Associating gold to an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has always been kind of strange to us, as, when launched in 1972, this luxury sports watch was only available in stainless steel (and this choice of material was clearly part of the base concept). However, with the demand for gold in certain regions and for specific clients, the Royal Oak has been updated with the precious material in almost all its iterations. Recently, the collection was only featuring watches in rose gold, replacing yellow gold since approximately 7 or 8 years. For the SIHH 2016, the Le Brassus-based manufacture made a surprising move by bringing yellow gold back – well, a come back… at least for sports watches and for the Royal Oak. Let’s see if the old-but-new recipe works on the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320 Yellow Gold.
First let’s go over the watch. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320 is a known watch, introduced at the SIHH, back in 2012, as an update of the older chronograph (ref. 25860 “Kasparov” and then ref. 26300). The update was rather important, not only visually but also in terms of proportions, feeling on the wrist and finishing. While the old reference 26300 measured 39mm, this actual version of the Royal Oak Chronograph has a 41mm diameter (thus a 2mm increase). You know us here at Monochrome-Watches; we’re usually advocates of downsizing… with a few exceptions, and this was the case here. Of course, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph became larger on the wrist but also better proportioned. The older reference was kind of thick and on this new one, the ratio diameter / thickness feels more natural, more in line with the shape of the Royal Oak, which deserves a bit of thinness. With a height of 10.80mm, it remains a rather slim watch (at least for a chrono) and once strapped, it is more balanced, more pleasant and more elegant. Strange enough to be noticed, but real.
The second update concerned the dial, which first get rid of the triangular index at 12 and now features a smaller “hobnail” pattern (called Grande Tapisserie). All of that, combined with the larger diameter (which also affects the dial, now larger) gives a cleaner, more spaced feel, resulting in a watch less toolish and more elegant. As you can see in the close-up photo, the details of the dial are still sumptuous and, as usual at Audemars Piguet, obtained from a complex hand-made guilloché process. One thing to note here is the layout of this dial – a classical tri-compax setup that indicates what ticks inside. On the contrary of the Chronographs of the Offshore collection, this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320 still relies on an integrated automatic movement (Calibre 2385, based on a Piguet movement – used for the moment, but it might change in the coming years…) and not on the modular construction. This movement, operated by a column-wheel, remains hidden under a plain caseback.
Now let’s talk about the main subject: yellow gold. Is yellow gold making a come back? Is yellow gold THE new trend? Well, in a recent interview with François-Henry Bennahmias, we discussed this subject. In his answer, he was pointing out the fact that there was almost no yellow gold anymore in collections (from any large brands), which is in fact true, but only in terms of sports watches. Yellow gold has made a timid come back since 2 or 3 years in dress watches (and some manufactures still have yellow gold in the dress collections). On the other hand, more modern, bolder and sportier watches were more or less all crafted in rose or red gold (without mentioning white gold… but we’re focussing on warm gold tones). So, Audemars Piguet is in a way bringing yellow gold back in the game with the Royal Oak, on the specific market of the luxury sports watches. Will it be a new trend? On this specific question, only time will tell. It seems that sales were good for Audemars Piguet at the SIHH, concerning this new collection. However, we have no clue if other brands, competitors of Audemars Piguet or not, will ever come back to this material.
Now, let’s be honest and give you our opinion on the use of yellow gold on the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320. Before going into the reasons, yes, it works. It certainly better works than rose gold to me. Why? First of all, it is certain that yellow gold shines more, it is more vivid and more visible than rose gold, which usually is softer and warmer (the addition of copper and silver in the alloy brings more subtlety to the material). However, the Royal Oak has an almost complete brushed finish, which prevents the watch to be too shiny or too blingy. It is a matte watch, enlightened by polished details (the bezel’s bevels, the chamfers on the case and the bracelet). Those details apart, the Royal Oak remains rather sporty in its aspect. Thus, we’re not in front of a gold nugget that pops on your wrist (relatively speaking of course).
Then, it has to be kept in mind that the Royal Oak Chronograph is a kind of vintage-inspired watch, with a design using elements from the 1970s watches – and at that time most gold watches were made in yellow gold. Bringing an outdated material like yellow gold on a watch, which in some ways, is also looking at the past is a pretty interesting idea. It has some consistency. Let’s admit that the use of yellow gold, without considering tastes, remains coherent with the overall concept of the watch.
It’s quite interesting to see Audemars Piguet going back to the bases of the Royal Oak, by using yellow gold again, just like the very first gold editions of the Royal Oak launched in 1977 – and also with a two-tone edition of the ref. 15400 Automatic in 2015, also a specific style used in the early editions. We won’t tell you that yellow gold is THE new trend in terms of watches or that it makes a real come-back. However, we can tell you that its use on the Royal Oak is understandable, coherent and very pleasant.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320 Yellow Gold is available in two editions, with a choice of white or blue dial, and will be priced at 55,800 Euros (inc. EU Taxes). You can see all the new yellow gold collection on the dedicated page of Audemars Piguet’s website.