It's not every year one of the most iconic watch collections in watchmaking reaches a significant milestone anniversary. So, when it does happen, the entire watchmaking world waits with bated breath for the release of what will naturally be one of the industry's biggest talking points for quite some time.
It's no surprise that the Royal Oak's 50th anniversary has been around the corner for a while now. Question marks over how AP would mark the occasion have loomed large over the expected release for the last 12-18 months. Lo and behold, they are here now, and we can explore the watches they have launched, what is new about them, what we like, and how the market will react.
Gone is the 15202
To kick things off with this anniversary release, AP have discontinued the 15202, as we all knew would happen, and replaced it with another, even more, historically accurate timepiece, the ref. 16202. Within the collection, AP have launched four new references. They are the ref. 16202ST.OO.1240ST.01, in steel, on a steel bracelet, with a special true-to-the-original anniversary blue dial; the ref. 16202OR.OO.1240OR.01, in pink gold on a pink gold bracelet, with a "smoked grey" dial; the ref. 16202BA.OO.1240BA.01, in yellow gold on a yellow gold bracelet, with a smoked gold dial; and the ref. 16202PT.OO.1240PT.01 in platinum on a platinum bracelet, with a smoked green dial much like the 15202PT that AP launched last year.
Given its status as an icon, it is no surprise that AP has kept the 16202 accurate to the original 'Jumbo' Royal Oak from 1972, the ref. 5402. With an 8.1mm tall hexagonal 39mm diameter case, the 16202's measurements are identical to the 15202 across the four new 16202 references. However, while the case dimensions are the same, the movement inside them is not, and so the 16202's most exciting change is the introduction of its new automatic cal. 7121 movement.
Fitted with 55 hours of power reserve instead of the 15202's relatively paltry 40 hours, the cal. 7121 is quite the upgrade. It also features a quick-set date function to the relief of owners who were tired of scrolling through the hours for hours on end just to set the date, a 50th-anniversary winding rotor available just for 2022, and a frequency upgrade from 19,800 BPH to 28,800, which will result in a more time-telling, not that the 16202 has a seconds hand that would allow you to notice!
Across the four 16202 variants, the dial colors are quite stunning. While the smoked green dial on the ref. 16202PT and the smoked grey on the ref. 16202OR are both nothing new; they are as gorgeous as ever. The two new dial colors are the smoked yellow gold, which evolves from a light gold to an almost-black around the edges, and "Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50" – a shade of blue designed to emulate the exact shade of blue that the ref. 5402's dial was all those years ago, in 1972. With these four stunning "Petite Tapisserie" dials, iconic constructions, modernized movements, and subtle improvements, it will be hard to predict anything other than another 20 years of dominance for the 16202 across AP's catalog.
The Other References
As is always the case, Audemars Piguet haven't released a brand new collection of the Royal Oak without releasing a slew of other variants beyond just the 39mm 16202 that we just discussed. There are 11 new variants of the 37mm time and date only collection and 17 new Royal Oak Chronograph variants with 5 in the 38mm range and 12 in the 41mm range across various materials, dial colors, strap options, and gem settings. Of course, as we all know, the stainless steel gem-free variants will be the most popular, with the green dial 41mm ref. 26240ST.OO.1320ST.04 set up to be the most popular of the bunch.
AP have even gone as far as releasing four brand new variants of the Royal Oak Offshore in the middle of all this, each set with diamonds to varying degrees, with emerald and brilliant cuts being the preferred choice. All 43mm in diameter and powered by the cal. 4401, they are quite the surprise, but some people will undoubtedly love them.
Big Boy References
Besides these somewhat normal references, AP have also launched a selection of Haute horology Royal Oak references that will be as good as impossible to get your hands on. Ranging from their infamously unobtainable openworked double balance wheel Royal Oak to the first openworked flying tourbillon Royal Oak, the ref. 26735ST, this latest drop has it all.
Building off 2020's release, where AP launched the first Royal Oak with a flying tourbillon, this latest launch takes the incredible cal. 2972 movement and skeletonizes it alongside the Royal Oak's dial and packs everything within a 41mm stainless steel case. With its incredible architecture on display from both the dial and caseback, this amazing watch will undoubtedly be a must-have for heavy hitters worldwide.
In the same vein, AP have updated their openworked double balance wheel Royal Oak with the ref. 16204. Available in 18kt pink gold with a black DLC-coated dial-side top plate and in stainless steel with a stainless steel top plate and 18kt pink gold hour markers and hands to increase legibility, the ref. 16204 is quite an intriguing piece of design considering the labyrinthine design of its mesmerizing cal. 7124 movement.
Both incredible watches, it certainly sets an exciting scene for the Royal Oak for years to come as AP have come out all guns blazing on the back of this release. With a slew of fresh-faced designs revealed across the entire collection, the Royal Oak is undoubtedly more than capable of continuing its dominance at the top of watchmaking, and we can't wait to see the new references on our Horus Straps!