DON’T FEED THE HYPE: three alternatives to the Audemars Piguet Royal OakZach Blass
While this series is called “Don’t Feed the Hype”, I am not saying these watches are all hype – they definitely offer aesthetics, finishes, craftsmanship, and technology to back it up. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is such a phenomenal reference that ultimately ushered in the era of Genta domination. I love the watch and, if I had the chance, would definitely want to snag one of the many variants in the catalogue. But alas, the last time I was at Audemars Piguet’s office here in New York City they unfortunately would not take my kidney on trade. So, like many of you it is just not currently in the cards for me to grab one at retail. I would already need to liquidate some heavy hitters in my collection to make that happen (were one somehow presented to me at retail), and an even larger portion if I were to succumb to the premium on the secondhand market. This is why for the third round of this segment I am going to explore three Audemars Piguet Royal Oak alternatives that can provide a similar essence and merit in an attempt to stack up against the 1972 born design.
Editor’s Note: due to the similarity in essence of the Royal Oak to the Nautilus, you could arguably explore these alternatives as well.
Chopard Alpine Eagle
Then, and now, the Alpine Eagle that serves as an extension of the classic Chopard St Moritz was the brand’s answer to Genta-mania in 1980 – so aesthetically the notes are definitely there. But the new Alpine Eagle overhauls its former design and build, leveraging their highly robust and reflective proprietary Lucent Steel A223 – in both 41mm and 36mm sizes. Like the Royal Oak, the watch primarily features finely brushed surfaces with hints of mirror polish throughout. The bracelet has a three-piece design versus five, with a distinct raised square take on a centre link form. The shoulders of the bracelet are bevelled as the links taper ever so slightly down – so in short, there is a high degree of external finishing at play here.
The dial may not be particularly unique in shade, across its variants, but its texture is unlike anything we have seen before. It takes inspiration from the iris of an eagle, a sort of vertex texture that draws the eye to its centre. It is important to note that one advantage the Alpine Eagle has over the Royal Oak is its level of water-resistance. Secured by a screw-down crown the Alpine Eagle offers twice the depth rating, rated to 100 metres versus the 50 metres afforded by the Royal Oak. Another element to mention is that it is also a thinner watch with its 41mm configuration only 9.7mm thick.
Inside the 41mm watch is the entirely developed in-house Chopard 01.01-C movement, a COSC-certified automatic caliber with 60 hours of power reserve. It is not as elaborately finished as what you would find inside of a Royal Oak, but its clean and haute-industrial finish is still very attractive to look at.
Price: $12,800 USD in its 41mm configuration, $9,760 USD in its 36mm configuration
Zenith Defy Classic
We have seen many collectors and celebrities indulge in the open-worked variants of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, so while there are solid dial configurations of the Zenith Defy Classic I thought I would showcase two of their open-worked versions. Like the Alpine Eagle, the Zenith Defy Classic also primarily focuses on brushed surfaces with polished accents and chamfers. Like the Royal Oak, the Defy Classic bracelet is entirely brushed on its top surfaces, but its centre links are polished on their sides so that when they articulate, hints of glistening polish peek through. You will also find bevelled shoulders to the bracelet as well. It also has an edge in terms of water resistance, the 41mm watch rated to 100 metres water-resistant.
While very well finished, it is fair to say that the Royal Oak open-worked caliber finishing is of a higher grade. This is why I wanted to shout out not only the titanium variant but the full carbon configuration as well. AP has done the Royal Oak Offshore in carbon, but not with the original Royal Oak format – and Zenith has gone where most, if not all, never have with a fully carbon bracelet to match the case. Inside both of the watches is the Zenith Elite caliber, with 50 hours of power reserve and a silicon escape wheel and lever to protect against magnetism.
Price: $7,900 USD in titanium, $20,100 USD in carbon
Based on what I am hearing from my inner watchfam, people are more and more catching on to the Santos as an offering and demand has risen for the classic model. But I believe it is still within reach at retail, and the Santos in its current form and sizes has never been more robust and versatile. One of the first pilot’s watches, the Santos is an absolute classic – so in essence it meets the same criteria of timeless prestige. Its geometry is by no means identical to the Royal Oak, but it conveys a similar number of facets in a different format. Part of its latest round of upgrades include a screw-down crown that helps secure the watch to 100 metres of water-resistance, and a top-notch “QuickSwitch” bracelet that not only allows you to switch between the bundled bracelet and leather, but also quickly remove links with the ease of only using your finger. Inside the watch is the industrial finished caliber 1847 MC from Cartier, with 42 hours of power reserve, but it is tucked beneath a solid caseback out of sight.
Price: $7,450 USD in its large configuration, $6,800 USD in its medium configuration. The blue dial is only available in large.
Honorable mention: H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Centre Seconds
The Streamliner Centre Seconds definitely has a place not only on this list, but the previous Nautilus alternatives list as well. The only thing I cannot determine with absolute certainty is whether or not it is readily available to purchase. If you find this watch available at retail, then it is definitely a rabbit hole to go down. Its lugless cushion design and integrated bracelet are perfect for meeting a level of quality only haute horology can offer, but in an entirely unique format. H. Moser & Cie. is all about originality and being ahead of the trends, and this Streamliner Centre Seconds is the perfect example. Executed in stainless steel, the watch is 40mm in diameter, 12mm thick, and reigns supreme on this list with 120 metres of water-resistance (further secured by a screw-down crown).
The case has a radial brush that is framed by a caseband with polished chamfers. The primary satin and polished accents combo continues onto the bracelet as well, with hints of polish revealing themselves in the scalloped portions of the links. The green dial, and its castellated outer minutes track issues an aesthetic you will not find within the entry metal ranges of the Royal Oak – another attractive point of differentiation as well. Visible beneath an exhibition caseback is the in-house caliber HMC-200, finely decorated to a high standard with double-crested Côtes de Genève, chamfered bridges, and an openworked rotor made of solid gold that incorporates brushed and media-blasted surfaces. The movement, while elegant in its appearance, is also robust with a full balance bridge and free-sprung index to maximize shock-resistance.
Price: CHF 19,900