Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak

The new Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak, recently released at SIHH 2015, reminds Angus Davies of the 1970s with its bi-metalic case. A “hands-on” encounter evokes memories of flared trousers and tank tops.

This detailed review of Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak includes live images and specification.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Looking at family photographs from the 1970s it is difficult stifling the urge to laugh. My father sported huge sideburns, wide lapel suits and the ubiquitous flared trousers. Platform heels and kipper ties were also surprisingly en-vogue.

As a young boy, I did not escape the period unscathed. I still recall wearing tank tops for Sunday School, presented in various dubious shades of brown. My wardrobe was home to many nauseating shades of purple, yellow and orange, sometimes fused together in one tasteless outfit.

My personal memories of the era do not recall the period as the heyday of sartorial elegance. However, when I look at the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak of 1972, I continue to marvel at its timeless aesthetics. The beauty of the stainless steel case and blue dial remain undiminished, despite the onset of years.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Ladies’ Royal Oak in a 29mm case (Ref. 8638/424)

In 1976, Audemars Piguet released its first selfwinding Ladies’ Royal Oak in a 29mm case (Ref. 8638/424), pairing steel with 18-carat yellow gold. The styling of this model owed much to Gérald Genta’s original 1972 design, but benefitted from the feminine touch of Jacqueline Dimier.

It is this model I am reminded of as I look at the new Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak, recently released at SIHH 2015. While this 41mm timepiece is clearly aimed at men, it is reminiscent of the 1976 watch.

The dial

The silver-toned dial is presented with the brand’s “Grand Tapisserie” pattern, assuming a gentler air than the “Mega Tapisserie” found on larger Royal Oak Offshore models. Pink gold applied markers frame the dial and traditions are respected with the inclusion of Royal Oak hands.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

This Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak subscribes to the ‘less is more’ design doctrine, adding just a central seconds hand and a date to the hour and minutes indications. Ordinarily I succumb to the charms of a few complications but the sparse list of indications delivers a purity to the dial.

The case

The 41mm diameter case has a lovely retro charm. The combination of stainless steel and 18-carat pink gold bestows a warmth which is absent from the plain steel model. It is interesting how the use of pink gold also imparts a greater degree of modernity, especially when contrasted with the yellow gold employed in 1976 which now seems a little dated.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The case appears slender, measuring 9.50mm including the height of the bezel. When viewed from the side, the different colour of the bezel, together with its bevelled edge, seems to draw the eye to the stainless steel case band, heightening the perception of litheness. The brushed surface of the steel runs parallel with the dial.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

A pink gold crown adds a smattering of colour which ties the case band and bezel together, delivering a harmonious double-act. This theme extends to the bi-metallic bracelet which reveals much complexity to its construction with tapering links, three-fold clasp and polished edges appearing on the outside surface of each link.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

An area which I consider a progressive step in recent years is the willingness of Audemars Piguet to equip more of its models with exhibition case backs. The Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak freely discloses its automatic movement via a sapphire crystal.

The movement

Over the years I have often talked about the visual appeal of seeing a mechanical movement, especially in a high-end timepiece. The Calibre 3120 is gorgeous and deserves to be seen. Unlike the original Royal Oak of 1972 which was equipped with a solid case back, the wearer of this new timepiece can become immersed in a world of peerless finishing, typical of this highly regarded maison.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Beyond the exquisitely decorated 22-carat gold oscillating mass, the bridges exhibit pristine finishing. I particularly appreciate the meandering path of the bevels which partially encircle the jewels located near the edge of the bridge work.

Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak - hands-on watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The sinks surrounding the jewels and screws shine brightly. The power reserve of 60 hours may not sound exceptional, but it is impressive because it comes from one sole barrel, explaining the diminutive proportions of the uncased movement.

Closing remarks

The popularity of bi-metallic watches seemed to wane for many years, but the release of this new timepiece from Audemars Piguet may well see a renaissance for two-tone watches.

My first glance of the model in pictures did not entice me to proffer words of undying love. The romance with this timepiece ensued when I placed it upon my wrist. It seems to capture some of the styling of a bygone age, but looks thoroughly modern.

The uncluttered layout of the dial and silver-toned “Grande Tapisserie” pattern make comfortable bedfellows for the two-tone case treatment. Moreover, the purity of the dial ensures each function converses with the wearer, employing perfect diction with no ambiguity.

The aforementioned fashion faux pas of 1970s I recall of my youth provides just cause to exercise caution when choosing a new timepiece. Only time will tell whether the Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak will age as well as the 1972 Gérald Genta or ultimately lose some of its allure in decades to come. However, considering its venerable origins and its obvious good looks, I can readily understand why someone would be tempted to take the risk.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Audemars Piguet Two-Tone Self-winding Royal Oak 
  • Ref: 15400SR.OO.1220SR.01
  • Case: stainless steel; diameter 41.00mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central seconds; date.
  • Movement: Calibre 3120, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz), 40 jewels; power reserve 60 hours.
  • Bracelet: Stainless steel and 18-carat pink gold with stainless steel folding clasp

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