While the attention was mainly focused on the new CODE 11.59 collection at the SIHH 2019, Audemars Piguet had multiple other new watches to show in its Royal Oak range – including a superb Salmon dial Jumbo Royal Oak and one extremely important watch, a new Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm. Meet the reference 15500ST, replacing the 15400 and introducing several massive updates, including a newly positioned date and, mainly, a brand new movement.
Farewell reference 15400
The Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm reference 15400, a watch introduced in 2012, is now out of the collection… But don’t be sad, there’s a new model to replace it, and it corrects some of the flaws found on the older model.
The Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm reference 15400 was launched in 2012 as an update of the reference 15300, the 39mm, automatic version of the Royal Oak – a watch that was a sort of sportier, more robust, more accessible, less hardcore version of the Royal Oak Jumbo Ultra-Thin, with a more classical automatic movement, a slightly thicker case and overall, a more mainstream take on the Royal Oak design. While the size of the case grew, the movement inside these two references was the same, the calibre 3120 – a movement with a relatively small diameter of 26.60mm.
Because of that, the date on the reference 15400 was positioned far in the middle of the dial, something that Audemars Piguet compensated by adding a small hour marker next to the date window. On a personal level, this has never been an issue for me, but some collectors complained about the fact that the calibre 3120 movement was too small for a 41mm case. Other than that, the calibre 3120 has always been a very good engine – reliable, precise, nicely decorated.
This possible issue of the date window and a caseback with a movement too small for the case is now over, as Audemars Piguet has a new watch in the collection to replace the reference 15400. Fitted with a new movement, a new dial (and not just a new date position) along with several other updates… Let’s take a look at the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm 15500.
The new Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm 15500
So Audemars Piguet has a new automatic Royal Oak… But don’t expect drastic changes, the concept is still the same. Compared to the original icon, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin 39mm reference 15202, the new reference 15500 is still larger, thicker, bolder, more robust and slightly less refined in its execution – but also less expensive and probably easier to find new in boutiques.
When compared to the older reference 15400, the new model feels like a simple update, with minor changes. However, if the overall concept and design remain similar, there is more than meets the eye in this new 15500.
A new movement
The main update is, of course, the new movement. Audemars Piguet introduced an entire line-up of new in-house movements with its CODE 11.59 collection – tourbillon, integrated chronograph and automatic time-and-date – and thus it is natural to see these new calibres being implemented in other collections. The reference 15500 is equipped with the calibre 4302, the same movement as used in the CODE 11.59 Selfwinding (more details here).
This movement is entirely new and has been developed internally by Audemars Piguet as a modern calibre. It measures 32mm in diameter, which certainly is more appropriate for modern-sized watches, including this 41mm Royal Oak Selfwinding. Compared to the previous calibre 3120, it displays several mechanical improvements. The frequency of the regulating organ is now 4Hz, compared to 3Hz in the past. The power reserve has been increased to 70 hours over the 60 hours for the former ref. 15400.
Having a new and larger movement results in more balance on the caseback side. The movement is now dimensioned according to the diameter of the watch, something that certainly is pleasant. Regarding decoration, the calibre 4302 doesn’t disappoint. It features a skeletonized gold rotor with superb sharp anglages. Bridges are adorned with Geneva stripes, and the bevels are polished. The layout of this calibre 4302 is also quite pleasant, with multiple technical parts being visible.
A new dial
Updating the movement of a watch has consequences on the dial and the case. And this is true for this new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm 15500ST. Again, while the overall design has been retained, multiple updates are to be seen on this watch. Some predictable, some more surprising.
First of all, nothing to worry about regarding the signature Tapisserie dial, a fundamental element of the Royal Oak (whichever edition). This new reference 15500 still relies on the guilloché “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, with a delicate texture. However, even this has changed slightly. When looked at closely, you can sense that the proportions are different, the grooves are thinner than before, and the squares feel slightly larger. Also, the pattern feels more precisely applied to the dial, with a better definition of the lines. Subtle but still noticeable.
Then, while the dials of the reference 15300 and 15400 were entirely covered with the “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, the new reference 15500 features a smooth, non-textured minute train on the periphery of the dial, with 60 thin markers printed in white. Also, this new version gets rid of the “Automatic” mention at 6 o’clock and the “Audemars Piguet”, and the applied “AP” logo have been moderately enlarged.
The hands and hour indexes of this new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm 15500 have also been redesigned. While still based on the classic Royal Oak shape, they are all broader now, allowing for more luminous material and a sportier, more robust look – helping to differentiate this model from the more refined 15202. The hour indexes are also shorter than on past models, but the double baton is still present at 12 o’clock. Another change concerns the counterweight of the seconds hand, which has been shaped like the rest of the hands and opened on this new version.
Last but not least, the position of the date – which is the most important update on this new model. Having a larger movement inside its case, the new Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm now has a date window positioned on the periphery of the dial, without the presence of a short applied index next to it. While this new position is objectively more balanced and more adapted to the size of the case, I found it rather disturbing at first… Maybe I am too used to the older reference 15400? Still, this has to be seen as an improvement compared to the previous models.
An almost unaltered case
The case keeps its 41mm diameter and the same overall design. This means that we have the signature sharp case, an integrated bracelet and the octagonal bezel on top. The shapes, the finishing of all the surfaces and the proportions are all approximately the same as before. However, here again, the new movement has had consequences on the case.
Compared to the reference 15400, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 15500ST sticks to its 41mm diameter but is moderately thicker, with a 10.40mm profile compared to 9.80mm height in the past – an increase justified by the new movement, which is more robust than the previous calibre 3120. Once on the wrist, the extra 0.60mm are almost imperceptible. The case is still water-resistant to 50 metres, and the crown is still screwed – making this watch more appropriate for daily use than the slightly more delicate 15202. This watch is slightly bolder and has more presence on the wrist.
For the rest, this Royal Oak 15500 retains all the attributes of the collection, meaning a superbly executed case, with brushed surfaces enlightened by polished details, the iconic octagonal bezel with eight white gold screws and its chain-like integrated steel bracelet that participates so much in the design of this watch. As usual, the finishing and assembly are flawless, with sharp adjustments of all the parts and super-clean demarcations lines between the brushed and polished surfaces.
Price and availability
The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm 15500 will be available in 5 different editions, starting at CHF 19,300 (the discontinued ref. 15400 was priced at CHF 17,900).
- Steel / bracelet / blue dial – CHF 19,300
- Steel / bracelet / slate grey dial – CHF 19,300
- Steel / bracelet / black dial – CHF 19,300
- 18k Pink gold / bracelet / black dial – CHF 50,700
- 18k Pink gold / leather strap / black dial – CHF 32,100
The blue model photographed here is the only one to be a boutique exclusive, the four other editions will be available at official retailers too.
Objectively speaking, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm 15500 comes with an array of improvements. The movement is simply better in many ways – visually and mechanically. The dial, with the new position of the date window and a more precise definition of the guilloché pattern, is also a nice upgrade. Finally, the overall look is slightly sportier, a bit bolder too, making this new reference 15500 easier to differentiate from 15202.
All in all, this new reference is objectively better. Yet, objectivity is not the only factor when it comes to updating such an iconic watch. This watch will certainly have its detractors and its supporters, just like the 15400 did before.
More details at www.audemarspiguet.com.