The Royal Oak – a design icon
In 1972, further to demand from the Italian market for a new sports watch, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was released. The stainless steel watch was designed by, the now legendary, Gérald Genta. It came at a time when the traditional watch industry was suffering competition from cheaper and more accurate Japanese quartz watches. It was, therefore, a surprise when the steel Royal Oak was initially released with a price typical of a gold cased watch. However, the unusually shaped octagonal watch proved to be a commercial success and has gone on to become regarded as an icon and, in many eyes, the perfect sports watch design.
Interestingly, whilst the first models were stainless steel, the prototypes were made in white gold as the tooling costs at the time meant it was cheaper to make pre-production samples in the noble metal. A legacy of using white gold during the development stage of the Royal Oak is that the eight screws which follow the contour of the adjacent sapphire crystal are now always made of white gold.
Over the 40+ years, the Royal Oak has been in existence, Audemars Piguet has released numerous variants in various metals and featuring different complications. These include the chronograph, equation of time, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, tourbillon and the ultimate expression of watchmaking prowess, the grand complication. Despite being housed in cases featuring different diameters and, in some cases, extra-thin cases, the iconic octagonal shape has always been a constant feature, making the Royal Oak a design icon with an abundance of admirers around the globe.
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