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.
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. Today though, in line with the craze for stainless steel, the Royal Oak is an icon.
Traditionally, the spotlight has always been on the classic stainless steel or precious metal Royal Oaks. However, over the past decade, Audemars Piguet has ventured into extensive experimentation by utilizing an alternative material for its iconic Royal Oak cases—ceramic. The inaugural full black ceramic model was first introduced in early 2011 (in the form of the massive 48mm Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘The Legacy’ Chronograph), since then, numerous iterations have followed, incorporating various high-end complications such as the open-worked perpetual calendar, the tourbillon, etc. That said, the Ref. 77350CE, offered today, was introduced in 2021 and marks the inaugural ceramic time-only Royal Oak with a 34mm case size.
Starting with its full black ceramic case, it is essential to acknowledge that working with ceramic poses considerable technical challenges due to its intrinsic hardness and lightweight nature. Despite the technical difficulty, Audemars Piguet remained steadfast in their commitment to maintaining the renowned level of finishing and distinctive characteristics that define the Royal Oak. When you run your fingers over the case of the Ref. 77350CE, you'll discover that it impeccably retains all the signature finishes of the Royal Oak – highly polished bevels along the edges, a satin-brushed mid-case, and vertically brushed surfaces on the bezel. This meticulous level of finishing and attention to detail seamlessly extends to the bracelet as well. As we all know, Audemars Piguet produces some of the most exquisite and robust integrated bracelets for their Royal Oaks, and the one on the Ref. 77350CE is no exception. Notably, the assembly of the bracelet alone demands a whopping 30 hours (and more), resulting in a truly stunning ceramic bracelet.
Moving on to the dial, the Ref. 77350CE showcases Audemars Piguet's distinctive Grande Tapisserie motif in a complete black rendition, tastefully accentuated by rose gold appliqué hour markers and a pair of hands that match the screws on the bezel. A subtle yet thoughtful detail here is the discreet date window aperture at 3 o'clock, featuring a matching black wheel, which helped maintain the Ref. 77350CE’s blacked-out aesthetic.
Turn the watch over, and you'll be greeted by a titanium caseback with a sapphire crystal encasing the Vaucher-based Cal. 5800. This beautifully decorated self-winding movement boasts Côte de Genève stripes, impeccable finishing, and a splendid gold rotor with an engraved ‘AP’ logo. It also holds a power reserve of 50 hours when fully wound.
As a whole, the Ref. 77350CE is a captivating blend of a classically styled aesthetic executed to a very high level using modern cutting-edge materials. Regarding concerns about the 34mm case size, I will say this – sometimes, the numbers on paper may not accurately convey the actual proportions of a timepiece. In this case (no pun intended), the 34mm case size just works. It offsets a bit of the aggressiveness that comes with the blacked-out ceramic, enhanced by just enough rose gold accents to make a subtle yet distinctive statement. Perfectly ideal for individuals seeking a touch of discretion in a modern luxury sports watch like the Royal Oak, I’d say.