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The Evolution of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

The history of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch series originates from a British Royal Navy warship named "HMS Royal Oak." This vessel participated in several crucial military operations during World War I, providing indispensable support to the United Kingdom. Audemars Piguet adopted this name to emphasize the durability and stability of this watch series, carrying historical significance related to defending the homeland and the spirit of never surrendering.

Photo Credit: Audemars Piguet, Sotheby’s

As the world's first luxury sports watch, the Royal Oak series has garnered high praise in both the fashion and status-symbol aspects of the market. It is renowned for its distinctive octagonal bezel, hexagonal screws, and classic Tapisserie pattern dial design, all of which were inspired by the renowned watch designer Gerald Genta, who drew inspiration from exposed screws on vintage diving helmets. The unprecedented success of this iconic design transformed it into a brand savior, helping Audemars Piguet navigate the quartz crisis of the 1970s.

Since its introduction in 1972, the Royal Oak series has undergone multiple significant reforms and updates, continuously pushing the boundaries of both its design and functionality, making it a beloved choice among watch collectors.

Key milestones in the development of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak series are as follows:

1972 - Introduction of the first Royal Oak

Photo Credit: Hodinkee

The original Royal Oak (model #5402) had a 39mm diameter and a total thickness of just 7.15mm. Its ultra-thin case contrasted sharply with its large diameter, giving the watch a unique sporty elegance. Crafted from stainless steel, it featured an octagonal case and a simple two-hand date function, powered by the 3.05mm thick Calibre 2121 automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve. In an era dominated by round cases, precious metals, and complicated functions in the 1970s, the Royal Oak watch series undeniably broke the contemporary norms.

1976 - Introduction of the First Women's Royal Oak

Photo Credit: Sotheby's

To cater to the female market, Audemars Piguet commissioned the renowned watch designer Jacqueline Dimier to create a women's version of the Royal Oak, model #8638. While retaining the distinctive features of the men's Royal Oak, adjustments were made to the size proportions, reducing the diameter from 39mm to a more suitable 29mm for women. It also featured the Calibre 2062 movement with a diameter of only 15.4mm and a redesigned case and bezel structure to achieve a balanced look.

1984 - Introduction of the First Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar

Photo Credit: Phillips

In 1984, Audemars Piguet released the first Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar (model #25554). To fit the 3.95mm thick Calibre 2120/2800 movement into the ultra-thin case of model #5402, the bezel was slightly raised, the sapphire crystal thickness was reduced, and space was specifically created for three calendar correctors, resulting in a uniform thickness of 7.5mm.

1993 - Introduction of the Royal Oak Offshore Series

Photo Credit: Phillips

As the Royal Oak watch series celebrated its 20th anniversary, Audemars Piguet introduced the Royal Oak Offshore, a robust and larger version with a 42mm diameter. It featured sportier aesthetics with the addition of silicon sleeves on the pushers and crown, earning it the nickname "The Beast" upon its launch.

2002 - Introduction of the Royal Oak Concept Series

Photo Credit: Sotheby's

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak series, Audemars Piguet launched the Royal Oak Concept series, paying tribute to space and futuristic designs. The series was characterized by its large 44mm diameter and the use of aerospace-inspired materials such as Alacrite alloy and a titanium bezel, once again showcasing the brand's forward-thinking and bold spirit of innovation.

2012 - A Return to Classic

Photo Credit: EWC

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak series, Audemars Piguet introduced the "Jumbo" model #15202 in 2012. It featured a reimagined design, including the restoration of the original 1972 blue dial, Petite Tapisserie decoration, and the placement of the "AP" abbreviation logo at 6 o'clock.

2022 - New Movements

Photo Credit: Audemars Piguet

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak series, Audemars Piguet introduced significant innovations in both the Royal Oak and Jumbo collections. The new model #15550 boasts a Calibre 5900 automatic winding movement specially developed for 37mm watches. It has a reduced thickness, increased frequency, and offers a 60-hour power reserve.

Simultaneously, Audemars Piguet announced the birth of a new-generation Jumbo model #16202 series, featuring the Calibre 7121 movement with a thickness of only 3.2mm, replacing the classic Calibre 2121. This new movement provides a 55-hour power reserve and enhanced winding efficiency and timekeeping performance.


With the introduction of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch series, it officially challenged the conventional belief that "steel is inferior to gold" in the watch market. The Royal Oak series, with its revolutionary design, exquisite craftsmanship, and a relentless commitment to innovation, has become the epitome of high-end sports watches.

Cover Photo Credit: Audemars Piguet, Sotheby’s
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