The Royal Oak, with its masculine octagonal case, exposed screws, and integrated bracelet is one of the most distinctive watches in the market today. It is imposing and recognizable, and in my opinion, one of the best statement watches money can buy. On top of this, with the current craze for integrated bracelet sports watches and many brands producing their own version, it was the Royal Oak that started it all.
The Royal Oak is not only famous for what it looks like, but also for how it was introduced. First released in the ’70s, the original Ref. 5402 was a bold stainless-steel watch designed by Gerald Genta that created shockwaves. It was designed as a luxury sports watch and the scandalous part was that it was priced accordingly- the same as an equivalent gold watch of its era. People just could not accept that a pedestrian material such as steel could be priced so exorbitantly and consequently, it was not very popular. It was only after some time that the public saw this as something genuinely original and avant-garde. Today though, the Royal Oak is an icon.
While it has always been about the ‘Jumbo’ or larger-sized Royal Oaks, in recent times, there has been a growing appreciation for mid-sized examples, which is the Ref. 14790. This is certainly in line with the large watch trend ending as collectors are beginning to appreciate proportionate and more elegantly sized watches. Since the reference’s introduction in the late 1980s, Audemars Piguet had designated the Ref. 14790 as a canvas to experiment with different metal combinations and dial designs, in order to appeal to a wider audience at the time.
What we have on offer here today isn’t exactly the Ref. 14790, but rather, a derivative from the reference, and an exotic one at that. This is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref. 14813BA “Rubies” with a gorgeous factory-set pave diamond dial and bezel. According to Audemars Piguet, the Ref. 14813 was actually made with 12 different dial variants, the most common being the version made with lapis lazuli. Ultimately, this is a reference that you don’t usually see out in the wild, I can guarantee you that much.
With this Ref. 14813BA, you will find a diamond-studded dial that is tastefully decorated (factory-set) with pave diamonds with 11 contrasting rubies as hour markers to mark the passage of time. It also features a contrasting set of hands for legibility, a date window aperture at the 3 o ‘clock position, and a very discreet “AP” logo applied at 12 o ‘clock. Additionally, its iconic porthole-inspired bezel with 8 screws is bedazzled with 40 more diamonds. As far as proportions go, it shares all the hallmarks of the Ref. 14790 in terms of its modest 36mm case diameter, as well as a 36-jeweled Cal. 2225 movement, which was derived from Jaeger LeCoultre’s Cal. 889.
While I am not exactly a fan of diamond timepieces (read: “iced-out” pieces) in general, there is something about this particular Ref. 14813BA which still manages to make my heart flutter. If I had to put a finger on it, it is most probably due to the masterful overall balance of the design elements here that makes the Ref. 14813BA a glamorous yet tasteful diamond timepiece. It is opulent in appearance but not overdone, and coupled with an understated case size, you have a winning formula that is the Ref. 14813BA. If brands that offer diamond-set pieces follow the formula set down here by Audemars Piguet, I might actually develop a taste for such timepieces.
The Ref. 14813BA is probably a reference not many collectors are used to seeing in the secondary market due to its rarity and its uncommon dial configuration, but that is exactly what makes this Ref. 14813BA so special. If you are a collector who has a palate for timepieces with factory-set diamonds and a classic aesthetic (and also, great taste), I suggest you take a closer look at this attractive-looking Ref. 14813BA.