The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was first launched on 15th April 1972.
A piece designed by horological legend Gerald Genta and commissioned by Georges Golay who was heading AP at the time.
The Royal Oak was launched at Basel watch fair and was priced at the same level as a Jaguar XJ6.
For a steel sports watch with an unconventional and utterly risky design, it was a shock to many and ridiculed by a few.
It is a watch that had a huge impact on the industry and remains to this day one of the worlds most sought after and enduring timepieces in the world.
50 years later, to commemorate a significant anniversary for the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet released some new special editions, one of which is the 262400OR.
Usually I’d dive straight into the aesthetics of this beauty, but the movement is really something special.
This is the new in-house calibre 4401 which replaces the older Frederic Piguet 1185 movement previously used in the chronograph range.
This new calibre is a peach. Flyback chronograph which can be stopped and reset using just the lower button, the movement sports a column wheel and visible vertical clutch which means that if you’re not a fan of using small seconds for reference, you can keep the chronograph running with no loss of power or timekeeping.
Shock protection in the shape of a Gyromax balance means that this movement can take most things that you care to throw at it.
The “50 years” rotor which is specific to these special edition pieces runs on ceramic bearings and has features a beautifully bevelled cut out design that doesn’t block the view of the new calibre. Boom.
Aesthetically, one of the most important things to note about the new movement is that ITS SIZE FITS THE CASE!
This addresses a long-running gripe from AP and fans that the previous calbres used in the chronograph and Offshore range were small movements in large cases.
You wouldn’t be able to see this in previous Royal Oak Chronographs but if you take a look at some of the Offshores with sapphire backs you can see a thick metal rim around the rear and a smaller viewing window. This effectively hid the size deficit between movement and case.
Not so on the anniversary models and a vast improvement that couldn’t come soon enough.
On to the rest of the watch.
Full pink gold with beautifully contrasting brushed and polished angles which flow through the entire design. This is still a watch that we all know and love although it has seen a couple of design tweaks to the head for the anniversary.
The chrono pushers are no longer screw-down but feature hexagonal sheaths offering protection and integrate well with the crown guards which have also seen some tweaking to become slightly sharper. Both small changes which don’t particularly affect the visuals but definitely make the chronograph easier to use “on the fly”
Despite being billed as a 41mm watch, this piece wears larger than its size suggests.
On the wrist, its closer to a 43mm so think Sea-Dweller size without suffering from the same level of chunk.
This is largely down to the lug length rather than width of the piece
At 51.5mm lug to lug its already larger than the standard sports watches, but the integrated bracelet increases this to 54mm which is the key to its absolute presence when on the wrist.
With its glinting hand polished facets and sharp angles it was never designed to be subtle.
Genta’s goal was always to create a statement and the Royal Oak 50th Anniversary Chronograph, particularly in full precious metal, seals his legacy as one of the great designers of the 20th century.