The demand for high-end sports watches is at an all-time peak. If you want to know where the modern luxury sports watch came from, you have to start with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The first Royal Oak was the Ref. 5402ST, which was introduced at Baselworld in 1972 and crafted by the then-unknown watch creator Gérald Genta.
The HMS Royal Oak warships of the Royal Navy sparked the idea of this concept, and the peculiar octagonal bezel is said to be fascinated by the portholes of these vessels. Between 1769 and 1914, the Royal Navy welcomed four battleships with this title, which has even greater origins. The initial Royal Oak was an oak tree that rescued Charles II of England’s life when he hid inside it to avoid apprehension during the Puritan Revolution in 1651. This tree is now regarded as a symbol of the United Kingdom.
Royal Oak 5402ST – 1972
Between 1972 and the late 1970s, the first Royal Oak ref 5402ST was produced. Audemars Piguet manufactured 1,000 watches without an alphabetic character in the production number as a component of the first batch. The company then produced four different series, labeled A through D, based on minor differences in specifications, such as the clasp or movement. The Audemars Piguet price for this item during that time is estimated to be between $3,970.
Audemars Piguet specialized in small dress timepieces with complicated mechanisms that decade. The Royal Oak was the company’s first sports watch, and it was a game-changer. Ignoring the fact that it is a sports watch with a water resistance of up to 50m, the case is only 7mm thick, giving it the appearance of a dress watch. Thinness invariably leads to greater coziness, but combining sturdiness and slimness is incredibly difficult. Genta was able to accomplish this by creating a two-piece case with a gasket between the case and the bezel.
There are several distinguishing features in the layout as well. The interconnected stainless-steel parts and bracelets, for example, have both satin and polished finishes to give them a three-dimensional presence. The Royal Oak was an extremely creative watch in these ways, but it was not well received at the time. It had a case that measured 39mm in diameter, which was unusually enormous at the time, earning it the moniker “Jumbo.” Another reason for its mixed reviews was that, despite being made of stainless steel, it cost as much as a gold watch.
Royal Oak 15300ST – 2005
In 2005, the Royal Oak ref 15300ST was unveiled. The stainless-steel case measures 9.4mm in thickness and 39mm in diameter. The dial plate is available in three colors: black, white, and blue. The most notable feature of the design is a large AP logo at the 12 o’clock position. The 39mm case size, which is the same as the initial 5402ST and the existing Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin 15202ST 39mm, makes it ideal for people with small wrists. This model can also withstand water for up to 50m. The movement in this concept is the AP Caliber 3120, which has a 3Hz low-beat rate.
Royal Oak 15400ST – 2012
In 2012, the 15400ST was unveiled as a follow-up to the 15300ST. There are a few distinctions between the two models, but the biggest one is the case size. The case diameter of the 15400ST is 41mm, which is 2mm larger than the 15300ST case diameter. The case is also slightly thicker, measuring 9.8mm rather than 9.4mm.
It has a larger presence at 41mm, as well as sportier and more contemporary proportions. Meanwhile, the movement is the same Audemars Piguet Caliber 3120. On the caseback, the embossed gold rotor can be viewed. There were a lot of modifications and refinements as well. The large AP logo was replaced with a small AP logo and a double-baton index at the 12 o’clock position. Supporters of the classic edition were delighted to see them come back to the double-baton index, which they thought was an enhancement.
The date display window moves mildly closer to the center due to the unchanged movement, given the considerable size, but the added space is packed by a stub. When the case is turned over, there is a flaw in that the movement is small in comparison to the diameter of the case, creating the impression of being grossly imbalanced.
The recent stainless-steel Royal Oak is the ref 15500ST. Since Audemars Piguet’s CODE 11.59 was the talk of SIHH 2019, the new 15500ST didn’t get the attention it rightfully deserves. There are no major changes to the fundamental Royal Oak design, but there are some substantial updates and alterations. In many ways, the movement has been enhanced in terms of looks and usability, and the changes to the dial components give it a sportier appearance overall. Even if you already have a fantastic watch collection, the excellence of this Audemars Piguet watch will entice you to reach for it every day.