One of the most recognizable watches ever made, the Gerald Genta-designed Royal Oak was launched in 1972 and cost CHF3,650, which was the price of most other brands’ gold models, creating much bewilderment in the industry. However it was an instant success, owing largely to the fact that, with its octagonal bezel and highly distinctive integrated link bracelet, it was unlike anything else around at the time and was the first real luxury sports watch.
It has since become the brand’s flagship model (many would struggle to name another by the brand), the Ref. 5402 Jumbo (a reference to its 39 mm width) is positively bland compared to some of the models currently in the Royal Oak collection, which include a number of chronographs, skeleton dials and the Tourbillon Concept GMT in white and grey titanium and ceramic, which will set you back around $215,000. At SIHH 2018, Audemars Piguet showcased an ultra-thin perpetual calendar concept watch that was just 6.3 mm thin.
The Royal Oak eventually begat the Offshore model, at 42mm a much bulkier brother, which stunned the industry when released in 1993. Hugely influential, the Offshore has been something of a pioneer in its use of unconventional case materials and has developed a reputation for ostentatiousness thanks to 44mm beasts like the Michael Schumacher limited edition chronograph in 18ct pink gold. The Offshore turned 25 this year and celebrated with a slew of limited edition commemorative models.
The Royal Oak is named after three British Royal Navy warships carrying that name, the last of which was sunk by a German submarine in 1939 (the maritime theme continues with the case, modeled after the octagonal port-hole shape of the case). The ships were called Royal Oak as a tribute to English monarch Charles II who hid in an oak tree while escaping the troops of Oliver Cromwell.