The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is a legend for a reason. It was the first luxury integrated steel sports watch, and would go on to define arguably the most popular category of watches available today. But in the decades since it was first released, there have been countless different expressions of the iconic octagonal design. All of which begs the question – which is your favourite? The Time+Tide team has gathered their thoughts on the matter, and expressed why their favourite reference is top of the tree. Enjoy!
Nick Kenyon – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin with onyx and diamond dial
If you’re getting a luxury sports watch, why wouldn’t you emphasise the word luxury? Hewn from platinum, with an inky black onyx dial and a tasteful dusting of panache with diamond indexes, this thing is absolutely stunning, and turns the luxury up to 11. And with dimensions measuring just 39mm in diameter and only 8.1mm thick, it’s about as good as it gets.
Andrew McUtchen – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin RD#2
I was at the AP ‘Beyond Watchmaking’ exhibition in Tokyo and an AP watchmaker was explaining to me the miracle of the RD#2, the world’s thinnest Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar at just 6.3mm thick, a bewildering 2mm thinner than the Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin. Seriously extra. “It’s like taking three storeys’ worth of furniture in an apartment block, and fitting them all into the ground floor. With the building, and the interiors still looking great!” Later that night, at an afterparty, I met Austen Chu (@horoloupe), wearing the watch in question. He passed it to me. Not only did it nearly float into the ether, on account of its unbearable lightness, it also, contrarily, landed firmly and squarely on my wrist. I marvelled at this slight, indeed miraculous, watch in the metal. The feeling of wonder has never left me.
Luke Benedictus – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph Limited Edition
This powder-blue dial hits you with the freshness of a handful of Extra Strong Mints. It’s a colour that synchs neatly with the pale gleam of the 18k white-gold case, but also serves to highlight the textured detail of the Grande Tapisserie dial. Neatly sized at 39mm, it’s a chronograph as inviting as a cool breeze on a hot day.
Thor Svaboe – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin with salmon dial
While I love tool watches in steel, there is something very special about the stealth of solid white gold. The feeling of cool heat that comes with the knowledge that most will think you are wearing a steel sports watch while you know from that weighty presence that this is The Business. With the 2121 automatic movement, this boutique-only marvel might be my Oak of Oaks. The perfection of a 39mm extra-thin case, the delicate 8mm on the wrist … this is as comfortable as it rocks. No one does an integrated bracelet transition into the case like Audemars Piguet, with an innate feeling of one-ness. That dial, while described as Salmon, is golden, and I can only imagine this (dreamy waves cross the screen) in the summer: sunset, peeking out from under a linen-mix light blue shirt with a Negroni in hand, by the sea. Where? Our favourite holiday destination, Menton on the French Riviera.
Zach Blass – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin with titanium case and smoked blue dial
My personal favourite, and Royal Oak of choice, would be the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin in platinum and titanium. A limited edition of 250 pieces, this rather rare timepiece balances lightweight titanium with the heft of platinum. Most of the watch is titanium in metal, but the bezel and inner small links of the bracelet are fabricated in platinum. The combination of materials creates a unique feel on the wrist, with tactful hints of added weight from the precious metal. It is precisely spread across the entirety of the watch. Whether in the middle of the bracelet or the bezel framing the dial, the platinum provides a centring weight across the entirety of the watch. Another distinct feature is its smoked blue dial not typically found on standard production models. As expected with any Royal Oak, the external finishing is completely in line with others in the collection. But to the credit of AP, titanium and platinum are highly unforgiving and tough metals to finish – yet their artisans embellish the watch to the same exquisite standard. While I usually prefer a running central seconds hand, the watch and its slender 8.1mm thin stance on the wrist is something I could absolutely get behind. If only I had had better access to obtaining the watch — oh, and the funds necessary to do so if I were even presented with the chance.
Fergus Nash – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding ref. 15450
Although it could be seen as somewhat of a boring choice when there’s chronographs, tourbillons and perpetual calendars to choose from, my pick is the simple Royal Oak Selfwinding in 37mm. To me, the Royal Oak’s magic comes from the power of that original 1972 release, and though this reference is 2mm smaller than the original 39mm case, I think it carries more of that vintage flair than the modern 41mm sizes. The blue waffle dial and baton hands and indices are enticing enough as is, without the need for lavish complications or gaudy flashes of diamonds in gold.