The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is an icon, and rightfully so. The luxury stainless steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet was the first of its kind, and it’s been copied quite a bit since its release in 1972.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak shot up in market value for years before starting to come back down to earth in 2022. However, this doesn’t mean they’re any more available at retail shops, or even more accessible on websites like Chrono24. In fact, we’re still seeing the 41-mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15500ST selling for more than twice its retail price on our marketplace.
It’s undoubtedly a watch that attracts attention. This is good news if you’re looking for a status symbol, but not so good if you want something that will fly under the radar. This is especially relevant in a time of heightened watch thefts around the world. In any case, there are a lot of great watches that share a similar spirit to the Royal Oak and deserve more of our attention. So, with that in mind, we thought we’d highlight five alternatives to the AP Royal Oak.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternative #1:
VACHERON CONSTANTIN OVERSEAS
Let’s start with the Vacheron Constantin Overseas. This watch comes from the often forgotten third member of watchmaking’s holy trinity, and the model has gotten more popular as the Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus surged into the stratosphere.
The key features of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas are its bezel and bracelet, which feature the brand’s signature Maltese cross motif. These elements can be a little divisive, especially the sharper versions of the current generation, but older generations are slightly more muted if that’s more your style.
There’s a good variety of references available, and some attractive ones, like the refs. 42040 and 42050 can be found for $10,000 to 12,000, so for much less than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Vacheron Constantin also makes a pretty killer chronograph version (ref. 49140) with bold numerals and a big date at 12 o’clock – or the 49150 with hot red accents. We could go down a rabbit hole here, but let’s just say there’s a lot of heat in this lineup.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternative #2:
BULGARI OCTO FINISSIMO
If the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is known for being extra thin, then let’s call the Bulgari Octo Finissimo extra, extra thin. The Octo line has broken many records in recent years, and there’s a wide variety of case materials and complications to choose from.
The titanium version is the classic, but my personal favorite is the sandblasted steel. Time and date models will run you approximately $10,000 to 12,000, but if you have more of an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak level budget to work with, consider something special like the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Middle East edition (ref. 103023), the Tadao Ando edition, or perhaps an openworked or chronograph GMT.
Some say the case is over-engineered, but that’s almost like saying a car is too fast. Bulgari has squeezed 110 facets into a small amount of real estate, and it plays with the light so magnificently. It also sports the best bracelet in the game, in my opinion; those thin, reptilian links hug the wrist like nothing else.
And the beauty doesn’t stop there. Flip the watch over, and you’ll see the micro-rotor-powered BVL 138 through the sapphire case back.
This is a watch you have to try to believe; it’s gained a whole lot of converts in recent years. I’d also argue that it’s a classic in the making, and there’s still time to hop on this train.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternative #3:
If you’re a regular reader of our magazine, you may already know that I’m a big Cartier fan. So, I may sound like a broken record, but hey, it’s a good record.
The Cartier Santos combines strong design, horological history, and everyday practicality for not a lot of money. The watch debuted in 1904 for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont, becoming the first pilot’s watch and the first men’s wristwatch in mass production.
Design-wise, there are some signature Cartier elements like the stretched Roman numerals and the cabochon crown, but there are also similarities to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Both are brutalist, hard-edged offerings from classic brands, and both have exposed screws on their bezels. Plus, the bracelets play with the light in similar ways. The Cartier Santos’ bracelet is a major reason why people buy the watch, and it’s thrilling to see the light jump from brick to brick as you move your wrist.
The current Cartier Santos has 100 m (328 ft) of water resistance, which is twice that of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, so it works well as a dress watch and a daily beater. At 8.83 mm, it’s also thinner than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak; the ref. 15500ST measures 10.5 mm. Selling for well under $10,000, the Cartier Santos is a lot of watch for the money.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternative #4:
TISSOT PRX POWERMATIC 80
OK, it’s hard to say that the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 is flat out better than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, but at $650 for the steel version, it’s certainly a better deal.
Tissot is not a brand that watch nerds usually talk about, but this model in particular has been well received at all levels of the watch community, and it’s a regular on any “Best Watches Under $1,000” list.
The dial is clearly inspired by the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the bracelet is quite similar to the Rolex Oysterquartz, so it’s not exactly an original design, but it looks cohesive and gives you the feeling of an integrated bracelet sports watch for about as cheap as possible.
Tissot managed to equip this watch with an 80-hour power reserve, which is impressive for any watch, and a full 10 hours more than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. It’s also got 100 m (328 ft) of water resistance, which adds to its sportiness. So, whether you’re looking for your first watch or a fun impulse buy, you can’t go wrong here.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Alternative #5:
ROYAL OAK DUAL TIME
Yes, I’m recommending an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as an alternative to a Royal Oak. I’m breaking the rules a bit, but the Dual Time is my favorite variation, and you never really see anyone talking about it.
Here, you have this wonky but balanced asymmetrical design featuring a second time zone, day/night indicator, subdial for the date, and a power reserve indicator. It’s a very useful watch, although my power reserve would always be on full since I’d be wearing this watch all the time.
The complications add a good dose of practicality, and it also looks as great on a strap as it does on a bracelet. You can swing dressier with the factory Audemars Piguet alligator leather strap, or throw it on a rubber strap for stealthy sports mode.
It’s not cheap, but you get a lot more for your money than you would with a standard time and date Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.