Reference Points: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
The many lives of a watch that spawned a whole new genre of watchmaking.
For the 10th issue of HODINKEE Magazine, we did something we’ve done before: A Reference Points article. However, we did it in a way we’d never done a Reference Points article before. As a general rule, Reference Points focuses on a single model and how it has evolved over the years in which it was (and is) in production, with a very granular look at the details which distinguish one from the other. Classic examples from earlier issues include Reference Points: The Rolex GMT Master and Reference Points: The Rolex Sea-Dweller.
For Volume 10, however, we decided to look at the history and evolution of one of the world’s most famous and most desired timepieces – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The Royal Oak, as any enthusiast knows, is not a single model. Rather, it’s dozens upon dozens of models, both simple and complicated (sometimes extremely complicated), which AP has been making since the first Royal Oak was introduced in 1972.
In order to make the story more tractable, we decided to focus on the simplest, and some might say, purest expression of the Royal Oak, which are the models with only the time and date. These include the various Jumbo models, the follow-up designs by Jacqueline Dimier from the 1970s, as well as the mid-size watches first introduced in series production in 1980 – and all the way up to this year, and the introduction of the ref. 16202 Jumbo, with the all-new caliber 7121. The magazine article also takes a very close look at both the myths and realities of the inspiration, design, and launch of the first Royal Oak, the ref. 5402.
We hope this video will give you a taste of the decades-long saga of the Royal Oak, and give viewers (and readers of the magazine) a sense of the basic and most important landmarks in the Royal Oak’s development. Of course, with (according to AP) over fifty different versions of the mid-size models alone, we won’t be presenting a comprehensive catalogue of all models. But we do think that for many, a chronicle of significant moments in the Royal Oak’s history will provide a valuable overall look at how this essential and indispensable part of the modern watchmaking landscape has evolved.