Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph “50th Anniversary” 26240ST.OO.1320ST.04

This is a bit of a “whistle-stop” tour of 2022’s 50th Anniversary Royal Oak Chronograph as we’ve already been through its rose gold sibling in a fair bit of detail. 

That said, we’re a sucker for steel so it would be a shame to let the 26240ST pass through our hands without having a little nosey. 

First launched on 15th April 1972 at the venerable Basel Watch Fair, the original Royal Oak was designed by Gerald Genta. It was eye waveringly priced and initially wasn’t a hot seller. 

The price tag which was that of a luxury car created more muttering than marvelling.

Oh how things have changed. 

Time has marched on, quite literally, and the hugely successful Royal Oak line now showcases a number of different complications from tourbillons and repeaters to chronographs and open worked dials. 

2022 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Oak, and AP celebrated by launching a fairly gorgeous set of Anniversary limited editions as well as some “interesting” fully semi precious gem set pieces which are more at home in a Miami Nightclub rather than a decidedly chilly Jardin Du Mayfair, so we’ll leave the disco baubles and focus on this gorgeous forest green dialled chronograph. 

Reference number 26240ST, ST being STeel. 

This, just like its rose gold sibling runs the new in-house calibre 4401 which replaces the older Frederic Piguet 1185 movement. 

It’s is a column wheel Flyback chronograph which can be stopped and reset using just the lower button rather than start stop at the top and reset at the bottom as per non flyback pieces. 

The size of the movement has been increased to fill the watch case so we’re no longer seeing or being irked by a smaller movement within a spacer within the watch which is a cross brand pet peeve of a few collectors who notice such things. I include myself in this.

It was never obvious with some of the older “closed back” chronos, but began to filter through (and be grizzled about) when sapphire rears began to filter through the RO and Royal Oak Offshore ranges. 

This chronograph features a “50 years” rotor to let you know that this is a limited anniversary piece. It runs on ceramic bearings and has features a beautifully bevelled cut out design that doesn’t block the view of the new calibre. 

Importantly, the anniversary lines were discontinued at the end of 2022 and the hawk eyed among us will now start to notice that while some of the anniversary editions still exist in “standard” form with retained dial colours, the special anniversary rotor is gone, finished, finito, bye bye.

In time, thats going to make for some serious collectability as a 1 year only run. 

Nerds like us do love the details. 

The rest of the watch and its finishing is absolutely to Audemars exacting and gloriously contrasting standards with bushed and polished angles and a bracelet that just drapes so effortlessly around the wrist. 

It is, as per usual, hand finished with an eye for detail and geometry. 

Honestly, I know I hark back to this on a regular basis, but Genta’s early designs are legendary for a reason. 

The head has seen the same tweaks as the rest of the anniversary chronographs. 

The chrono pushers are no longer screw-down but feature hexagonal sheaths offering protection and integrate well with the crown guards which have been tweaked to look just that little bit sharper. This is actually a bit more noticeable on the steel version than on the rose that we inspected recently. The coolness of the metal seems to reveal the sharpness a little more, and its very pleasing to the eye. 

The stats on this are 41mm in size, 12.4mm in height which is reassuring rather than chunky monkey. It will still slide under the cuff should you want to pair it with a suit although its just as at home with jeans and a T shirt. 

Royal Oaks are exceptionally versatile and make perfect “only watches” for those who don’t feel the need to divide between weekday, weekend, diver, GMT, chrono, dress, complication, dark dial, light dial, green dial, blue dial, holiday beater and gardening G shock. <cough>

The lug to lug length of these pieces takes responsibility for the sense of wearing a watch that sits slightly larger than its 41mm suggests. 

This is down to the lug to lug length of 51.5mm which is longer than your average sports watch (which usually hovers around the 49/50mm mark) and appears further elongated thanks to the integrated bracelet, the mechanics of which take the overall length to around 54mm. 

While this is absolutely fine for most wrists, it certainly makes its presence known, despite the fact that when properly sized it drapes over the wrist really elegantly and comfortably. 

Expect the overall visual to be closer to a 43mm piece and you wont be disappointed. 

I’ve said it before, but will say again that these watches arent shy. They have superb wrist presence but without looking blocky or unrefined. 

The Royal Oak Chrono is a perfectly engineered example of elegance and size not being mutually exclusive. 

They are aesthetic perfection imo.