Arguably one of the most iconic watches of all time, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak's reputation precedes itself within watch collecting circles. Released to fight the Quartz Crisis in the 70s, the Royal Oak's avant-garde design and unconventional case as a stainless steel luxury sports watch from a traditional member of the Holy Trinity shocked the watchmaking world enough that brands quickly followed and brought out their own versions.
Originally weighing in at 39mm, the Royal Oak's massive, for the time case was a hard pill to swallow for a customer base used to smaller dress watches. But, alas, the Royal Oak eventually found widespread success as collectors began to see the merit in its unusual integrated bracelet, exposed screw-laden octagonal bezel, and Petite Tapisserie dial. Following its success, Audemars Piguet has continued the collection with several evolutions through the decades, with the ref. 15300ST merging the collection's original design with modern watchmaking mechanics.
Released in the early 2000s, the ref. 15300ST introduced an in-house movement for the first time in the collection's history while retaining the original's 39mm case size and Petite Tapisserie dial. Powered by the cal. 3120, the ref. 15300ST was a serious engineering step-up from the Royal Oaks of the past with an impressive 60-hours of power reserve stemming from a single barrel and a Gyromax balance. Featuring a balance bridge – not a balance cock as was used in the past (and still to this day in models like the ref. 15202), the cal. 3120 is suitable as a genuine sports watch movement. As the balance assembly is anchored to two points in the movement, the cal. 3120 is a significant improvement on the single-anchor design that balance cock-set movements employ as it is far more stable. Furthermore, the cal. 3120 features a date mechanism equipped with a safety system that prevents the date disk from malfunctioning if the user resets the date at midnight.
Featuring a bright white dial, the variant I have here is a monochromatic stunner as its finely polished and satin-brushed stainless steel construction highlights the array of shapes and shadows case by its "Petite Tapisserie" pattern. A modern take on an iconic design, the ref. 15300ST blends legendary design with modern creature comforts with great effect.
While since then the 15300 has been succeeded by the 15400 and the most recent 15500, the original 39mm sizing remains a collector favorite as supposed to the newer 41mm sizing. I do believe that this is because it is not only faithful to the original but also because the proportions seem to work much better in this dimension.