Timely salute to a classic

In 1972, a young watchmaker named Gerald Genta designed an elegant sports watch for Audemars Piguet called the Royal Oak. The watch was named after three warships in the British Royal Navy and featured a prestigious ultra-thin movement housed in a stainless steel case that was priced like a gold watch.
It wasn't just the price that raised eyebrows, it was the avant-garde design as well. Sceptics did not know what to make of its octagonal bezel, inspired by a ship's porthole, with eight visible screws that made purists gawk.
Nevertheless, the 1,000 pieces sold like hotcakes, saving Audemars Piguet from one of its most troubled financial periods.
Genta went on to design many more groundbreaking watches but, for Audemars Piguet, the Royal Oak was the sports timepiece that made it fashionable to wear an expensive steel sports watch.
The watchmakers at Audemars Piguet's Le Brassus headquarters in Switzerland have designed varying novelties with the Royal Oak's original DNA. In 1993, it introduced the sturdier Royal Oak Offshore, designed for extreme sports.
For the 40th anniversary, Audemars Piguet launched eight new models of the Royal Oak that stay true to the original timepieces. The anniversary editions are the 41mm Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak Tourbillon and the 39mm Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak, that come in platinum and are issued in a 40-piece limited engraved and numbered series.
This is the first time that the Royal Oak has come in a 41mm case and it houses the new Calibre 2924, a 4.46mm self-winding tourbillon movement designed, developed and produced in-house. One of the thinnest tourbillon movements on the market, it has a 70-hour power reserve and a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour (3Hz).
The 39mm diameter of the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak is identical to that of the 1972 original. It contributed to shaping the trend for more outsized watches and now represents a medium size, making it suitable for women.
The extra-thin 3.05mm self-winding Calibre 5122 movement is entirely openworked and the monobloc oscillating weight, entirely made of 22ct gold, is embossed with the inscription "AP Royal Oak 1972-2012".
The Royal Oak Tourbillon also comes in a rose gold version without the skeleton dial. The blue dial is inspired by the "Petite Tapisserie" motif and the original colour of the first Royal Oak with its tourbillon at 6 o'clock. The timepiece displays hours and minutes, and a power-reserve indicator divided into five segments.
The Royal Oak Jumbo measures in at 39mm and is powered by the Calibre 2121 movement, with a 40-hour power reserve. It features the brand at 6 o'clock and the date at 3 o'clock.
Other models announced at SIHH 2012 were the Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm watch, Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph and two models with diamond-set bezels - Selfwinding Royal Oak 37mm watch and Royal Oak Quartz 33mm watch. Joining these are two new Offshore models - the Royal Oak Offshore in platinum and the Royal Oak Offshore Diver.
The Jules Audemars collection features Year of the Dragon limited editions, comprising three tourbillons and one perpetual calendar. One version in rose gold has the dragon on a gold dial, while the other two in rose and white gold have the gold dragon against enamel dials.
Another new Jules Audemars novelty is the Chronometre AP. With this year's collection, it was a natural progression for Audemars Piguet to reflect on its own 137-year history, with a new branding campaign that harks back to the manufacturer's heritage with the tagline, "to break the rules, you must first master them".
The long-serving line, Le maitre de l'horlogerie depuis 1875, has been replaced with the name Le Brassus, where the watchmaker's manufacturing process take place.
"We take pride in being the oldest manufacturer still in the hands of the descendants of the founding families," says Audemars Piguet's CEO Philippe Merk.
"While the watches that we make are expressions of our respect for the traditions of handcrafted timepieces, we are also a modern, progressive company."

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