Review: Audemars Piaget Royal Oak – King of the Sports Watch Holy Trinity?

The AP Royal Oak. A grail watch to end all grail watches. And a watch that caused me great consternation. Let me explain…

So, why would one of the most recognized (and beloved) luxury watches from one the three “holy trinities” cause me so much consternation? Because I didn’t like it at first. Because I didn’t understand the appeal at first. Because I hadn’t ever before considered purchasing a watch that had a bit of a courtship – everything before I immediately liked out of the gate. What would become one of my most favorite watches (by a huge factor) didn’t start out that way before I got it.

Wrist Time

Let me get straight to the point on answering the question on whether it gets wrist time. Oh yeah, a lot. It’s in the Top 5 rotation. It’s one of the most comfortable bracelets I’ve ever worn. The dial is a feast for the eyes – you can’t help yourself from looking at it constantly. It’s pretty thin and light and you forget you have it on, until you see the sun gleam off of the dial.

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But I will admit, when I first started looking at the AP RO, I didn’t know if I liked it. I was leading towards the Patek Nautilus, and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas.

I didn’t know if this was truly Gerald Genta’s best watch design – even after I heard of the story of the portholes and the fact it was designed in 1971 (by birth year), right in the middle of the “quartz crisis.”

All About the Fit

Even the first several times I put the watch on, I wasn’t sure. Didn’t feel right. But then I realized what the issue was – and when that was remedied, I was in love. What was the issue? The bracelet needed to be sized. Once I put on the Royal Oak fitted for my wrist, I understood The Code of the Royal Oak. This is truly one of the best bracelets in the luxury watch industry. The butterfly deployant (which I usually don’t like) is incredibly comfortable.

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See, I am spoiled when it comes to watch sizing. While I may need extra-long suits and lengths on my pants (I’m 6′ 5″), my wrist is whatever is the average size for most luxury watches. I can take a Rolex (all but the Deep Sea) out of a jeweler’s display case and wear it out the door. Only on domestic (US) Seiko’s (they make them SO BIG) and rubber straps meant to be cut (which I despise) do I ever have to do any sizing. Obviously, we need to add AP to this list.

Let’s Talk About the Dial

This watch is all about the dial. Volumes could be written about it – the tapisserie pattern and the extremely traditional way that each dial is made. Again, looking at pictures of this watch for years didn’t do it justice. It’s one of those things that truly looks different in the flesh. Of all of my watches, this dial is tops. Is the Patek Nautilus dial more impressive? Maybe – but the story on how the RO dial is made trumps anything Patek is doing with paints and varnishes:

Black dial or silver? For me, it was a no-brainer. The silver dial just catches the light like nothing else. The black dial is beautiful and the white gold hands and markers really pop on it. But for me, the silver face was mesmerizing. I like the VC Overseas in blue, and the RO in silver. Your mileage may vary.

Let’s Talk About the Case

This is the new Royal Oak, the 41mm released in 2012. For a full explanation of the differences in the 15400 (this one) and the 15450 (the Jumbo which is a tribute to the 1972 original), check out this great article on Hodinkee.

Basically, this one is the “Standard Royal Oak” at 41mm instead of 39mm. Both have the same 3120 self-winding movement, but the 15400 sees a slight change to the face (double hash marks at 12 o’clock instead of the AP logo) and a few other changes.

So, is it a scratch magnet? Kinda. I bought mine pre-owned (surprise, surprise) and it already had some scratches on it. And I have promptly added a few of my own, even though I am very careful with all of my watches. Don’t know if it’s the softness of the stainless steel or more likely the huge amount of satin finish so expertly applied at the factory.

Let’s Talk About the Movement

So, many have called the AP 3120 one of the greatest automatic movements in the world. OK, if you say so.

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It IS thin, it is nicely decorated. It does have a long power reserve. And it’s supposed to be highly accurate (although not COSC certified). My 3120 is not the most accurate watch in my collection – not by a long shot. Even though it was purchased originally in 2015 (it’s an “I” serial number), it’s running about 10 seconds hot/day on the timegrapher. On the wrist, it’s doing a little bit better – but honestly I was expecting a bit more from this celebrated movement.

Wrap-Up

But I digress – I love this watch. I wear it more than I ever thought. Until I purchased my Glashutte Original Seventies Chrono, this was my favorite stainless steel watch on a bracelet. I’m no longer worried about scratching it up (another good thing about buying a watch pre-owned) and because it fits so well – it really doesn’t get knocked up too much.

Do I now understand the Code of the Royal Oak? I think so. You have to wonder if Gerald Genta had any idea when he designed this watch (supposedly in a day) whether it would still be the undisputed classic 45 years later.


WHAT I LIKE:

  • The Royal Oak is the most famous and recognized (and copied) “holy trinity” sports watch
  • Most beautiful dial of any watch I know, best bracelet finishing on stainless steel
  • Thin and light

NOT SO MUCH:

  • For the price, the bracelet should have some micro-adjustment
  • My 15400 isn’t as accurate as it should be
  • Scratch magnet

WATCH SPECIFICATIONS:

MODEL NAME: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 41mm

REFERENCE NUMBER: 15400ST.OO.1220ST.02

MOVEMENT: AP Calibre 3120

CASE SIZE: 41mm

WATER RESISTANCE: 50m

MANUFACTURER LINKhttps://www.audemarspiguet.com/en/watch-collection/royal-oak/15400ST.OO.1220ST.02/

OTHER REVIEWhttps://www.watchcollectinglifestyle.com/home/insider-audemars-piguet-royal-oak-ref-15400-the-largest-of-all-royal-oaks-ever

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