Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Yellow Gold 39mm ref 15202
An intuition coupled and Gerald Gènta's design
Let's jump back in the time. It was 1972, the Italian market was the reference market in Europe, the one that dictated trends; and to meet demands from this market, the Audemars Piquet Royal Oak reference 5402 was created - the very first luxury sport watch. 39 mm in diameter, octagonal bezel and matted finish, drawn by a genius designer, Gerald Gènta. Five years later, the model was presented for the first time in a case made entirely of yellow gold.
The most admired luxury sport watch in Italy, along with the Rolex Oyster
Forty years later, the original Royal Oak was relaunched by the brand - and the yellow gold, which had been sidelined for a long period, has, once again, become popular again in watch-making. Last year, the manufacturer from Brassus presented as an example the splendid Royal Oak 41 mm made of steel and yellow gold - a mix that was in fashion in the 80s.
As said, in 2012, to celebrate the 40th birthday of the original, Audemars Piguet relaunched the Royal Oak Extra-Thin, faithful to the 1972 version, a limited edition to celebrate the first 40 years of the Jumbo, reference 5402. In comparison, this year, it's the first anniversary of the yellow gold Royal Oak that Audemars Piguet presented in Geneva - two brand new versions in yellow gold that complete a collection that already includes an Extra-Thin version in rose gold (thickness of the case, 8.1 mm) a Tourbillon and, from this year, the beautiful Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin too.
Champagne, Blue and Petite Tapisserie
Let's take a look at the details of these two new versions; the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202 was presented with two different dial versions. The first dial is champagne while the second one is deep dark blue in colour. Both dial feature an engraved Petit Tapisserie motif; a pattern that truly represents the Royal Oak as much as its octagonal bezel does; the motif is in-house crafted through a very long and meticulous process that has been patented so as to achieve a result that other brands have tried to imitate with doubtful results. The final achievement is quite satisfying and if you observe it through a magnifier, you will be able to fully appreciate the exceptional detail of the motif that appears on every single piece of that dial; a unique feature when it comes to sporty three-hands-timepieces.
Extremely thin indices and golden hands have been applied to the dial together with the beautiful AP logo located at 6 o'clock; an overall display that fully gives you a quality and finishing perception that no other golden sports watch (or stainless-steel made) can boast within this specific category. The Petite Tapisserie motif is exclusively cut where the window date is located; a requirement adopted to comply with the clients' demands (as often claimed by the brand's executives). I find this cut an aesthetic forcing since the dial is almost close to the flat sapphire glass and without that opening, it would create a one-piece-solution where the case and the dial appear as a single monolithic piece and, in my opinion, as an even stronger solution.
From a general point of view, one of the things that make the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202 different from the rest is its case-bracelet-finish. The yellow gold is not sober by nature and, in most of the yellow gold timepieces is kind of invasive, it is too glistening and it automatically divides aficionados into two categories; those who love it and those who hate it. It is not one of those best selling materials in Italy, I am sure about it, and the majority of those who purchase timepieces usually opt for either white or rose gold, they rarely choose yellow gold and, when they do, it is usually women doing so. The Royal Oak has used a satin finish since 1972 on most of its surfaces and that's its base-concept that also makes it more apt to wear different materials. You are presented with a noble metal that perfectly matches the blue dial (a hue that I prefer to the single tone of the champagne dial) and that really defines the richness of the product while still maintaining intact the spirit of the original version and toning down every colour or light excess that characterizes yellow gold.
The 2121 calibre is on full view (on the original 1972 version, the case-back was locked) and is hand-assembled and hand-decorated. The calibre guarantees up to 40 hours of power reserve (this figure could probably be improved) and it is an automatic calibre at relatively low frequency. The rotor is skeletonized and is made of 18 carat gold, it runs along a round ring and has Cotes de Gènève decorated bridges and bevelled edges. The customer can also ask Audemars Piguet for a tailor-made oscillating mass. A classic Royal Oak bracelet made of gold with a hidden clasp and a double safety button completes the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202 retails at 55,400 dollars. It's quite a demanding price if you consider that, within the same market range, the only possible alternative I could think of is the Rolex Day-Date 40 60th Anniversary. Without clearly mentioning it, it is a competitor that a potential buyer could actually consider. Whoever can afford an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202 can definitely afford the other and vice versa but this is not the point; truth is that they are two high-end timepieces that are quite different from each other and making a comparison doesn't come natural as it might appear when you, wrongly, only consider for example the retail price. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202 is the result of a thought-out choice, its style is not comparable with other sporty three-hands-watches but it is rather the result of a manufacturing process that, despite an increasing growth in the last years in terms of volumes, can't be defined as "industrial". Moreover, the yellow gold ultra flat Royal Oak is one and only!
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)