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.
Despite stainless steel being the iconic metal that started it all, the world tends to forget that the very first luxury steel sports watch wasn’t just released in one metal, Audemars Piguet also began making versions in precious metal. The example you see here is exactly that - a Ref. 5402BA in 18-carat yellow gold. Equally desired and much, much rarer than its stainless-steel counterpart, this particular watch is made even more special as it came fitted with a luscious and beautiful champagne-colored tapisserie dial and applied index markers as opposed to the usual grey dials you see in the market.
Encased within its emblematic 39mm x 7mm, 18-carat yellow gold case is the 36-jeweled, self-winding Cal. 2121, derived from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ultra-thin Cal. 920, a movement that is considered by many as one of the most stunning and refined automatic calibers ever made.
What makes the Royal Oak in any form so alluring to many lies in the paradoxical nature of its existence. Beginning with how it was supposed to be a sports steel watch but was priced as expensive as a gold dress watch, this 5402BA follows suit in that tradition with a supposed ‘sports’ watch being crafted in 18-carat gold and infused with a stunning champagne dial. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense, but the joy and philosophies of collecting have never been so much about ‘sense’ as much as it has been about evoking an emotion within the user. With this highly collectible and supremely rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402BA, what you get is a piece of perhaps the most iconic watch model in the world in stunning condition.