The Royal Oak, with its masculine octagonal case, exposed screws, and integrated bracelet is one of the most distinctive watches on the market today. It is imposing and recognizable, and in my opinion, one of the best statement watches money can buy.
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, making the Royal Oak an icon.
While the Royal Oak’s association with steel is fundamental to its history, it was a natural progression to include gold in the lineup. There is just something about a solid gold sports watch that is so cool and this example here today is a testament to that.
While to most, every Royal Oak looks the same, to those who know- the reference 15202 sits above and beyond the rest both in aesthetics and demand. While Audemars Piguet has made many variants of time-only Royal Oaks, the 15202 is the one that is most faithful to the original Ref. 5402 and as such, shares the ‘Jumbo’ nickname. Sized at 39mm and using the same JLC-derived Cal. 2121 as the original, this is the Royal Oak for the purists. Two hands, 8.1mm, and a beautiful sapphire caseback with a decorated rotor- it sits with perfect proportionality on the wrist.
The stainless steel 15202 is always spoken about and perhaps the model that is most desired, but in my opinion, the gold models are the ones to go for in the lineup. Of course, I understand that it is harder to pull off gold, but the sheer weight and shine of this 15202BA are unbeatable in its presence. With the recent discontinuation of the 15202 in 2021, the rarest, non-limited production piece would have to be the example you see here today- the 15202 in yellow gold with a matching champagne dial. Released in 2017 and made for only four years in extremely low quantities, there is a certain old-school charm to a gold-on-gold watch that works so well for the Royal Oak. The light play and tones you get from the different gold surfaces, from the champagne tappiserie dial to the brushed and polished beveled case really speaks volumes about just how special this watch feels.
Gold over steel for me.