Fifty years later, slimmer silhouettes and cleaner dials look fresh.
Updating a cheap replica watch that has marked a brand’s identity for 50 years has freed the brand from the onslaught of quartz in the 1970s and spawned a whole new genre, the luxury sports watch, a subtle balancing act. Too many tweaks, and you risk changing its gene pool; no change at all, and you perpetuate the dinosaur. As our readers know, the luxury stainless steel sports watch by Gerald Genta in 1972 was named the Royal Oak, marking the ins and outs of watch design that spawned the most competitive segment in the watch market today one. While the stars of the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary celebration are the RO Jumbo Extra-Thin 16202 and Openworked 16204, the brand announced that the permanent Royal Oak collection will also be updated throughout 2022, including this RO Selfwinding 37mm featuring a new automatic movement. As you’ll find out, the facelift doesn’t change the look of Genta’s dynamic design, but improves its silhouette and enhances its ergonomics for a sleeker, more comfortable experience.
While we’ll be looking at two blue 37mm self-winding models, there are 11 37mm models in the collection that benefit from a “new design evolution,” ranging from stainless steel, two-tone and solid gold cases to diamonds— Set the bezel and a range of attractive dial colors. It’s worth mentioning that the 37mm version of the Royal Oak, a universal neutral diameter, is a relatively new addition to the range, having celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012. The design evolution involves 34, 37, 38 and 41 mm self-winding and self-winding chronograph models.
Before we look at the changes, rest assured that the Royal Oak‘s defining aesthetic code – the tonneau case, octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet, eight visible hex screws and Tapisserie dial – is intact.
The evolution of the case design between the new and old 37mm self-winding watches is extremely subtle. Obviously, the diameter is the same, but the new self-winding calibre 5900 has reduced the height from 9.8 to 9 mm. But that’s not the only factor that reduces the height of the case. If you look at the watch from the side, you will see that the bevels (chamfers) on the bezel, bracelet and back are more pronounced than in the past. This might not seem like a big deal, but the brightly polished sloping bevel draws in more light and visually lowers the height of the case. The overall effect is that the case looks slimmer.
The ergonomic features of the bracelet have also been enhanced to make it more comfortable to wear. The first four links are now trapezoidal rather than parallel, and the transition from the case to the tapered bracelet is more fluid and elegant. Not only are the links thinner and lighter than previous versions, but the chamfered edges cut into the metal and further improve its profile. Another positive aspect of the more pronounced polished bevels is their enhanced contrast with the satin-brushed hand-finished finish.
BLEU NUIT, NUAGE 50 and light blue dial
Like the first Royal Oak from 1972 (ref. 5402), the 37mm self-winding watch features a “Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50” guilloché dial. This signature blue hue was Genta’s original color choice for the watch and was made using an electroplating bath. Today, PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) reproduces the signature blue color uniformly throughout the collection. The second RO we have today has a lovely light blue dial that goes well with the steel case.
Other subtle changes on the dial include the minute track, which is now printed directly on the Grande Tapisserie face (as in ref. 5402) instead of the flange, and the dimensions of the white gold hour-markers and Royal Oak hands are now the uniform of the Royal Oak collection. AP‘s designers recognized that the truncated indexes were an annoyance for many purists, so they eliminated the truncated indexes at 3 o’clock in the date window.
The word “Auto” and the AP monogram no longer appear on the dial, which now displays the same embossed signature as the Code 11.59 model. Similar to 3D printing, thin layers of 24k gold are applied to the dial using a chemical process called galvanic growth, with each letter connected by links about the width of a human hair and applied to the dial by hand. The removal of the inscriptions leaves the dial cleaner and more breathing room to admire the Grande Tapisserie decoration, whose raised waffle pattern is dotted with thousands of diamond-shaped apertures.
VAUCHER calibre 5900
AP equipped the 37mm Royal Oak automatic movement with a new engine, replacing the previous 3120 movement. Caliber 5900 is an automatic movement made by Vaucher, slightly thinner than the 3120, measuring 3.9mm in height compared to 4.26mm in height, with a higher frequency of 4Hz. A unique 22k rhodium-plated rose gold oscillating weight with a “50 Years” logo – a detail only found on models manufactured in 2022 – the movement offers a 60-hour power reserve and displays refined Haute Horlogerie finishes .
With its unisex 37mm case size, this is quite possibly the most versatile RO model in the collection today. A more pronounced polished bevel accentuates Genta’s signature octagonal structure and visually reduces the thickness of the case. While purists might be drawn to the original “Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50” dial color, I’d wager that the alluring light blue dial will be flying off the shelves soon.
Technical Specifications – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Automatic 37mm
Case: Diameter 37mm x Thickness 9mm – Stainless steel, satin-brushed and polished – Turnlock crown – Sapphire crystal and case back with AR coating – 50m water resistance
Dial: Bleu Nuit Nuage 50 (primary 1972 color) or light blue – Grande Tapisserie motif – applied white gold hour markers with luminous coating – Royal Oak hands with luminous coating – date window at 3 o’clock with tone-on-tone Tie Background – Noon Brand New 24k Audemars Piguet Signature
Movement: Calibre 5900, manufactured by Vaucher for Audemars Piguet – Automatic central rotor – 186 components including 29 jewels – 26.2 mm – 28,800 vibrations per hour – 60 hours power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds and date – 2022 Special “50 Years” oscillating weight on models manufactured in
Bracelet: One-piece RO stainless steel bracelet, brushed and polished, AP folding clasp
Reference: 15550ST.OO.1356ST.02 bleu nuit
15550ST.OO.1356ST.04 light blue