The Royal Oak was a groundbreaking model both for the Audemars Piguet brand and for the watch industry as whole. The watch’s strikingly unconventional look turned the world of luxury watch design upside down. It features a hexagonal bezel, exposed screws, and integrated bracelet. Although its unique, bold, and unusual construction was polarizing at first, the Royal Oak was ultimately a hit. In fact, it has become the brand’s flagship model. Buying an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch means owning one of the most memorable and iconic designs ever made. Browse our selection of exceptional used Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches for sale.
A few important moments led to the monumental debut of the Royal Oak in 1972. First, there’s the onset of the Quartz Crisis, which left the watch industry as a whole in great danger. Every traditional watchmaker and watch brand felt the impact, and many, like Audemars Piguet, struggled to stay relevant and afloat. Another factor that ultimately led to the development of the Royal Oak is good old-fashioned market research. Audemars Piguet felt they’d exhausted their resources in-house yet needed to keep reaching for new solutions to sustain the company. In turn, they harnessed the power of their customers for guidance and new direction.
In 1971, they heard about the growing popularity of stainless steel from the Italian market. Up until this point, stainless steel had only been used in more casual or working class sport and tool watches. Then came the eve of the 1972 Swiss Watch Show (now known as Baselworld). The managing director of Audemars Piguet, George Golay, met with the famed watch designer Gerald Genta. Golay told Genta of the market research, the growing popularity of stainless steel, and the desire to create a sort of luxury sport watch. The only catch: they needed it the following day to present at the Swiss Watch Show. Genta delivered what he considered one of the great masterpieces of his career, and the Royal Oak was born.
The design of the Royal Oak was completely novel and strikingly unconventional. It featured an octagonal bezel,hexagonal exposed screws, and integrated bracelet. Yet, the design itself was not the only groundbreaking feat in the world of watchmaking. The Royal Oak filled a void in the market that most didn’t know was there. It opened up an entirely new category of watches: the luxury sport watch. Its superlative hand-finishing (once only reserved for dress watches) was contrasted by functions like a noticeable water resistance gasket. The Royal Oak was ready for a business meeting or an impromptu adventure. It had it all and could do it all.
Yet, the Royal Oak wasn’t an instant success. The design was initially polarizing. In fact, many folks in the industry predicted it might be the final nail in Audemars Piguet’s coffin. It took over a year to sell the first 1000 pieces, but the brand stuck with the design and it paid off. Now, that first batch of 1000 Royal Oak models with the Reference 5402, also known as the A-Series, have become some of the most highly sought after in the pre-owned market.
Today, the Royal Oak has become the centerpiece of the Audemars Piguet brand. In more recent years, the brand pushed the boundaries of watchmaking by experimenting with innovative techniques and materials for the collection. For instance, in 2018, they debuted the Royal Oak Frosted Gold, which incorporates a unique hammered finish. A year later, Audemars Piguet added several ceramic iterations to the Royal Oak collection.
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