A Journey Through Time
A FEAT OF MECHANICS
It is at the heart of the Jura Mountains that the legendary Calibre 2120 was born in 1967, from the collaboration of three renowned companies LeCoultre & Cie, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin.
A few years later, this mechanism was chosen by Audemars Piguet, a Manufacture then almost a 100 years old, to power the first high-end sports watch ...
THE FIRST SKETCH
On April 11, 1970, at 4 pm, Georges Golay, then Audemars Piguet’s Managing Director, phoned Gérald Genta to ask him to draw “an unprecedented steel watch” for the next morning.
The designer took inspiration from a childhood memory: the sight of divers, whose lives depended on the water-resistance of their helmets, ready to dive into the Rhône.
What a crazy idea: an octagonal bezel punctuated by eight hexagonal screws going through the steel case and secured with eight nuts, all the while compressing a gigantic gasket!
The case makers were worried about the feasibility of such a watch. They asked if they could first practice on a gold version, a material more malleable than steel.
The Royal Oak was unveiled on April 15, 1972 at the Basel Fair. This unconventional, iconoclast and revolutionary timepiece shocked some, while appealed to others.
It invented the notion of “sport chic” by blending two opposite worlds: Haute Horlogerie and sport. Robust yet hand made, oversize yet ultra-thin, this steel watch cost the price of gold.
Smaller but even more radical! Designed by Jacquline Dimier, the very first Royal Oak variation was devoted to women.
Proportions were rethought, but the strength of its original codes permeated: straight lines, steel case, integrated bracelet, Tapisserie dial, hand finishes and, of course, a selfwinding movement.
FROM ENFANT TERRIBLE TO COLLECTION
In 1977, the Royal Oak witnessed the addition of its first gold versions as well as an intermediate size. From then on, the enfant terrible of watchmaking broke free from its steel armour to become a remarkable ground of creative expression.
Fifty years later, 550 variations have joined an all-star cast interpreting the original iconoclast that became an icon.
PLAYS OF LIGHT
The Royal Oak was designed to play with light. The thousands of pyramids adorning its dial, the facets of its bracelet, the chamfers of its bezel, the alternation of satin-finished and polished surfaces all contribute to making it shine.
The first diamonds made their appearance in the collection in 1978, announcing a bright future for the Royal Oak.
PERFECT FOR THE POCKET
Radical in 1972 and untouched for the first four years, the Royal Oak then became an extraordinary playground.
Ultra-thin and ultra-elegant, it left the wrist in 1979 to slide comfortably into the pocket of a suit.
BETWEEN EARTH, MOON AND SKY
In 1984, the Royal Oak welcomed the perpetual calendar movement, Calibre 2120/2800 – the encounter of two legends.
On the one hand, a ground-breaking mechanism which paved the way for the revival of complications in the aftermath of the quartz crisis. On the other, an avant-garde octagonal timepiece, whose future promised many surprises.
To celebrate the Royal Oak’s 25th anniversary, the Le Brassus watchmakers endowed the timepiece with a tourbillon – a complication then making a major comeback.
At their workbenches, they created and assembled the 80 components of this technical feat defying gravity, which weighted just over a gramme.