Is there anything Royal Oak cannot do? It shocked the industry at its launch in 1972 with an original design by the legendary Gérald Genta. Its size, at that time, was shocking and so was the choice of stainless steel for a very expensive, luxury watch, albeit one with a sporty design. Yet, Royal Oak pushed Le Brassus watchmaker Audemars Piguet over the hump of the “quartz crisis” and has remained one of the most desirable names ever since.
Royal Oak thrilled again at SIHH 2018 with Royal Oak RD#2, the world’s thinnest self-winding perpetual calendar. It is 6.3mm thick, making it 2mm thinner than the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Jumbo, while delivering a magnificent bundle of complications. It took five years to engineer the movement, combining and rearranging features, including a 2.89mm central rotor.
The 950 platinum case is more refined and very clean, with a brushed finish. The striking blue dial, with the iconic grande tapisserie pattern, packs a lot of detail: day, date, astronomical moon, month, leap year, night and day indicators, hours and minutes.
Though Royal Oak RD#2 was the show-stopper, there were some 100 Audemars Piguet novelties, ranging from dial changes to complete new models. CEO François-Henry Bennahmias says that it is a case of presenting more options.
“Consumers want more options when they buy into the brand. This is especially so for women because when you are spending 25, 30 or 40 thousand on a watch, you want options. And of the 40,000 watches we sell every year, 10,000 are to repeat clients. So if we want to keep the momentum going, we have to come up with new things. The Royal Oak remains the foundation of the brand, the base of everything.”
True to his word, Bennahmias presented a stunning option for women which was also the brand’s first flying tourbillon. The Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon concept watch understands that women like diamonds, but they also like technology – haute joaillerie meets haute horlogerie. The two models are big – 38.5mm – and bold, with either brilliant-cut diamonds or baguette-cut diamonds set in 18ct white gold on an openwork face.
“We get more and more inquiries every day from women who want complicated watches and we have been asked many times, ‘why not a lady’s concept watch?’ The biggest issue was the shape of the case which is very flat in the men’s models and wouldn’t fit any woman’s wrist.” The challenge was to fit the movement into an ergonomic shape suited to the female form.
Three new models in the Millenary collection are also aimed at women who value beauty and brains. White opal dials on a partially open face are contained in 18ct pink gold with a frosted finish and a gold Polish mesh bracelet. Pink gold or white gold versions are diamond-set and feature mother-of-pearl dials with extra-large Roman numerals.
SIHH 2018 celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore, a larger version of Royal Oak which Audemars Piguet has often used to excite the market.
“We went though a lot of options and discussions on the bezel and eventually we decided yes, we should open the bezel because we are only going to do this once and we want to create the perception that the movement is held by this ruse.”
In a fast-changing retail scene, Bennahmias says Audemars Piguet has a distinct advantage in being a family-owned company, allowing a fast response to market forces. “We have a clear strategy of where we are going,” he says. “We want to be in full control of our destiny.”