The Royal Oak celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new design evolution
On the occasion of the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary, the Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet is happy to unveil an array of new selfwinding hour, minute, second and date models in 37 mm as well as new 38 and 41 mm selfwinding chronographs, which will be launched throughout the year. Although retaining the aesthetic codes of the original Royal Oak designed by Gérald Genta, these new references present slight evolutions in terms of case, bracelet and dial design, furthering the collection’s contemporary appeal.
These evolutions align with the brand’s continuous improvement approach which has enabled the Manufacture to consistently push further the limits of design and mastery across generations. In addition to welcoming new calibres, most of the new models are equipped with the dedicated Royal Oak “50-years” oscillating weight. Blending tradition with cutting-edge technology, these novelties will continue to surprise the aficionados of the original model from 1972. Additional models in 41 and 34 mm will be available in the second half of 2022.
A case and bracelet offering optimum ergonomics
Paying tribute to the collection’s original aesthetics, while enhancing its ergonomics, the Manufacture has performed subtle changes on the Royal Oak case. The bevels adorning the top and the bottom of the case have been enlarged to enhance the play of light between the satin-finished and polished surfaces, while bestowing the watch with a slender aesthetic. For its part, the caseback has been slightly more integrated into the case middle to sit more comfortably on the wrist.
To accentuate the finesse of the new case design, the integrated bracelet’s first four links are now trapezoid in shape and no longer parallel. This more pronounced decrease in thickness brings forward the bracelet’s taper for more visual appeal. Furthermore, the links are thinner throughout the bracelet, and therefore lighter, offering added comfort and optimum ergonomics. First introduced on Royal Oak models in gold a few years back, this evolved aesthetic appears for the first time on stainless steel and titanium references.
A dial aesthetic harmonised across the different models
The luminescent facetted hour-markers are part of the Royal Oak’s recognisable codes. This year, the Le Brassus artisans have harmonised the size of the hour-markers and hands while retaining their aesthetics to reinforce the coherence between the different models across the collection, regardless of diameter and material. The proportions of the hour-markers of the new selfwinding chronographs and selfwinding hour, minute, second and date timepieces have been standardised according to the different diameters.
In addition, the logo has been reworked. A gold Audemars Piguet signature endowed with a unique topography now replaces the applied AP monogram and the printed “AUDEMARS PIGUET” at 12 o’clock. The embossed signature adorning the new Royal Oak “anniversary” models was originally conceived for the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection. Made of thin layers of 24-carat gold, the signature is achieved through a chemical process akin to 3D printing known as galvanic growth.
Each letter is connected with links approximately the size of a hair and placed on the dial by hand with tiny legs almost invisible to the naked eye. This method which required three years of development is difficult to achieve due to the signature’s length. For the new Royal Oak models, the challenge has been to develop a second signature size for the 34 and 37 mm novelties – the signature size of the new Royal Oak in 41 mm being the same as for the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet timepieces. The Manufacture’s engineers and artisans tested an array of variations once more before setting on final proportions.
Lastly, the minute track, which was previously printed on the flat external zone, now appears directly onto the Tapisserie of all Royal Oak selfwinding hour, minute, second and date models for more visual appeal – a challenging process due to the unique topography of the guilloché dial.
“To celebrate the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary, we wanted to pay tribute to its distinctive codes. These evolutions do not aim to revolutionise the collection, but to magnify its lines”, says Sofia Candeias, Head of Product and Design Management.
Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50, return to the roots
Faithful to the aesthetic of the original model from 1972, numerous references across the Royal Oak collection now welcome the iconic Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 dial colour (“night blue, cloud 50”), combined with a Petite or Grande Tapisserie pattern.
The dial’s Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 hue was originally developed by Geneva-based dial maker Stern Frères. The blue colour was obtained by immersing each dial in a galvanic bath. While the formulation of the mixture is important, the duration and temperature are both crucial. If the artisan removes the dial too early, it comes out purple, if removed too late it turns black. A thin layer of varnish mixed with a few drops of black colour (n° 50) was then applied onto the dial to protect it. The term “nuage” refers to the cloud effect the drop of black creates when it enters the protective liquid varnish. Today, the Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 hue is achieved internally through PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) to ensure a more homogeneous colour across the collection.
The new references also celebrate another recognisable aesthetic feature of the Royal Oak: the guilloché Tapisserie dial. Most of the 2022 Royal Oak novelties in 34, 37, 38 and 41 mm are endowed with a Grande Tapisserie pattern achieved through a complex manufacturing process based on a rare know-how no longer taught in horology school. Hundreds of small truncated pyramids with square bases are carved out on the dial’s thin metal plate by an old guilloché copying machine that reproduces the motif of a matrix. Tens of thousands of diamond shapes, whose four inner faces reflect the light, are simultaneously cut out in the thin grooves separating the squares in a seamless weave that creates a tapestry appearance. This process requires extreme dexterity and precision.
The decision to complement the original Petite Tapisserie motif with a more generous, legible and extensive Tapisserie was taken in 1998. While the manufacturing technique remained the same, the bases of the truncated pyramids became twice as big, thus considerably reducing the number of pyramids from approximately 700 to 380 on a 39 mm Royal Oak “Jumbo” dial. Three Royal Oak models adorning the new Grande Tapisserie dial were presented a year later. Their success was such that this motif appeared on most of the Royal Oak models in 2000 to the point of outshining the Petite Tapisserie which completely vanished from the catalogue before returning in 2012 on the occasion of the Royal Oak’s 40th anniversary.
A new dedicated oscillating weight
The new Royal Oak “anniversary” timepieces are fitted with the dedicated oscillating weight in 22-carat gold that features the “50-years” logo and the engraved Audemars Piguet signature. For the occasion, the oscillating weight has been matched to the colour of each case and finished with an alternation of satin-finishing and polished chamfers.
The “50-years” oscillating weight will be fitted to the Royal Oak anniversary models endowed with the new design evolution throughout 2022, with the exception of the 38 mm chronographs.
New performant and refined calibres
The Royal Oak models endowed with the new design evolution are equipped with three different calibres, including a brand new one, Calibre 5900. This selfwinding hour, minute, second and date movement premiers this year on Royal Oak references in 37 mm, in replacement for Calibre 3120. This new mechanism is thinner (3.9 mm vs 4.26 mm) than its predecessor and offers a higher frequency (4 Hz vs 3 Hz). It is also endowed with 60 hours of power reserve when not on the wrist.
In addition, Calibre 4401, first introduced on gold Royal Oak models in 2021, makes its debut this year on the new 41 mm Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronographs in stainless steel. This in-house integrated chronograph endowed with flyback function encompasses enhanced chronometry as well as an instantaneous date-change mechanism. In addition, it features a column wheel and a vertical clutch system – a feat reserved to high-end chronographs due to the complexity of its components. The movement’s refined finishing, including Côtes de Genève, satin brushing, circular graining, circular satin and polished chamfers, can be admired through the sapphire caseback.
Lastly, Calibres 5900 and 4401, which power the 15550, 15551, 26240 and 26242 references, are both fitted with the dedicated anniversary oscillating weight.
50 years of reinvention
In constant dialogue with the world that inspires it, the Royal Oak has seen countless evolutions over the years and reached the status of icon. Launched in 1972, the Royal Oak designed by Gérald Genta, was available for the first four years in a unique stainless steel design, Model 5402. In 1976, the first women’s Royal Oak designed by Jacqueline Dimier saw the light of day, marking the beginning of a collection. The following year, the collection expanded with gold models, new diameters and new calibres. From then on and in barely five years (1977–1981), 27 new models were created.
In 1978, the introduction of gemset dials and cases enabled new creative and refined developments. In 1980, the Manufacture launched its first non-guilloché Royal Oak dials, notably on feminine creations, thus offering new decorative possibilities. In 1992, the introduction of the sapphire caseback allowed Audemars Piguet to reveal the minute handiwork adorning its movement components. This turning point for the collection set a new trend still found on numerous references today.
Since 1976, the Royal Oak’s evolving process has been continuous. Only the essential aesthetic codes of the collection, such as the tonneau-shaped case, the octagonal bezel and the eight visible hexagonal screws have remained unchanged. The evolution of the newly released models celebrating this anniversary year marks yet another milestone in the development of a collection that has crossed eras and trends. 50 years on, more than 500 versions have reinterpreted this iconoclast turned icon.