When Audemars Piguet introduced its Royal Oak in 1972, few could have ever predicted that the revolutionary stainless-steel sport watch with high-end finishing and a price tag to match would become one of the most coveted and hardest-to-get watch models 50 years later.
Gérald Genta’s visionary design—with its octagonal bezel accented by eight visible screws, grid-patterned “Tapisserie” dial and integrated steel bracelet—raised more than a few eyebrows before winning an enthusiastic fan base. Today, luxury stainless-steel sport watches appear in brand after brand. But Royal Oak is the grandaddy of them all—now, more timelessly classic than iconoclastic.
The first batch of anniversary launches included a next-gen of the one that started it all, but with a long-awaited updated movement. The Ref. 16202 39mm “Jumbo” Extra-Thin in stainless steel, platinum, pink and yellow gold is powered by a new self-winding extra-thin movement, Calibre 7121 (shown in stainless, $33,200).
Audemars didn’t stop there. The collection further expanded with a downsized 37-mm, self-winding, three-hand model with date, 38-mm and 41-mm automatic chronographs, a skeleton powered by a new self-winding extra-thin movement, the collection’s first automatic open-worked flying tourbillon with another new movement, plus three 41-mm Selfwinding Flying Tourbillons in stainless steel, titanium and pink gold.
AP followed up in the spring with a technical tour de force dubbed RD#3, the 39-mm stainless steel Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Extra-Thin, which was five years in the making. At just 8.1 mm thick, the piece is the first Jumbo equipped with the new ultrathin Calibre 2968, hand-finished with a mix of traditional and contemporary decorations. A 37-mm arrives this fall.
The new automatics are fitted with special “50-years” oscillating weights designating the anniversary editions, though the models will continue in the future with standard rotors.
“It’s a very important milestone for the company, but it’s also an open door to the future,” François Bennahmias, Audemars Piguet’s CEO, says of the anniversary. “Because, through the course of the development of new mechanisms and touches here and there on the watches, it has opened new world for us that will bring us to the next five, 10, 15 years.”