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, and what it represented during its inception. During the early 1970s, the watchmaking industry was conquered by quartz watches, which were thought to be the future of watchmaking. These new quartz watches, introduced by Japanese brands like Seiko and Casio, were much more accurate and cost-effective in comparison to the traditional and more expensive Swiss watches at the time. One of the brands that suffered greatly was Audemars Piguet, which led to the eventual engagement of the late Gerald Genta in hopes of potentially turning things around for the Maison. What did he do? He came out with a large mechanical sports watch in steel. It was then heavily marketed 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.
During that time, people just could not fathom, let alone accept that a common material such as steel could be priced so exorbitantly, and as a result, the Royal Oak did not do too well in terms of sales numbers and overall public reception. It was only after some time that the public gradually saw the Royal Oak as something genuinely original and avant-garde. In contrast to today though, the Royal Oak is an icon, not just to watch enthusiasts/connoisseurs, but also in the eyes of the non-watch-loving general public.
The example you see here today is no stranger to most passionate collectors of Audemars Piguet, this is the discontinued Ref. 15400 in stainless steel with a stunning white dial. Produced until 2019 and subsequently succeeded by the Ref. 15500, the biggest difference over its predecessor the Ref. 15300 was that the size was increased to 41mm. Other than that, it faithfully retained all other aesthetic cues and an overall design staying true to the Royal Oak DNA.
The dial execution on this Ref. 15400ST is nothing short of exquisite, as expected from a ‘typical’ Royal Oak. As far as dial design goes, it features a pure silvery white dial that hosts a charming “Petit Tapisserie” motif which we all love. You will also find white-gold applied hour markers around the periphery of the dial, a date window aperture at the 3 o ‘clock position, and an applied “AP” logo at the 12.
Turn the Ref. 15400ST over and you will be greeted by a glorious self-winding, 40-jeweled, in-house Cal. 3120, beating away at 21,600 bph behind the sapphire caseback. This Cal. 3120 features a total of 280 different components and a beautifully engraved 22-carat gold rotor at its center. It also boasts a power reserve of 60 hours.
After spending some time with the Ref. 15400ST, all I can say is that this is a relatively simple timepiece with an incredibly balanced and minimalist design. I felt that the silvery white dial on this Ref. 15400ST is the perfect canvas and also lends the watch a somewhat pure and calming demeanor. I know, a little unusual when describing a watch of this caliber, but there is something to be said about a stainless steel watch with a well-executed white dial. When done right (especially the proportions), it can be the most versatile option in any enthusiast/connoisseur’s watch box. In my view, this Ref. 15400ST here is one such example.