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 recognisable, 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 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 sport 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.
To the untrained eye, all Royal Oaks might seem identical, but for those in the know, the Ref. 15202 stands out in terms of both its visual appeal and demand. Among the numerous iterations of time-only Royal Oaks created by Audemars Piguet, the Ref. 15202 stands out as the one that most faithfully pays homage to the original Ref. 5402, earning it the 'Jumbo' nickname. With its 39mm size and use of the same Jaeger LeCoultre-derived Cal. 2121 as the original, this model is the Royal Oak designed for purists. It features just two hands, has a slim profile at 8.1mm, and boasts a captivating sapphire caseback with an intricately decorated rotor. When worn, it sits on the wrist with impeccable balance and proportionality.
The stainless steel Ref. 15202 is frequently discussed and is possibly the most coveted model, but in my view, the gold variants are the true hidden gems within the collection. I acknowledge that trying to pull off gold presents its own set of challenges, but the sheer heft and brilliance of the Ref. 15202OR is unparalleled when it is in front of you. The pairing of the gleaming blue tapisserie dial with the rose gold case is a perfect match, and the interplay of light from the case's edges to the sparkling blue surface makes this watch one of my all-time favorites. Gold over steel for me.
With the 15202 now discontinued for the newer 16202, this makes it the last time Audemars Piguet will ever use the legendary Cal. 2121 as they have now moved on to an in-house caliber. Some may say for the better, but for the nostalgic ones like us, it represents the end of an era.