The sad reality is that if you’re waiting to stumble upon a popular Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch, you’re going to pay a premium price for it. On the pre-owned market, some of the most collectable models are rare, whilst new Royal Oak watches have a huge waiting list. Yet for true Audemars Piguet aficionados, these are small prices to pay.
The watch boasts an instantly recognisable octagonal-shaped bezel with 8 hexagonal screws and an emblematic “Tapisserie” dial that is manufactured with rare expertise. Hand polished and satin-brushed finishes implemented into the case of a Royal Oak watch add to the model’s unique charm, whilst an integrated bracelet underscored the desirable “steel sports watch” character that took the world by storm during the time of its huge success during the 1970s and 1980s. Before we look at some of the most popular Audemars Piguet watches it’s worth looking at the history of this iconic luxury sports watch and how it spearheaded the industry back in 1972 with its dashingly good looks and impressive precision.
It was at the Basel Fair in Switzerland, 1972 when Audemars Piguet presented the first Royal Oak watch. Its daring and revolutionary design became a huge international success, leading to its reputation now as one of the world’s most iconic luxury watch designs ever.
During the time of its release, Japan had caused a serious crisis in Switzerland with its quartz-powered watches, sending the Swiss watch industry into collapse. Few brands survived, including Le Brassus-based Audemars Piguet. Helping it survive financial collapse was this disruptive design that caught people’s attention with its sporty yet elegant aesthetics.
The design of the Royal Oak was down to a man named Gerald Genta who developed the concept of the watch on the eve of the 1971 Basel fair, having received a call from Audemars Piguet’s managing director at the time. He explained that the Swiss market was expecting an “unprecedented steel watch” for which he needed a design promptly. By the following morning, the Royal Oak had been designed.
It was characterised by an octagonal-shaped bezel, 8 hexagonal-shaped screws, a water-resistant gasket, an exclusive “petit tapisserie” dial, a slim 7mm case depth, an integrated bracelet and a 38mm case diameter. The watch was inspired by a traditional diver’s helmet and boasted a distinct pothole-inspired shape.
The Royal Oak is now one of the most sought-after luxury watches on the market and interestingly, the beautifully finished self-winding Calibre 2121 that first powered the Royal Oak is still used for modern models like the Royal Oak Jumbo today.
On the pre-owned market, Royal Oak Watches can cost anything between $28,000 to $760,000 depending on the design, the material and its rarity. As a general rule, women’s quartz-powered Royal Oak watches serve as an entry point into the collection with steel versions that cost around $22,000 compared to gold variations that cost around $44,000. Men’s Royal Oak watches cost more. A stainless steel men’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch in good condition can cost around $31,000 whilst gold versions cost around $79,000. Vintage models from the 1970s like the Royal Oak ref. 5402 can change hands for around $67,000, as well as other expensive models like the 20th anniversary Royal Oak watch ref. 14802, which now costs anywhere between $54,000 and $232,000 depending on its condition.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Open-worked Grand Complication ref. 26065IS.OO.1105IS.01 is one of the most complex of Royal Oak watches. It exposes the workings and meticulous arrangement of the Calibre 2885 through its dial and through its sapphire crystal glass bottom. Capable of delivering a 45-hour power reserve, the self-winding movement features a split-second chronograph, a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater. The watch is crafted from titanium for a lightweight finish on the wrist and has been integrated with 20-meter water resistance. Its beautiful open-worked dial exposes a striking mechanism combined with astronomical indications. A 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock is balanced by a small second sub-dial combined with a date ring. A leap year counter at 6 o’clock is accompanied by a month ring and sits adjacent to a 12 o’clock moon phase indicator housed underneath a sapphire crystal glass front. White gold hands interact with a lustrous titanium bracelet and a folding clasp engraved with the AP logo. By no means is this model one of the simplest or most affordable Audemars Piguet watches, but this Royal Oak is implemented with plenty of technical expertise.
Case/Dial: 44mm Steel, Sapphire dial, smoky counters, white gold Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating, white counter/seconds/split-seconds chronograph hands, black inner bezel with white minute-circle, slate grey movement
Movement: 2885, Self-winding
Functions: Combining the 3 categories of horological complications represented by short-time measurement, striking mechanisms and astronomical indications, this model driven by in-house calibre 2885 was hand-crafted by a single master-watchmaker in the Audemars Piguet grande complication workshop., 45h power reserve
Strap: Titanium bracelet with AP folding clasp
A 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock is balanced by a small second sub-dial combined with a date ring. A leap year counter at 6 o’clock is accompanied by a month ring and sits adjacent to a 12 o’clock moon phase indicator housed underneath a sapphire crystal glass front. White gold hands interact with a lustrous titanium bracelet and a folding clasp engraved with the AP logo. By no means is this model one of the simplest or most affordable Audemars Piguet watches, but this Royal Oak is implemented with plenty of technical expertise.
If you’re looking for a more affordable version of the iconic Royal Oak ref. 540ST, the Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin watch is a modern interpretation that is found in the manufacturer’s current catalogue. The ref. 15202ST.OO.1240ST.01 is a simple time and date model that features a blue “Petite Tapisserie” pattern adorned with 18ct white gold Royal Oak hands treated with Super-LumiNova and the iconic brand name located at 12 o’clock. A scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass top secures to the watch’s octagonal-shaped bezel with the unmissable hexagonal screws bolted down upon its brushed surface.
Case/Dial: 39mm Steel, Blue dial with “Petite Tapisserie” pattern, white gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating
Movement: 2121, Self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, and date, 40h power reserve
Strap: Stainless Steel
The date window resides at 3 o’clock, whilst the hour markers take the form of stick indexes for a clean and uncluttered display. This stainless steel case evokes the original profile of the steel sports watch and comes fitted with an integrated stainless steel bracelet, with links executed in a brushed effect. The model measures a compact and very manageable 39mm diameter, making it a great option for slender wrists. The “Extra-Thin” reference in its name refers to the case’s slim 8.1mm depth. As mentioned, the Calibre 2121 is the self-winding engine that sits inside this 50-meter water-resistant case. It comprises 347 components and provides a 40-hour power reserve whilst beating at 19,600 vibrations per hour.
For an on-the-go calendar, the Royal Oak ref. 26574BA.OO.1220BA.01 provides you with accurate timekeeping, along with the days and months of the year upon a legible dial, all encased within an iconic design. This model, with its 18ct yellow gold case, creates a statement on the wrist. It measures a larger 41mm diameter, promises 20-meter water resistance, and presents the time on a “Grande Tapisserie” decorated dial.
Case/Dial: 41mm 18-carat yellow gold , Blue dial with “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, yellow gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating, blue inner bezel.
Movement: 5134, Self-winding
Functions: Perpetual calendar with week indication, day, date, astronomical moon, month, leap year, hours and minutes., 40h power reserve
Strap: 18-carat yellow gold bracelet with AP folding clasp.
Against this deep blue display, you will find the date register at 3 o’clock, a moon phase indicator at 6 o’clock, a day ring at 9 o’clock and a leap year combined with the months of the year at 12 o’clock. These features are all accompanied by a set of yellow gold applied hour markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating, as well as a blue inner bezel displaying the weeks of the year. The watch conveys a strong sense of luxury with its 18ct yellow gold bracelet securing with an AP folding clasp and the model is powered by the Calibre 5134, which delivers an impressive 40-hour power reserve. If you need a wristwatch that pairs well with formal or elegant evening attire, this is the ultimate Royal Oak watch to own.
This member of the Royal Oak collection combines an exclusive open-heart tourbillon feature against its stunning black “Tapisserie Evolutive” pattern with a remarkably thin case. The watch has been crafted from polished and satin-finished ceramic and measures a 41mm diameter. The 50-meter water-resistant watch is harder than steel and promises exceptional resistance to scratching. White gold applied hour markers join a set of Royal Oak hands and a beautiful open-heart feature that puts the tourbillon on full display.
Case/Dial: 41mm Black ceramic case, Black dial with “Tapisserie Evolutive” pattern, white gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating.
Movement: 2924, Self-winding
Functions: Hours/Minutes, 69h power reserve
Strap: Black ceramic bracelet with titanium AP folding clasp.
This feature takes pride of place at 6 o’clock and sits under a strong sapphire crystal glass front – a material that is also repeated at the back of the case, granting a clear view of the Calibre 2924. Complete with its black ceramic bracelet and folding clasp, this Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin watch exudes a stealthy and youthful look on the wrist. The watch is made all the more desirable by the fact that it is one of just 100 pieces manufactured worldwide.
Whether in search of a vintage Royal Oak watch or looking for a modern interpretation that conveys all the original features of the much-loved icon, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch will always make for a safe investment. This fine choice in watch will never tire of its universally appealing design and ruggedly handsome looks. The Porthole-inspired collectable is a diverse timepiece that continues to appeal to investors and experienced collectors alike.