Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
SOLD

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Though the Universal Genève Polerouter was Gerald Genta’s first success, his true pièce de resistance was a watch that would break the horological mold—quite literally.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is without question Genta’s most memorable work, and changed the shape of the industry in more ways than one—but it was merely one in a long line of successes that marked Genta’s illustrious career.

At the time he had completed his training, Switzerland was in the midst of a worldwide recession following the Second World War. Like many young designers, Genta found himself in no place to refuse work. Fortunately for him, work was never something that was in short supply.

Whether from jewelers or watchmakers, whether to design a case, a bracelet, or a dial, Genta received commissions, and he accepted them all.

Thanks to these commissions, he amassed a fairly impressive portfolio. And even though he sold designs for a paltry 15 Swiss francs, he had so many clients throughout the world that he managed to make a comfortable living for himself. So when he received the call from Universal Genève, he was a young man with some experience behind him, yet poised on the brink of a breakthrough.

The breakthrough of course came with the Polerouter, but Genta continued to sell designs to the great houses of watchmaking. His first commission from Patek Philippe came in 1968 for the Golden Ellipse. And though expert opinion differs and facts are murky, his hand is evident in some designs for Omega’s Constellation line—particularly those with integrated bracelets that would foreshadow the Royal Oak.

Genta received the call from Audemars Piguet in 1971, on 4 PM the day before the Basel Fair was supposed to take place. The managing director of Audemars Piguet, Georges Golay, needed a design from Genta that would resonate with their Italian clientele—something sporty, yet still elegant, with an integrated bracelet. And he needed it the very next day.

No one could have imagined that the Royal Oak would have been such a success. In fact, sales were sluggish at first, until the head of Fiat appeared in public wearing one. After that, it seemed as though authorized dealers couldn’t sell them fast enough to meet demand.

Genta would go on to create watches that have gone to become legends in and of themselves. The Patek Philippe Nautilus and the IWC Ingeniuer spring to mind. But it’s the Royal Oak’s horological blueprint and design DNA that inspired and informed those other watches.

This stunner of a watch is a Reference 5402 SA in two-tone steel and gold. Carefully preserved, the case and its integrated bracelet are hefty despite the slimness, and the grey of the micro-tapisserie dial positively gleams in the light. Coming complete with original box and guarantee dated March 1978, it’s a beautiful piece that is sure to delight.

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