The Royal Oak has been the quintessential high-end sports watch since its introduction in the 1970s. Designed by Gérald Genta the night before Baselworld in 1972, the Royal Oak succeeded in a couple of things: saving Audemars Piguet from financial ruin and making steel a luxury material. When it first went on sale, the Royal Oak cost nearly ten times as much as a Rolex, but it was still made of stainless steel. That, along with its chunky for the time design and exposed bolt heads broke the traditional high-end watch industry, which had been very stiff upper lip about how expensive watches should be (small, gold cases, leather straps etc).
For 2020, the Royal Oak continues to be both beautiful and expensive, and it now comes with a classy silver dial for the 15500 line. As with Rolex and watches, Audemars Piguet’s reference system for the Royal Oak is something worth paying attention to, especially if you’re buying, as it can have a massive impact on resale prices. The 15500 replaced the 15400, but none of y’all noticed that as you were too busy losing your minds over Audemars Piguet going ‘woke’ and offering a design that isn’t octangular (the Code 11:59). The 15500 is pretty important, though, it came with a new in-house calibre 4302 movement which had a 4Hz beat rate and a 70-hour power reserve.
This new one features the same movement with its skeletonised gold rotor both bearing the Audemars Piguet logo and staying out the way of the movement enough for you to appreciate its finishing. The Royal Oak’s design revolves around the octagonal case, but the icing on the cake of this watch is the grand tapisserie dial that is cut and finished by hand. Compared to the old 15400, the markers on the new 15500 are shorter and broader, so there’s more space for lume paint to be applied, but they’re still applied white gold. There’s also a date window at 3 O’clock.
The 41mm case size means the Royal Oak remains as the ultimate in haute horlogerie-level sports watches that you can wear daily. With the Nautilus’ pricing and availability making Rolex blush and the Overseas being an acquired taste, the Royal Oak is still the watch to beat in this sector.
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