Royal Oak: Legendary Numbers

Royal Oak: Legendary Numbers

Geneva based Associate Specialist, Edoardo Bolla, shares with us his opinion on what makes a watch collectable and the ingredients for a real legend.

Geneva based Associate Specialist, Edoardo Bolla, shares with us his opinion on what makes a watch collectable and the ingredients for a real legend.

- By Edoardo Bolla

One of the major reasons a watch ends up being “collected” is because of the heritage the brand exudes, the know-how exhibited over decades and perhaps their years of existence. On the other hand, does its history play an equal if not more important role in collectors’ minds? It is inevitable that connoisseurs and aficionados connect to stories primarily and then to technical specifications of a product. Great narratives do make for legendary products.

Lot 8 - Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Ref. 5402ST

To be able to acquire one of the first ever produced examples (or even the very first one) of important and globally acclaimed watches is an opportunity only a few collectors have ever been able to experience, and often those timepieces do carry with them incredible stories like the 5402 A2 we present to you today.

The story of the 5402 A2 resembles the incredible story of the lost Ferrari 250 SWB California Spider belonged to none other than Alain Delon. Only blinking twice will make you realize that statistically to be able to find such a historically important timepiece in such pristine and unworn condition, after more than five decades, is extremely close to zero, yet just like for the example of the “cavallino rampante”, there is always hope.

Like a time-capsule, the present timepiece presents itself like an unconceivable “barn-find”. Later confirmed by our research, the present A2 belonged to a lot of early Royal Oaks (four in total) that were presented to the press and public at the opening of the Basel watch Fair in 1972, Its journey later continued to the unveiling of the Royal Oak in Sardinia, Italy and to its final stopover with its collector and now to us.

Lot 70 - Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Ref. 14700ST

Continuing the line of extremely unbelievable finds we are equally proud to present a 14700ST from 1990. As you could have imagined, the present timepiece is not just any other 14700ST, but indeed the very first produced! Discontinued in 1998 the watch was in production for only a few years, adding to its overall implied scarcity and collectability. In sublime and absolute stunning condition, the watch comes none other than with its full set of accessories, rendering it yet again another time capsule that we are flabbergasted to have found despite the years.

Lot 5 - Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Ref. 4100BC

The Royal Oak reference 4100, also known as the Royal Oak III (as it was the third model launched after the original reference 5402 and reference 8638) was initially launched in 1977 and was in production until 1995. Out of this short production research shows that whilst the majority were made in stainless steel, yellow gold and/or two-tone, as few as 41 examples were made in white gold from ’81 to ’86, the majority (36 examples) being sold in ’81. To put things into perspective, the production of the 4100BC was so limited and coveted that the model was not included in any Audemars Piguet catalogue nor photographed for identification. The present example of Royal Oak 4100 in white gold is in fact none other than one of the first ten examples to have ever been produced as the caseback confirms with the engraving NO.010. In fabulous condition, the watches’ rarity and complexity is further enhanced by its lustrous diamond-set hour markers dial. It is s therefore safe to say that this present timepiece is an ultra-rare example of a grail that cannot be missed.

Lot 27 - Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Grande Complication Ref. 25865ST

In 1997 Audemars Piguet came with the brilliant idea of enriching the Royal Oak line with a Tourbillion complication. The reference 25831ST we offer today is not only visually striking and fascinating but was also made in a super limited edition of 25 pieces. As you can have guessed, the one we are offering in our upcoming thematic sale is in fact the very first produced, as the caseback confirms with the engraving N°.1. Absolutely breath-taking the piece houses a superbly interesting calibre 2875, with the idea of creating an automatic movement with slim dimensions, the research & development team at Audemars Piguet opted for a bumper winding system which enabled the removal of the rotor thus reducing the thickness of the movement and case. Awe-inspiring in every single way, this watch being the first ever produced by the manufacture, is without hesitation an extremely important piece and part of “neo-vintage” horological history.

Lot 30 - Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Tourbillon Ref. 25831ST

The providence some collectors experience is not limited to low series production numbers of admired and hailed timepieces, sometimes there are Pièce Unique or extremely limited series.

The Royal Oak Grande Complication, reference 25865ST we have the honour to propose to you today in fact falls in the former category, as the number 1/1 on the caseback asserts. This unique Grande Complication can in fact be considered to be the pinnacle of watchmaking prowess, as such complication very few watchmakers have been able to master well enough to offer to the market. The calibre that powers this ultimate expression of ethos of the Royal Oak line is in fact per se a masterwork of horology, both for its exquisite architecture and for its sublime finishing.

Finally, the answer to why certain watches are being collected really comes down to personal inclinations, however we can all agree that a great and important horological story behind a seemingly emotionless object attracts and stirs the imagination of us all. As decades continue to roll on, and with that the probability of being able to find early and rare examples of timepieces slimming down more and more, one thing can be concluded. The research of seemingly lost or “previously unknown” examples is what unites this incredible community together, it is not who finds what that matters, it’s the discovery in itself and the history to be known, it’s the flabbergast and astonishment when something considered to be lost reappears in the community, like a “Sunset at Mountmajor” from Van Gogh, and restores and sparks the hope that other holy grails are still to come.