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 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. Today though, the Royal Oak is an icon.
While the Royal Oaks was initially made famous by the use of stainless steel, it was always a natural progression to also produce examples in precious metals, and that is exactly what Audemars Piguet did. Furthermore, it also made sense to add complications to the initial time-only Royal Oak. What we have here today is the culmination of just that- the 18k Yellow Gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar 25654BA.
First released in 1982, the Ref. 25654 came at a time when the Swiss industry was reeling from the Quartz Crisis. With declining sales and extinction in sight, it would seem like absolute madness for Audemars Piguet to release a complicated mechanical watch in a yellow gold sports case, but that is exactly what they did. Featuring a perpetual calendar complication and a four sub-dial layout to display the day, date, month, and moon phase, there is a certain beautiful symmetry in the sub-dials that contrasts with the octagonal shape of the case, giving off a very balanced, proportionate aesthetic.
Combining this with the solid 18k yellow gold case and the matching champagne dial, what you get is a truly impressive watch. While Royal Oaks are most iconic in stainless steel, I have to say that there is a certain inexplicable aura when it is made in yellow gold. You kind of start to understand it when you put it on your wrist. I think it has something to do with the perfectly finished and reflective brushed, beveled, and polished gold surfaces combined with the immense weight of the watch- it really is like no other.
Furthermore, the 39mm case sits much better on the wrist than the newer 41mms as it has better proportions and is more faithful to the original Genta-designed Royal Oak. In fact, the movement inside this watch is the same you will find on the Jumbo models as it is the legendary JLC Cal. 2120 with a perpetual calendar module built on top. As a result, this watch shares the same thickness as the modern 15202’s with a slightly thicker bezel to accommodate the perpetual calendar module. For such a complicated watch that takes into account how many days each month has, this is truly impressive.
The discontinued Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars have become immensely popular in the last few years and it's easy to see why. For a long time, they were under-appreciated and I am glad to see that finally collectors are taking this reference seriously.
In fact, part of the reason why there is a renewed interest in perpetual calendar Royal Oaks is that AP themselves have been releasing many of their iconic new models with this collection, from the black and white ceramic models, including the most recent open-worked version, and of course the insane RD2 ultra, ultra-thin.
The perpetual calendar complication and the Royal Oak is seen today as an iconic pairing and one that is synonymous with the brand. With this early, historically important reference paving the way, it is no doubt a must-have for connoisseurs of the brand. With only 422 examples produced between 1982 and 1993, the Ref. 25654BA is not a watch you will see every day.