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06/09/2022
 3 minutes

Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak Models and a Long History

By Thomas Hendricks
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Audemars Piguet is one of the most well-respected watch manufacturers in the industry, and it has remained in the hands of its founding families since 1875. AP was established through a partnership between Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet. The two men opened a shop in Le Brassus, a village within the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland. Audemars Piguet’s production facility is still located there to this day, just down the road from its historic workshop. 

In the late 19th century, Audemars Piguet carefully manufactured all of its components and assembled each timepiece in-house. This dedication to craft allowed the brand to produce highly complicated, and often technologically impressive pocket and wristwatches. AP developed the world’s first minute-repeating wristwatch in 1892; they later sold the patent to Omega. Seven years later, Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet achieved another milestone with a grand complication pocket watch that included a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph, and more. 

The brand used its expertise in miniaturizing pocket watch functions to push the boundaries of wristwatches throughout the 1900s. They debuted the world’s smallest minute repeater in 1920, and consistently produced ultra-thin and complicated dress watches. Many of these examples are highly sought-after by collectors for their remarkable quality and scarcity. 

Why is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak so popular?  

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: one of the most iconic watches of all time
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: one of the most iconic watches of all time

As sales slowed in the late 1960s, AP Managing Director Georges Golay tapped the half-Swiss, half-Italian designer Gérald Genta to design a striking new wristwatch for the brand. In 1972, Audemars Piguet revealed the Royal Oak, a contradictory sports watch that was made of steel, but sold for the price of gold. With its hand-finished case and bracelet, the Royal Oak has cemented itself as AP’s most recognizable model, and has remained in continuous production for fifty years. In 1993, the brand introduced a new collection of watches: the Royal Oak Offshore – a maximalist platform built to continuously evolve. This line resulted in countless limited edition models in a wide range of materials and with various complications. Its iconic design, not to mention its quality and ability to hold value, makes the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak one of the most popular watches of all time.  

The Royal Oak undoubtedly represents the core of AP’s offerings, with nearly 150 different models in its base collection; the Offshore and Royal Oak Concept lines expand the catalog even further. Other lines include the beautifully decorated Millenary, historically-informed [Re]master01, and the admittedly controversial CODE 11.59.  

Today, Audemars Piguet offers its timepieces exclusively through its own boutiques, and you can expect a significant waitlist for any of the brand’s modern icons. While standard Royal Oak models have a suggested retail price of around $25,000, secondary market premiums have ballooned to three, four, and even five times that.  

With significant investments in research and development, the superb watchmakers in the Vallée de Joux are tirelessly developing new complications and marvels. AP’s catalog includes a range of materials, from hand-hammered gold to scratch-resistant black and white ceramic, as well as ornate gem-setting – and more. 

Quality craftsmanship and precious materials are two reasons behind Audemars Piguet's success.
Quality craftsmanship and precious materials are two reasons behind Audemars Piguet’s success.

Who owns Audemars Piguet?  

Audemars Piguet is the oldest family-owned luxury watch brand in the world, and it proudly represents some of the most impressive Swiss watchmaking in history. The brand certainly deserves its spot at the top among the so-called “holy trinity” of watchmakers. The Royal Oak’s iconic design is respected throughout the community, and is one of just a few watches that are recognizable at a glance from the opposite side of the room.  


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

Read more

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