Cigar Aficionado

Audemars Piguet’s New Royal Oak Chronographs and Gold “Jumbos” Evoke The Seventies

Audemars Piguet’s New Royal Oak Chronographs and Gold “Jumbos” Evoke The Seventies
From left: The pink gold Royal Oak Chronograph (black dial), the stainless steel Royal Oak Chronograph (blue dial) and the Royal Oak Extra-Thin (Yellow-gold toned dial).
“These are elusive watches, and they are getting strong reactions from vintage and contemporary collectors alike.” - Michael Friedman, historian at Audemars Piguet.

This year, Audemars Piguet continues to evolve its flagship Royal Oak with a range of new chronographs and gold models that channel the spirit of the 1970s, when the revolutionary design made its debut.

Launched in 1972, the original Royal Oak, nicknamed “Jumbo,” was a disruptor that radically upended traditional notions of luxury Swiss watchmaking. It was a steel sport watch priced in line with gold dress watches, and its slim, sculpted steel octagonal case was a futuristic departure from the status quo. More than four decades on, the iconic sport watch is as popular as ever, having legitimately crossed into classic territory.

“It was an outlier before, and it still has an edge to it—that’s the nature of its architecture, its lines, its structure,” says Michael Friedman, historian at Audemars Piguet. “The shift is that it is considered a classic now.” He adds that it now appeals to “people who are looking for something that will last a long time, sustain, and continue to be relevant.”

This year’s revamped chronograph marks the 20th anniversary of the first chronograph in the Royal Oak collection, as it was introduced in 1997. You can choose from four 41mm variations in pink gold and three in stainless steel with silver, blue, or black dials, ranging from $24,300 to $56,600. Design updates include a two-tone design that makes the now-larger chronograph counters pop off the contrasting, grid-like “Grande Tapisserie” dials.

Hour markers have also been beefed up and endowed with increased luminescence for nighttime legibility, plus there’s a new typeface and a slightly larger brand logo. Under the hood, the movement is an automatic caliber 2385 with an integrated column-wheel and tri-compax layout, the same used in the Royal Oak chronograph released in 1997.

Five years after the first steel Jumbo shook up the market, Audemars introduced a gold version. Marking four decades since that debut comes a pair of 39mm gold Extra Thin Reference 15202s ($55,400), one with a monochromatic golden “Petite Tapisserie” dial channeling the past, while another blue dial version is grounded in the present.

“The champagne dial is much like one of the original iterations from 1977,” explains Friedman, who adds that the blue dial was just a great design combination with the gold. The 3.05mm ultra-thin automatic manufacture caliber 2121 powered the original Jumbo.

“These are elusive watches,” says Friedman, noting the small quantities due to limited annual production, “and they are getting strong reactions from vintage and contemporary collectors alike.”