From Avant-Garde to Icon

12 Feb 2013
3 min read
With 40 years of unparalleled success, Audemars Piguet tells FOUR’s International edition about their watches…

There is a before and after the Royal Oak in the history of modern horology. Launched in 1972 by Audemars Piguet, the first luxury sports watch was a breakthrough creation right from the start. Legend has it that this model was designed in one night. 40 years later, the Royal Oak has become an authentic contemporary watch icon.

This spectacularly non-conformist watch, consistently one step ahead of its time, has made an indelible imprint on the history of Audemars Piguet. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, the Manufacture in Le Brassus is introducing eight new versions, all entirely in tune with the identity codes of the original collection and with the daring minds that first set out 40 years ago to conquer the world with a totally unprecedented sports watch.

1972 was a decisive turning point in the history of modern watchmaking. With the launch of the Royal Oak, nothing would ever be the same. The advent at that particular time of this prestige sports watch, representing a complete break with traditional watchmaking codes, would result in a complete paradigm shift.

A prestigious extra-thin mechanical movement housed inside a steel case and sold for the price of a gold watch: the challenge was daring enough to ensure that very few observers would have been prepared to wager on the success of this unconventional watch designed by Gérald Genta for Audemars Piguet and presented at the Basel Fair in the spring of 1972. The judicious nature of this approach has however been unequivocally confirmed over the past 40 years.

Nonetheless, there was no immediate take-off for this line, since the launch period was definitely more propitious to small-sized watches, and the 39 mm Royal Oak substantially exceeded the prevailing norms. While it was indeed exceptional, the revolution it was to spark within the watch industry was only just beginning. For the very first time, a watch was no longer defined exclusively by its technical content or its material, but also by its image. However, this naturally implied that the model’s quality and reliability must live up to its high-end image, and the Royal Oak provided this certainty. Within a few years, this watch with its decidedly different design won over an appreciative and informed audience. It was adopted by collectors including entrepreneurs such as the legendary head of Fiat, Giovanni Agnelli, as well as other members of the international jet set. 40 years later, Audemars Piguet watches are one of the worlds most recognisable; carrying a prestige like no other.

In 2012, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the collection, Audemars Piguet is presenting eight new models complying with the design codes of the original 1972 collection.

“Often imitated, never equalled”: the slogan once used by Audemars Piguet to define the Royal Oak rings as true as ever today. There can by nature be only one leader.

Royal Oak Selfwinding and Quartz models

Audemars Piguet is returning to roots in 2012 with the presentation of eight new Royal Oak versions in keeping with the spirit of the first prestigious sports watch that has become a legend since its launch in 1972.

These eight new references are enriching two separate lines within the Royal Oak collection: on the one hand, the Extra-Thin Royal Oak models; and on the other the Royal Oak Selfwinding and Quartz models. These two lines are visually distinct, particularly in terms of their dials. The extra-thin models now feature a “Petite Tapisserie” motif, while the selfwinding and quartz models are distinguished by their dials bearing a “Grande Tapisserie” pattern.

Within the Extra-Thin Royal Oak line, 2012 brings the presentation ofnew models:

  • Openworked Extra-Thin Royal
  • Oak Tourbillon, 40th Anniversary Limited Edition
  • Extra-Thin Royal Oak Tourbillon- 41 mm
  • Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak, 40th Anniversary Limited Edition
  • Extra-Thin Royal Oak- 39 mm

Within the Royal Oak Selfwinding and Quartz line, four other new models will also be unveiled:

  • Selfwinding Royal Oak – 41 mm
  • Selfwinding Royal Oak – 37 mm
  • Royal Oak Quartz – 33 mm
  • Royal Oak Chronograph – 41 mm

© Audemars Piguet