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Gerald Genta's original drawings Audemars Piguet's Roal Oak

Antiquorum witnesses 50 years of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak 1972-2022

The renowned international auction house with Swiss routes Antiquorum celebrates the birthday of Audemars Piguet’s icon Royal Oak with an exciting themed auction. 

Antiquorum founded in 1974, has been at the forefront of the success of the Royal Oak. Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak has a long history on the auction market and incredible Royal Oak went under the hammer at Antiquorum. In 1992, Antiquorum auctioned its first Royal Oak timepieces in Geneva at Hotel des Bergues. Today, with more than 30 years of archives, Antiquorum has recorded nearly 1,000 Royal Oak watches presented for sale, of which nearly 8 out of 10 were sold, providing us with a very interesting reference on the evolution of this model’s value.  

Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak is one of the best success stories in contemporary design launched 50 years ago, back in 1972. Designed by Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak became an iconic wristwatch over the years for watch enthusiasts, collectors, and auctioneers. First, Audemars Piguet had approached Genta to design a sports watch which remained rare back then. By taking inspiration from vintage diving helmets and applying those visible screws to an octagonal bezel with an integrated bracelet, Genta sketched the design in one night—and the rest was history. 

The Royal Oak was first introduced at Baselworld in 1972 and back then was commercialized for CHF 3’650 (around CHF 10’000 today) – first, the timepiece was not a total success as steel sports watches were not sought after but reaches today very high demand and is increasingly elusive. 

“Our first 2022 auction took place the 18th of January in Monaco. For the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet, it was unthinkable not to present a piece to celebrate this anniversary, especially in Monaco, where Gerald Genta lived for many years: the brainchild of the esteemed Gerald Genta went under the hammer and was sold for EUR 260’000,” says Romain Rea, CEO of Antiquorum.  

Antiquorum was pleased to start off the year with a unique selection of timepieces for its Monaco auction at Monaco Yacht Club. The auction house sold an extremely rare fine tonneau shaped 18k yellow gold self-winding perpetual calendar Royal Oak wristwatch with gold dial. 

Audemars  Piguet’s Royal  Oak  Perpetual  Calendar -year 1986- in 18K yellow gold with day, date, month and moon phases (Lot 171). This Ref. 25554 Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar dates back to 1986 and is one of the very first perpetual calendar Royal Oaks manufactured. 
Day, date, month and moon phases with original box and extract from the Archives. 
Estimation: EUR 200,000 – 300,000 
Sold for EUR 260’000 (Including buyer’s premium)

Audemars Piguet was first known for its perpetual calendar production in pocket watches, but its first-ever perpetual calendar wristwatch was manufactured in 1948. Only nine examples of its reference 5516 have been produced and very few followed due to the fastidious manufacturing processes at the time. Back in December 2021 in Hong Kong, Antiquorum sold the most expensive Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in Platinum and 18K Pink Gold on the auction market. Caliber 2120/2800 was launched by Audemars Piguet in 1978 at the height of the quartz crisis. 

Audemars Piguet Ref. 25686, Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, 1997, “tuscan dial” platinum and 18k pink gold (Lot 383). Very fine and extremely rare, platinum and 18k pink gold, self-winding wristwatch with water-resistant with sapphire-crystal case-back. 
Estimation: CHF 95,000 – 178,000  
Sold for CHF 178,197 (Including buyer’s premium) 

A World Record was set by Antiquorum a few months ago, during the November auction week in Geneva. Antiquorum sold, over the higher estimation, this amazing and extremely rare, self- winding, stainless steel perpetual calendar wristwatch. This memorable timepiece is the most expensive Royal Oak in steel sold on the auction market. 

Audemars Piguet confirmed that this example was born with a salmon dial despite the wrong code on the original certificate. Completely  overhauled, Audemars  Piguet’s  Royal  Oak Perpetual Calendar, 1996 (Lot 453), was ready to be worn and enjoyed with probably one of the most striking dials (along with the Yves Klein) ever made on the perpetual calendar. 
Estimation: CHF 200,000 – 300,000 
Sold for CHF 462,500 (Including buyer’s premium)

In 1972, Audemars Piguet introduced the Royal Oak with a first batch of 1,000 watches called the “A series” because of the letter A engraved on their case back. Two years later, additional series were produced under ref. 5204 with the letter A, B, C and D. This model (numbered 344) appears to have been created between the A and B series in 1976 and corresponds to Gerald Genta’s 1972 design.  The case back is signed Royal Oak only, with no number. 

Lovers of the Royal Oak will delight with the World Record set at Antiquorum Auction in Monaco last July 2021. This incredible Royal Oak is a historical timepiece as only few examples known, the first one to appear at auction with box and papers.

Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak -year 1976- Ref. 5402ST, intermediary series; stainless steel (Lot 430) 
Fine and very rare, stainless steel, self-winding, tonneau-shaped, gentleman’s wristwatch, with a black lacquered dial and date. With original box, certificate, and service invoices. 
Estimation: EUR 80’000 – 150’000 
Sold for EUR 286’000 (Including buyer’s premium)

The watchmaking prowess of “skeletonization” does not leave collectors and watch enthusiasts indifferent. Revealing a part of the internal mechanism is a true horological art. Audemars Piguet, an expert in this field in the 1930s-1950s, used this skeletonization process on its Royal Oak collection, starting with a pendant version in 1981.  

An extraordinary Royal Oak Platinum Skeleton wristwatch went under the hammer in October 1992, at Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. The timepiece was sold CHF 59’800 back in 1992 and is today estimated to CHF 200’000 according to Arnaud Tellier, Antiquorum expert and Director of Asia-Pacific. 

Audemars Piguet, “Royal Oak” No. 021, present series (Lot 343). Fine self-winding, platinum skeleton gentleman’s wristwatch with perpetual calendar and moon phases, with platinum integrated bracelet with fitted box and certificate. 
Estimation: CHF 45’000 – 55’000 
Sold for CHF 59’800 (Including buyer’s premium) 

“Designed in 1971 by Gerald Genta and produced in 1972, the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet is one of  the  most  iconic  contemporary  sports chic  models  in  the  watchmaking  world.  Genta’s  great intelligence is to insist on the thinness of the watch case: minimizing the space in the case is a feat that watchmakers no longer know how to do. The watch becomes a bracelet, like a piece of jewelry. This is what makes it a timeless object,” says Romain Rea, CEO of Antiquorum. 

Nicknamed “Jumbo” by collectors, it owes this nickname to its tonneau-shaped case measuring 39mm, very large for the time. In November 2020, during the lockdown, Antiquorum sold the most expensive Royal Oak in Yellow Gold. 

Audemars  Piguet  Ref.  5402,  Jumbo  Royal  Oak,  B  series,  40th ever produced, yellow gold. (Lot 405) 
A  fine,  large,  extremely  rare,  iconic,  self-winding,  18k  yellow  gold wristwatch with date 
Estimation: CHF 60’000 – 120’000 
Sold for CHF 150’000 (Including buyer’s premium)

More than 50 Royal Oak models went under the hammer in 2012, during an exceptional auction at Grand Hotel de Kempinski in Geneva. For collectors and auctioneers, the Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Jumbo “Serie A” n°88 is one of the oldest serial numbers to have been auctioned. A small anecdote also concerns the AP logo at 6 o’clock as only the A series and about half of the pieces produced for the B series display it. 

Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Jumbo “Series A” n°88 (Lot 402) has been produced in 1972 in steel. In  excellent  overall  original  condition  still  with  its  Gay  Freres bracelet dated 1.72 and combined with the lucky number 88, it is the perfect collector’s example. 
Estimation: CHF 15’000 – 20’000 
Sold for CHF 40’000 CHF (Including buyer’s premium)

When the mythic “Jumbo” was born 50 years ago, the timepiece was first criticized for its atypical shape and its 39mm diameter and has since become one of the most mystical watches in the world. For half a century, the Royal Oak has been manufactured through many iconic designs and today the Manufacture Audemars Piguet pays tribute to the timeless icon of 1972. 

Audemars Piguet has reinvented the Caliber 2121, removed from production at the end of 2021, to manufacture the Caliber 7121, a much more powerful and precise caliber. The new masterpiece, Royal Oak “Jumbo” extra-thin Ref. 16202, rewinds time, offering the same dial as the original timepiece. The pieces produced in 2022 will benefit from an engraved oscillating weight “50 years”: a future collector piece that we hope to appear under the hammer in the next few auctions at Antiquorum. 

The dynamism of Antiquorum is also reflected through its open valuations days around Europe: Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Spain for which you can book an appointment directly online. Be ready for the next Antiquorum auctions in Hong Kong (online auction) 9th of March, 2022 and in Geneva 8th of May, 2022.


About Karl Heinz Nuber

Nuber ist langjähriger unabhängiger Uhren Journalist und begann seine Karriere in den frühen 80er Jahren. Durch das Sammeln kam er zum Schreiben. Er ist Gründer des vierteljährlich regelmässig bilingual – Deutsch und English - erscheinenden TOURBILLON Magazin’s, der digitalen TOURBILLON Plattform TICK-Talk, der Ausstellungs- und Event Plattform Art of TOURBILLON und TOURBILLON TV. Er tritt regelmässig als Kenner der Branche in Erscheinung.

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