While the stars of the show for the celebrations of the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary were, without a doubt, the new Extra-Thin 16202 and the Openworked 16204, Audemars Piguet won’t only be looking at the Jumbo models. In fact, throughout 2022, the entire permanent Royal Oak collection will be updated. Be reassured; we’re talking small touches to make these models slightly more refined or mechanically more modern. The design invented by Genta in 1972 is still alive and well and almost intact. First, concerning the Royal Oak Selfwinding 37mm and Selfwinding Chronographs 38mm & 41mm, the evolutions will be focusing on details from the case and bracelet and dial design/colours. And, a little spoiler, these evolutions will also concern the Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm and 34mm in the second half of 2022. But let’s look at this new collection to understand what has changed.
The 2022 Updates on the Royal Oak Collection
Let’s get straight to the point. We’re not looking at a complete overhaul of the Royal Oak. Don’t expect a complete redesign or entirely new models. The collection that Audemars Piguet releases in the frame of the 50 years of the Royal Oak is about subtle, minimal updates without altering the original concept of the RO collection. It’s still a sports watch with an integrated bracelet; it still features an octagonal bezel with eight screws; it is still a proper luxury watch; and it still features a tapisserie pattern on the dial. And the way the collection is articulated – read Selfwinding time-and-date watches in 34mm, 37mm and 41mm, as well as two Selfwinding Chronographs in 38mm and 41mm – hasn’t been touched either. Those who were expecting the Royal Oak to change will be disappointed. Those, and they are many, who were looking forward to the Royal Oak remaining true to its origins will be pleased.
So, what has changed in 2022? And this goes for all three Royal Oak Selfwinding 37mm and Chronographs 38mm and 41mm we’re looking at today and will be the same for the 34mm and 41mm later this year. As for the case, it’s about the finishing and how the case is shaped. While retaining the same proportions as before, these new Royal Oak references now have enlarged polished bevels adorning the top and the bottom of the case, enhancing the contrast and play of light with the brushed surfaces. Also, the screwed caseback has been slightly more integrated into the case middle to sit more comfortably on the wrist.
Another evolution concerns the transition between case and bracelet and the way the whole tapers to the clasp. Indeed, to accentuate the case’s slenderness and add a bit of refinement, the integrated bracelet’s first four links are now trapezoid in shape and no longer parallel. This more pronounced decrease in thickness brings forward the bracelet’s taper for more visual appeal. Furthermore, the links are thinner throughout the bracelet and therefore lighter, enhancing the comfort on the wrist – this evolution of the design was actually introduced discreetly on Royal Oak models in gold a few years ago but now finds its way into the whole collection, including steel and titanium models.
The second update concerns the dials. Audemars Piguet adds subtle touches without drastically changing the overall idea of the tapisserie pattern, which has been associated with the Royal Oak since its very creation. The idea with the 2022 update of the Royal Oak Selfwinding models is to bring coherence. Design-wise, the hour markers and hands retain the same aesthetics as before, yet the size has been harmonised across the whole collection, regardless of diameter and material. In the same vein, the proportions of the hour markers of the new self-winding chronographs and self-winding time-and-date timepieces have been standardised according to the different diameters.
Looking at the dial in more detail, there’s a new AUDEMARS PIGUET signature, replacing the applied AP monogram and printed text used in past collections. Now, the brand is using the same embossed signature as used on Code 11.59. Made of thin layers of 24-carat gold, the signature is achieved through a chemical process akin to 3D printing known as galvanic growth. Each letter is connected with links approximately the size of a hair and placed on the dial by hand. Also, all watches now have tone-on-tone date wheels.
Finally, while the tapisserie pattern has been retained and shows the same size as before – and this is specific to the 37mm time-and-date model – the flat external zone on which the minute track was printed has now been removed, and the track is now printed directly on the guilloché dial, just like on Jumbo models. The two 38mm and 41mm Selfwinding chronographs retain a smooth external scale, which is used as a precision seconds track.
The comeback of the BLEU NUIT, NUAGE 50 Dial
One of the signature elements of the Royal Oak, when it was introduced in 1972, was its dial. Sure, it had to do with the Petite Tapisserie pattern, but not only. One of the emblematic elements was the colour, the so-called Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 dial (night blue, cloud 50). This hue was originally developed by Geneva-based dial maker Stern Frères. The blue colour was obtained by immersing each dial in a galvanic bath – with precise timing for the bath otherwise the colour could range from purple to black. A thin layer of varnish mixed with a few drops of black colour (n° 50) was then applied to the dial to protect it. Known to be relatively unstable, this could result in vintage models now presenting dark blue, grey or even tropical dials. Today, the colour is obtained through a modern and stable process, thanks to PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition). This colour is now back on all present references, whether stainless steel or gold models.
More colours are, of course, available, such as silver, grey, the highly cool light blue you can see on the 37mm Selfwinding model, black or even a new khaki green that is used on the gold 41mm chronograph photographed in this article. All models have the so-called Grande Tapisserie pattern. First appearing in 1998, it altered the size of the truncated pyramids, which became twice as big, thus reducing the number of pyramids from approximately 700 to 380 on a 39mm Royal Oak Jumbo dial. The motif was so successful back then that it completely replaced the Petite Tapisserie until its comeback in 2012 with the updated 15202. This Grande Tapisserie is now offered on all 34, 37, 38, and 41mm Selfwinding Royal Oak models (chrono or time-and-date).
The new Royal Oak Selfwinding 37mm 15550
First in line for the 2022 Royal Oak collection is an update of the 37mm automatic version. Known until now as the reference 15450, this model is updated this year with the evolutions explained above – newly shaped case and bracelet, updated dial – but also brand new mechanics. Until now, the Royal Oak Selfwinding 37mm was powered by the calibre 3120 (which has been the driving force behind the 15300 and 15400, replaced with the 41mm 15500).
The new reference Royal Oak 15550 is now equipped with the calibre 5900, a movement with a thinner profile (3.9mm vs 4.26mm) and a higher frequency of 4Hz. Despite the increased frequency, the power reserve has been retained at a solid 60 hours. The movement, visible through the caseback, is adorned with the “50 Years” rotor, something exclusive to the 2022 production.
Thanks to this updated movement and to the new caseback architecture, the Royal Oak Selfwinding 37mm 15550 is also fairly thinner than the past model, now measuring 8.9mm in height versus 9.8mm, while retaining its 37mm diameter and the same 50m water-resistance with a pull-out crown. There are different versions of the 15550 presented. Four of them – known as reference 15550ST – are made of stainless steel, either with a silver, dark blue (bleu nuage), grey or light blue dial. In addition, there’s also the 15550SR, a silver dial version housed in a two-tone, steel and pink gold case.
Quick facts: 37mm x 8.9mm – steel or two-tone case – 50m water-resistance – pull-out crown, sapphire crystal front and caseback – Grande Tapisserie dial with luminous hands and markers – calibre 5900, automatic, 4Hz, 60h power reserve, time and date – integrated bracelet with folding clasp – ref. 15550ST in steel, 15550SR in two-tone – EUR 23,300 in steel, EUR 28,700 in two-tone
The new Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 38mm 26715
Audemars Piguet uses the 50th-anniversary collection to update its most compact Royal Oak chronograph, the Selfwinding 38mm. Known until now as the reference 26315, it now becomes the reference 26715. There is no new movement here; however, the update mainly focuses on the habillage and the dials.
As such, the diameter remains at 38mm, and the height of the case is still quite reasonable sized at 11mm. Although the case benefits from the updates on the bevels and on the transition case/bracelet, the overall look remains familiar with the same screw-locked crown and chronograph pushers. Water-resistance is still rated at 50 metres. Inside the case, we find the calibre 2385, which is an automatic column-wheel integrated movement based on the architecture of the Frédéric Piguet 1185. On this model, the caseback is solid metal.
The Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 38mm 26715 is released in five different editions. Two models (26715ST) are made of steel with either a dark blue or a grey dial. Another steel model is presented with a light blue dial and diamonds on the bezel. Finally, two pink gold models (26715OR) are offered, either with a dark blue dial or a silver dial with a diamond-set bezel.
Quick facts: 38mm x 11mm – steel or pink gold case – 50m water-resistance – screw-locked crown and pushers, sapphire crystal dial side – Grande Tapisserie dial with luminous hands and markers – calibre 2385, automatic chronograph, 3Hz, 40h power reserve, time, chrono and date – integrated bracelet with folding clasp – ref. 26715ST in steel, 26715OR in pink gold – EUR 31,500 in steel, EUR 62,500 in gold
The new Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm 26240
Following the introduction of the in-house calibre 4401 on the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm in gold models last year, the brand now introduces the new reference 26240, which takes on the base of 2021 yet with the evolutions mentioned above, and with stainless steel editions also receiving this new calibre. As such, this new model replaces the older reference 26331 with its Piguet-based movement.
Presented in steel or rose gold, all with tone-on-tone dials – no contrasting sub-dials in this new collection – the reference 26240 is exceptionally close to the 26239OR introduced in 2021. It nevertheless uses the updated chamfers and redesigned bracelet, as well as the new 3D logo on the dial. The case here measures 41mm in diameter for a height of 12.4mm, with screw-locked crown and pushers, sapphire crystals on both sides and a 50m water-resistance.
The main update is, of course, the movement used for the first time in a steel Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm. The Calibre 4401 is based on the movement that was first presented in Code 11.59 in 2019. You can discover this movement in a dedicated, in-depth article here. What’s important is that we’re talking about a modern, in-house, integrated flyback chronograph with column wheel and vertical clutch. Its refined design and decoration can be seen through the caseback with the 2022-only anniversary oscillating weight.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm 26240 is launched in 11 editions in total. Four versions (26240ST) are made in stainless steel with a dark blue, black, silver or khaki green dial. Next are the seven watches under the reference 26240OR with pink gold cases. Four of them have a solid gold bracelet, either with a blue, black, silver or khaki green dial; three are worn on an alligator strap, with a blue, black or khaki green dial.
Quick facts: 41mm x 12.4mm – steel or pink gold case – 50m water-resistance – screw-locked crown and pushers, sapphire crystal dial front and caseback – Grande Tapisserie dial with luminous hands and markers – calibre 4401, automatic in-house chronograph, 4Hz, 70h power reserve, time, chrono and date – integrated bracelet with folding clasp or alligator strap – ref. 26240ST in steel, 26240OR in pink gold – EUR 32,800 in steel, EUR 69,990 in gold on bracelet, EUR 48,500 in gold on strap
For more details, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com.