieces as investments, the Royal Oak is a serious contender.
Channeling the Original: The Ref. 15202ST
Those on the market for a modern Royal Oak with the look and feel of the original should check out the Royal Oak "Jumbo" Extra-Thin 15202ST. Like its ancestor from the 1970s, this watch is 39 mm in diameter. As its name implies, the case is also very flat at just 8.1 mm thick. The resulting timepiece looks fantastic with a suit and tie and fits perfectly under any shirt cuff.
Differences between the 15202ST and the original Royal Oak are minimal. One small update is that AP (as fans often call the brand) has matched the 15202ST's date disc to the dial color. Furthermore, the newer edition has a sapphire crystal case back for viewing the automatic caliber 2121 within. This movement also powers the original Royal Oak and is comprised of 247 components. It is only 3.05 mm thick and comes with a 40-hour power reserve and a balance frequency of 19,800 vibrations per hour (vph) or 2.75 Hz. Audemars Piguet crafts this movement based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 920. Other manufacturers like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin also outfit their timepieces with modified versions of this precise movement.
The ref. 15202 is available with dial colors like dark blue, white, and gold. In early 2021, Audemars Piguet launched a platinum edition with a green dial under the reference number 15202PT.OO.1240PT.01. While the other models have a "petite tapisserie" grid pattern on their dials, this version boasts a beautiful gradient that gets darker toward the edges.
Be sure to set aside around 73,000 USD for a stainless steel Royal Oak 15202ST. The rose gold edition bears the reference number 15202OR and requires an investment of about 100,000 USD. Audemars Piguet lists the platinum 15202PT with a green dial for 105,400 USD. On the upper end of the price range, you'll find the limited-edition ref. 15206PT. Only 70 copies of this platinum timepiece exist. It features a matching platinum bracelet, black dial, and diamond indices and costs roughly 222,000 USD.
In March 2021, François-Henry Bennahmias, Audemars Piguet's CEO, announced that they would be replacing the ref. 15202ST with an updated model in 2022, just in time for the Royal Oak's 50th anniversary. It will be interesting to see if this causes prices for the 15202ST to soar as much as Patek's announcement of the Nautilus 5711-1A's retirement did for that model.
Ref. 15300: A More Affordable Alternative
The ref. 15300ST is a more affordable alternative to the 15202ST. This model debuted in 2005 and also measures 39 mm in diameter. However, at 9.4 mm tall, it is over 1 mm thicker than the 15202ST. This is largely due to the caliber 3120, which ticks at 21,600 vph and has a 60-hour power reserve. You can also recognize the 15300 by its central second hand.
You can purchase the stainless steel Royal Oak 15300ST for about 31,500 USD. The rose gold variant (15300OR) costs a few hundred dollars less.
The 41-mm Royal Oak
Those who prefer larger timepieces should consider the ref. 15400ST and its successor, the ref. 15500ST. Both models pair the Royal Oak's iconic design with a larger, 41-mm case. The main difference between these two timepieces is their movements. While the 15400ST uses the in-house caliber 3120, the 15500ST features the in-house caliber 4302 with a balance frequency of 28,800 vph and 70-hour power reserve. The latter caliber first appeared in the Code 11.59 collection in 2019.
Prices for both watches are quite similar, with stainless steel editions selling for around 36,500 USD. You can easily spot gold models by the last two letters in their reference numbers: "OR" stands for rose gold, "BC" for white gold, and "BA" for yellow gold. At over 79,000 USD, these watches are more than twice as expensive as their stainless steel counterparts.
The Royal Oak for Women
Audemars Piguet offers women's Royal Oak models that measure between 33 and 37 mm in diameter. These timepieces boast the collection's classic design, though the 33-mm editions get their power from quartz calibers. Furthermore, select versions feature diamonds on their bezels, dials, or cases. You can also choose between watches on a classic metal bracelet or alligator leather strap.
The 33-mm Royal Oak Quartz costs anywhere from 22,500 USD in stainless steel to 120,000 USD in gold with a generous helping of diamonds. The 34 and 37-mm versions feature automatic calibers and demand between 24,000 and 40,500 USD in stainless steel. Top models like the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked with an intricately skeletonized movement and gold case sell for around 100,000 USD.
The Royal Oak With Complications
Fans of complicated timepieces will also find several attractive options in the Royal Oak collection. Here, the star of the show is the Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication. The skeletonized in-house caliber 2885 provides this 44-mm stainless steel timepiece with a split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar, week display, moon phase, and minute repeater. Of course, all this functionality comes at a price – namely 761,000 USD.
At 250,000 USD, the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin is much less expensive yet no less impressive. This 41-mm model boasts a perpetual calendar with moon phase, leap year, and day/night displays. Despite this, the final timepiece is only 6.3 mm thick. AP crafts the case and bracelet from a combination of titanium and platinum components, resulting in a very comfortable wristwatch.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar measures 41 mm in diameter and 9.5 mm thick. While it is slightly larger than its Ultra-Thin sister model, this timepiece is still very pleasant on the wrist. The manufacturer offers versions in platinum, gold, stainless steel, titanium, or ceramic. The stainless steel editions are the most budget-friendly and sell for roughly 97,500 USD. Prices for a yellow or rose gold variant come in at around 149,000 USD.
The titanium Perpetual Calendar model is especially interesting for collectors, as AP only ever produced 88 copies in this metal. Furthermore, these watches were exclusively available on the Chinese market. You can occasionally find examples on Chrono24 for about 174,000 USD. Plan to spend an additional 18,500 USD for a Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic. The same watch in white ceramic will set you back approximately 234,000 USD. Finally, the platinum edition tops the price charts at around 244,000 USD.
The Royal Oak Chronograph
The chronograph is one of the most popular complications, so it should come as no surprise that it appears in the Royal Oak collection. Audemars Piguet produces the Royal Oak Chronograph in two sizes: 38 and 41 mm. There are various stainless steel and gold models available, as well as different dial colors, including white, black, blue, purple, brown, and gray. From a technological perspective, these watches are all identical. Each case houses the caliber 2385 with a 40-hour power reserve. This movement comes with a minute counter at 3, a date at 4:30, a small seconds at 6, and an hour counter at 9 o'clock.
You can purchase a 38-mm stainless steel model for just over 40,000 USD. The 41-mm version costs only slightly more at 42,500 USD. AP also offers white and rose gold editions, which demand between 63,000 and 103,000 USD depending on their size. White gold models with a matte "frosted" finish are particularly nice to look at and sell for about 105,000 USD.
Audemars Piguet introduced a re-worked Royal Oak Chronograph in spring 2021. You can find this 41-mm rose gold model under the reference number 26239OR. At first glance, this timepiece looks nearly identical to its predecessor. However, upon closer inspection, you'll notice that the subdials have shifted, and the hour and minute counters now sit at 3 and 9 o'clock, respectively. This change is the result of the in-house caliber 4401. This movement features a column wheel with vertical coupling, a flyback function, and a 70-hour power reserve. The manufacturer lists this watch for 66,300 USD on a rose gold bracelet and 45,800 USD on an alligator leather strap.
The Royal Oak With a Tourbillon
The tourbillion is among the most prestigious complications in all of watchmaking. The Royal Oak collection contains several timepieces with this technological marvel. You'll find options with classic Breguet-style tourbillons and others with flying tourbillons. The latter version first appeared in a Royal Oak in 2020 and lacks the upper bridge of a traditional tourbillion.
Both the Royal Oak Flying Tourbillion Automatic and Royal Oak Tourbillon Ultra-Thin are 41 mm in diameter and available in stainless steel, titanium, gold, or platinum. You can also choose from different dial styles, including the classic "petite tapisserie," a frosted look, and what AP calls "evolutive tapisserie," where the grid "tapisserie" pattern radiates outward from a central point. As of 2021, Audemars Piguet offers a model with a dark green dial, though its numbers are strictly limited. The manufacturer will only produce 10 copies in rose gold, 15 in white gold with emeralds, and 50 in titanium.
Prices for a Royal Oak Tourbillion depend on the edition and its material and range from 222,000 USD to 320,000 USD.
The History of the Royal Oak
The earliest ideas for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak date all the way back to 1971. At the time, Georges Golay was the general director of the family business. Carlo de Marchi, Audemars Piguet's distributor in Italy at the time, turned to Golay in 1971 and requested a new, multi-purpose watch. The watch had to be suitable for taking a drive in your car, sailing on a yacht, spending an evening in good company, or going out to the club. De Marchi suggested stainless steel for the case and bracelet material.
AP tasked Gérald Genta with designing the first Royal Oak. Within a few days, the renowned watch designer submitted his first draft, taking traditional diving helmets as his inspiration. The result was a wide, octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws that resembled a ship's porthole. The grooves in the screws all align perfectly, which is made possible by screwing the bolts in from below. Moreover, the heads of the screws are even with the bezel and connect it and the rubber seal to the case. Thus, the screws have both a practical and artistic function.
Furthermore, Genta suggested an integrated steel bracelet that tapers as it approaches the clasp. The responsible parties at Audemars Piguet liked the ideas so much that they didn't change a thing, and the watch, internally nicknamed "Safari," made its debut at the 1972 Basel watch fair.
For the first Royal Oak prototypes, Audemars Piguet used cases made of white gold, as the material is more malleable and easier to polish than stainless steel. The Royal Oak struggled out of the gate. With a diameter of 39 mm, it was much larger than many other luxury watches. It was also expensive for a stainless steel watch, costing 3,650 CHF. In total, only 400 watches sold in the first three years. Above all, German customers appreciated the avant-garde and flat design. The watch eventually became a bestseller and the brand's flagship watch.