THE BIRTH OF ROYAL OAK.
One day before 1971 Basel Fair Audemars Piguet’s managing director, Georges Golay recruited watch designer Gerald Genta who is already made a name for himself designing iconic watches for Omega and Patek Philippe. Georges Golay had less than 24-hours to sketch the design of an “unprecedented steel watch”.
INSPIRATION CAME FROM THE DIVING HELMET.
The day when Gerald Genta received specifications for the new watch he saw the diver emerging from the Lake Geneva and thought: “If the screws holding the faceplate were strong enough to ensure a watertight seal on the helmet, surely they must be capable of doing the same for a watch.” The screws and iconic octagonal face plate are found it’s way into the design of Royal Oak watch.
THE THINNEST AUTOMATIC MOVEMENT IN THE WORLD.
When the calibre 2120 debuted in 1967, it was the thinnest automatic movement in the world. As of today, with the thickness of 2.5mm, it is still the thinnest movement that utilizes a full-sized central rotor for maintaining power reserve.
THE LEGEND OF THE NAME.
There are two versions of how the name Roay Oak came into existense.
One is that the Royal Oak was an actual tree that saved King Charles II of England by hiding him and allowing him to escape the Roundheads at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
The second version is that the Royal Oak was inspired by the powerful naval ship with the name Royal Oak and it’s nautical themed portholes. Interestingly there were at least 8 battle ships named Royal Oak.
IT’S NOT SAFARI
At the time of designing the Royal Oak watch, it was named “Safari”. Simply because it was inspired by the images of desert exploration and adventurous spirit. But later the name was changed in favor of more glamorous Royal Oak.
In 1972 one of the largest watch on the market was Panerai at 39mm. So it wasn’t a surprise that Royal Oak with it’s 45mm diameter was a shock in watch loving community.
WHY THE GOLD.
By the 1972 Basel watch fair, Audemars Piguet was still experimenting with the techniques of making a watch out of stainless steel. Due to time constrains the decision has been made to make the first Royal Oak watches out of gold, the metal Audemars Piguet had a lot of experience with.
THE WATCH THAT SAVED THE BUSINESS.
In the 1970s most of the Swiss watch companies got affected by the appearance of relatively inexpensive quarts watches. When Royal Oak is debuted in 1972 it was too modern and expensive, so the sales were very slow. It took almost a year to sell the first 1000 watches. But soon the watch was adopted by the industry’s tastemakers and it effectively became Audemars Piguet’s best-seller, bringing the company back from the brink of bankruptcy.
THE FIRST CUSTOMER.
One of the first customers of Royal Oak was the Shah of Iran – The Royalty, the man known for his good taste.