There are only a few watches deserving of the term “icon” and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak is one of them. With its octagonal shaped bezel, eight visible hexagonal screws, integrated steel bracelet and petite tapisserie motif dial, the Royal Oak has an unmistakable presence. Gerald Genta, the legendary watchmaker and designer who designed the Royal Oak declared it his Magnum Opus, or the one watch to rule them all.
Today, 50 years later, the mighty Royal Oak remains the keystone to all luxury sports watches, which finds even greater relevance now as consumers are growing bored of superfluity.
“The Royal Oak self-winding continues to be a favourite among our clients,” shares Stefanie Ng, CEO of Audemars Piguet Southeast Asia. As she gears up for a busy celebratory year ahead, she steals some time to share more about the new Royal Oak launches, which at the moment include the latest RD#3 (equipped with the new Calibre 2968 featuring a titanium tourbillon cage and a peripheral rotor), a new Jumbo (that replaces the retired Ref 15202), and five new in-house-produced calibres.
Tell us more about the new Royal Oak RD#3.
It is part of the 50th anniversary collection and is a shining example of how, at Audemars Piguet, we continue to push the limits of technical innovation. The 39mm stainless steel watch, measuring 8.1mm in thickness, represents the first “Jumbo” in history to be equipped with a self-winding flying tourbillon.
It will be complemented by a 37mm version for slimmer wrists later this year. The RD#3 timepiece is powered by the new Calibre 2968, which took our engineers and watchmakers more than five years to develop. Like all the other anniversary editions, it will come with a dedicated “50-years” oscillating weight and the brand signature engraved on its surface. It will be officially launched in September.
What are three of the most significant milestones in the Royal Oak’s 50-year history?
The first is its birth in 1972, which heralded the beginning of a new fine watchmaking era that was in tune with changing lifestyles. The second milestone would be in 1976, when the first ladies’ Royal Oak was launched. That led to the collection evolving to include different materials, sizes and styles. Finally, the third milestone took place this year, when we introduced a new brand signature bearing a unique topography on the dials of the 50th anniversary pieces. Made of thin 24K gold layers, they are achieved through a chemical process called galvanic growth that was originally conceived for the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection.
This is significant for the brand as the different collections collectively drive the brand’s innovation. As part of the Royal Oak’s evolution this year, we also introduced five new in-house calibres that exemplify Audemars Piguet’s commitment to innovation. Throughout the Royal Oak’s 50-year heritage, the talents at our manufacture have always strived to push the limits of their craft by blending ancestral craftsmanship with technological advancements.
In the new Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin 39mm, significant changes have been made which may not be perceptible to most. What was the first thing that caught your attention?
Two things caught my eye. The first was the new colour animations in smoked grey and smoked yellow gold on the Jumbo’s iconic petite tapisserie dial. Then, the new movement, Calibre 7121, which marks the debut of the new Jumbo Ref 16202 that replaces the historical Calibre 2121 first introduced on the Royal Oak in 1972.
Which models have received the most interest among your clientele?
The versions featuring the dials in Bleu Nuit Nuage 50 and khaki green are receiving considerable attention. That’s not surprising since that particular shade of blue is iconic to the Royal Oak and pays tribute to the original model, while khaki green is a new colour for the Royal Oak.
Do you have a personal favourite?
I personally adore the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph in 38mm that has a light blue dial and a bezel set with 40 brilliant-cut diamonds. It features a versatile size and has a unique dial colour.
Is there an allocation of watches for new customers, as CEO François-Henry Bennahmias mentioned in a press conference early this year?
We’re increasing production to 50,000 watches in 2022. This enables us to focus on our loyal clients while opening up the possibility of keeping some timepieces for newcomers who want to join the Audemars Piguet family. However, given the number of requests we’ve received, the current production does not allow us to meet everyone’s wishes.
When we last spoke, you talked about the importance of “customer relationship outside the four walls”. Talk us through some of the initiatives that have been made.
The people-to-people concept was put into practice at the beginning of 2021. This strategy puts human connections at the centre of everything we do. Our goal is to continue increasing proximity to our clients through our network of nomad ambassadors, whose job is to build long-lasting relationships with our clients outside the boutiques through bespoke experiences. We will also continue to consolidate our distribution network worldwide by transitioning from a wholesale business to a retail business.
How will you be celebrating this occasion in Singapore?
2022 will be a year-long celebration for us globally. In Singapore, apart from organising different activations throughout the year, we will also be having intimate celebrations with our clients and press to commemorate this joyous occasion.