When introduced at the SIHH 2019, the 38mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph came as a very pleasant surprise, bringing back this watch to more compact territories and proportions – the RO Chronograph was originally launched in 39mm, replaced in 2012 by a 41mm edition. A great alternative for men and women, the mid-size Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph has since been presented in an array of colours and materials. And recently, the brand added a very dedirable version, a full white gold limited edition sporting a cool “ice blue” dial. And we have it here live today.
The Royal Oak needs no introduction anymore. Debuted in 1972, designed by Gérald Genta, the stainless octagonal watch costing as much or more than a gold dress watch defined a whole new category, the so-called luxury sports watch with integrated bracelet. It design, inspired by the nautical world, was complex, sharp, novel back in the 1970s and multiple variations around the concept will later be launched, playing with sizes, movement, colours and materials.
The Royal Oak collection will have to wait 1998 for a chronograph complocation to be added, in a 39mm case. Back then, it was fitted with a Frédéric Piguet automatic column-wheel chronograph movement with date. As fashions change, so do watch sizes, and the original 39mm Royal Oak Chronograph was replaced with the 41mm model in 2012. In fact, the 41mm version was the only Royal Oak Chronograph (understand here not Offshore) in the line-up, until the 38mm made its debut in 2019, alongside the new Selfwinding 15500ST.
The Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 38mm “Ice Blue”
As we explained in our first encounter with this version of the Royal Oak Chronograph, “three millimetres are a universe in the world of watchmaking and make a huge difference in how a watch sits on the wrist.” And this especially true with this “Ice Blue” limited edition, which is made of solid 18k white gold, for its case and bracelet. Indeed, in this metal, you can feel the luxury on the wrist, being more present than a stainless steel version. As such, a smaller case is certainly welcome.
Regarding the case, the main update indeed concerns the material, as the watch is here made of 18k white gold, an exclusivity for this limited edition as the other models, part of the permanent collection, are made of stainless steel or 18k pink gold. This use of white gold has two consequences. The first, quite obvious, is the different in weight, this limited edition being of course heavier than a stainless steel model. Certainly, the watch has a noticeable presence on the wrist but the rather compact dimensions of the case and its ergonomic shape largely compensate, making this Ice Blue version as comfortable as you could expect a full gold watch on bracelet to be. Secondly, and it’s a more subtle difference, white gold has a different shine than stainless steel. It is more delicate, slightly warmer and has more lustre.
One of the very pleasant surprises with this 38mm edition of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph concerns the proportions. When reducing the diameter of a watch, there’s always the risk of making the case unbalanced, having an odd diameter/thickness ratio. This is especially true for automatic chronographs, known to be bulkier. Here, Audemars Piguet manages to make its Selfwinding Chronograph 38mm only 11mm in height, which is fairly thin for such a watch. And while it doesn’t have the same slenderness as a Jumbo Extra-Thin 15202ST, at no moment the watch felt unbalanced. And for men questioning the relevance of a 38mm diameter, keep in mind that the Royal Oak is a watch that wears slightly larger than numbers suggest. This mid-size version looks exceedingly good on a man’s or a woman’s wrist (if she’d like a bit of the oversized effect.)
Other specifications remain identical to a stainless steel version, meaning a solid caseback, a screw-lock crown and a 50m water-resistance. The case, alternating brushed surfaces and polished accents, with its signature hexagonal screws and octagonal bezel, is once again superbly executed with impressive attention to details. The emblematic Royal Oak bracelet, with its AP-shaped folding clasp, is no different and shows an impeccable finishing.
The main object of desire in this limited edition of the Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 38mm is it dial. The base doesn’t evolve, being the engine-turned “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, with its intermediate sized squares – which are about 50% larger than the “Petite Tapisserie” pattern found on a Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin. Also, another difference is that the Audemars Piguet logo and automatic mention are positioned in a flat cartouche. As usual, the dial is extremely detailled and offers a unique sense of depth… But nothing new here. What truly matters is the colour, this combination of a light blue, slightly metallic background with dark blue elements, for the minuterie and the sub-counters’ tracks. Nothing objective here, but this dial looks stunning in the metal, offering a light, summery vibe, a discreet touch of colour, greatly complementing the beautiful lustre of the white gold case.
Under the solid caseback is a well-known movement, the calibre 2385. The same base as used in the Royal Oak Chronograph 41mm, a modified Frédérique Piguet 1185 ébauche, this automatic, integrated movement with column-wheel is mostly appreaciated for its reliability, its compact diameter (perfect for this 38mm version) and its thinness, an important factor for the Royal Oak. The movement oscillates at 21,600vph/3Hz and offers a power supply of 40 hours. It displays, in addition to the time and the chronograph indications, the seconds at 6 o’clock and the date at 4:30.
Availability & Price
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph 38mm white gold “Ice Blue” (ref. 26317BC.OO.1256BC.01) is a boutique exclusive limited edition of 100 pieces, and it is now available. It is priced at CHF 61,100 or EUR 66,700.
For more details, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com.