The legendary Royal Oak, premiered in 1972, embodies the Audemars Piguet brand perfectly. Still regarded as one of the most important timepieces ever made, it is part of a legacy of innovation and exploration that boasts an unbroken connection to the origins of modern luxury watchmaking.
Audemars Piguet launched a project to develop a watch so complicated that it would take six years of continuous production before the watch could be delivered to the importers Guignard & Golay in London. The watch in question was a pocket watch with two dials and a one-minute tourbillon mechanism. As well as a tourbillon, this double dial Lepine, gold watch included a minute repeater, a chronograph with 60-minute and 12-hour counters, perpetual calendar with displays which “jump” at midnight, display of the leap year cycle, the “age” and phases of the moon, and power reserve display. The second face showed an additional 24 hours based on the sidereal hour, moving a pair of independent hands. A special system connected to this gear-train makes it possible to see the changes in the London sky at any time of the day or night, through an oval-shaped opening in the rear dial. The sky is represented by 315 stars engraved on a plate of gold, enamelled in blue. The stars, with their respective names, are all clearly visible.
There are few luxury watch manufacturers whose name commands as much respect as Audemars Piguet. One of the oldest continuously family-run maisons de haute horlogerie, the name AP is spoken in breath reserved for the true greats of the industry.
Rooted in watchmaking history, famed for its dedication to high-end complications and iconic case design, Audemars Piguet commands the affection of watch enthusiasts and the envy of collectors. Its list of world firsts alone is dazzling. From the first minute repeater (1892) to the first outsize luxury sports watch (1992), AP has defined and redefined horological fashions and accomplishments since its birth.
For a brand whose fame is based on its strong, outsize luxury watch designs, Audemars Piguet’s list of achievements includes plenty to surprise. In the early 20th century, Paul-Louis Audemars and Paul-Edward Piguet created the thinnest pocket watch in history. In 1946, the AP manufactory developed the smallest mechanical calibre in the world; 23 years later, it debuted the thinnest automatic movement.
But it was the Royal Oak, designed overnight for Audemars Piguet by Swiss luxury watch industry legend Gerald Genta, that would seal AP’s reputation. The Royal Oak’s steel sports case, the first of its kind, didn’t just turn conventions upside-down - it threw them out, redrew them on the back of a napkin, and created an entirely new design language. With its avant-garde octagonal bezel, revealed screws and militarist face (the bezel was inspired by the octagonal cannon ports on a 19th century warship), the Royal Oak was a revelation.
In the 21st century, more than 40 years after its debut at the Basel Watch Fair, the Royal Oak is still Audemars Piguet’s flagship luxury watch. And it continues to be the emblem of the brand’s horological firsts.
In 1992, the Royal Oak Offshore created a new trend for outsized dials. At 42mm, ‘The Beast’ also incorporated non-standard materials into its design, a practice that would soon become common in luxury sports watch manufacture.
In 2007, AP joined forces with an aeronautical engineering firm to create the world’s first forged carbon case, for the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team. 2015 saw the debut of a new interpretation of the minute repeater, a Royal Oak concept model, whose chime is unaffected by the waterproofing of the watch.
Audemars Piguet has grown from small origins in Le Brassus to be one of the most popular, respected and desired luxury watch brands in the world. Where other maisons de haute horlogerie are content to rest on their historical reputation, AP tells a different story. These are luxury timepieces that put innovation on your wrist.