Versatility, provenance and elegance: perhaps the three main pillars that embody Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watch. With a multitude of styles and models, it seems the Royal Oak is Hollywood’s favourite watch. Owning a Royal Oak watch has become something of a milestone for celebrities, who don the clock face in an effort to show that they’ve made it. On its 50th anniversary, we’re taking a look at why the Royal Oak is so special, and why its various styles have fetched up to US $5.2 million.
Popular for everyone from Justin Bieber (who bought himself one as a wedding gift, obviously) to the biggest names in the NBA, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watch has cemented itself alongside legacy models from the likes of Rolex and Cartier, as one that must be owned by celebrities, and therefore, must be flexed.
But where did it begin? Well, as the story goes, designer Gérald Genta was called upon to conceptualise a watch that would bring Audemars Piguet back from the edge of bankruptcy in 1970. Genta was only given less than 24 hours to come up with a design that would appease AP’s audience and executives, so drew inspiration from the most unlikely of sources: a scuba helmet. Whilst its connotations couldn’t be more different to those of a Royal Oak now, the octagon silhouette and exposed screws made this design a watch maverick, massively contributing to its distinctiveness and eventual reputation as one of the greats.
Piguet’s Royal Oak was eventually unveiled in 1972, breaking existing convention in the market with its signature modernist take and angular form. Before it, watches were predominantly gold, and often dainty – the Royal Oak was sporty and made from steel. Fast forward to more recent years, 2019 saw the watch photographed on more celebrities than ever before – from Quavo to Serena Williams, Justin Bieber to Steph Curry.
It also proved popular with Drake, who snapped up a limited edition model designed by Matthew Williams. This Alyx x Mad Paris x AP features an industrial steel case, brushed steel face, AP and 1017 ALYX 9SM typographic logos and the latter’s signature buckle strap attached to a steel bracelet. At the time, only 40 of the custom watches were made available to buy, at the eye-watering price of US $47,995. It seems that its ability to be customised, updated and added to is key to its success and favour with the biggest names in entertainment.
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