Fifty years ago, on April 15, Audemars Piguet unveiled the Royal Oak at Baselworld. While there are still several months before we reach the actual anniversary, the watchmaker has already begun the festivities by releasing a slew of redesigned Royal Oak timepieces.
There’s a lot to like about the 50th anniversary collection, but the model enthusiasts will arguably covet the most is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Reference 16202 Jumbo. At first glance, it looks like nothing much has changed. But inspect the dial and you’ll see that all the elements on the dial, including the Audemars Piguet logo, are now applied. The lugs and bracelet are also thinner, making the watch wear smaller than its 39mm size.
The most significant change, however, is underneath the hood. The watchmakers at Vallee Du Joux took five years to engineer the new Calibre 7121. It’s larger, more complicated and more accurate than its predecessor, the 2121, which is finally retiring after five decades. And while the 7121 is slightly thicker than the 2121 – 3.2mm versus 3.05mm respectively – Audemars Piguet has kept the thickness of the Jumbo case at 8.1mm. It’s quite the engineering feat.
There are four 16202 Jumbo models – steel on a steel bracelet with a special anniversary blue dial called Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 (pictured, above), pink gold on a pink gold bracelet with a smoked grey dial, yellow gold on a yellow gold bracelet with a smoked gold dial, and platinum on a platinum bracelet with a gorgeous green dial.
And for this year, the new 16202 timepieces will have a special 50th anniversary rotor, visible on the caseback. And while it might be a coincidence, CEO Francois Bennahmias announced it would make 50,000 timepieces for the year across all of its range, including the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet.
How many 16202 Jumbos will be made, though? Only 1,000, according to Bennahmias, of which less than 100 will be allocated to Singapore.
Bennahmias understands the pent-up demand for its Royal Oak watches, but he notes that this limited supply is also responsible for the maison’s allure. He adds: “If we deliver everything people want, we have a lot less desirability. So, we’re going to keep doing this because it has led to our success.”
However, he acknowledges the brand made a mistake with the waiting list, which only kept growing year after year. “Now, we have stopped doing that. Instead, we start a relationship with potential customers who come down to our boutiques,” he says.
You’ve heard the man. So, if you see me in the boutique trying to build that relationship, please say hello.