Audemars Piguet - The Royal Oak 50th Geneva Friday, May 6, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Launched in 1972, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the world’s first stainless steel luxury sports watch with a fully integrated bracelet. Designed overnight in response to an urgent request for an ‘unprecedented steel watch’, it was at the same time the most expensive stainless steel watch ever made.

     

    Advertisement of the Royal Oak Ref. 5402 from 1972. Image : Audemars Piguet
    Advertisement of the Royal Oak Ref. 5402 from 1972.
    Image: Audemars Piguet Archive

     

    The brand sought famed designer Gerald Genta, who developed a brilliantly engineered, monoblock case, with a distinctively maritime feel, featuring an octagonal bezel secured by eight hexagonal, white gold screws, and a dial with tapisserie motif. While today the Royal Oak is a legend, at the beginning it was more than a bet, it was a true visionary revolution, the first appearance of what is today's most successful kind of wristwatch: the luxury sport watch in steel.

     

    Portrait of Gerald Genta, from the early 2000s. Image : Audemars Piguet
    Left: Gerald Genta. Image: Audemars Piguet Archive.
    Right: Technical drawing of the Royal Oak Ref. 5402.
    Image: Audemars Piguet Archive

     

    The Royal Oak model reference 5402ST has been produced in four different batches: A, B, C and D with small design details that made each slightly different. The reference 5402 remained in the Audemars Piguet Catalogues for 25 years and was produced in 6,050 examples over the different series.

     

    Rarely has a timepiece had such historical importance, relevance and influence as the Royal Oak. It created a game changing genre and since then there has been a before and after.
     

     

    The present Royal Oak ref 5402 Series A is the earliest number to ever grace an international auction room as it bears the number 2 making it the second Royal Oak ever made! In fact whereas the A series number 1 was sold in 1974, the present example was sold in May 1972 weeks only after having been presented.

     

    Adding an extra element of historical relevance is the fact that the present watch bearing number 2 was one of the four Royal Oak models presented to the press and public at the opening of the Basel watch fair in 1972.

     

    The Royal Oak Ref. 5402 at the Audemars Piguet booth at Baselworld in 1972. Image : Audemars Piguet
    The Royal Oak Ref. 5402 at the Audemars Piguet booth at Baselworld in 1972. Image: Audemars Piguet Archive

     

    Considering the skepticism the Royal Oak was met with 50 years ago due to its avant-garde, novel design and philosophy, one can only assume that the buyer was himself a forward thinking, risk taking individual.


    The present example is truly a time capsule as since 1972 it has remained totally unworn and comes with its full set of accessories.

     


    The consignor bought a Royal Oak when it was launched and more or less at the same time his brother in law, who was then an Audemars Piguet retailer, offered him this watch as a wedding gift.

     

    Fortunately the consignor put this watch away and wore the other on a daily basis, a watch that 50 years later is still on his wrist.

     

    The lowest numbered reference 5402 A series to ever come to the market, the present watch is unpolished. The dial has started to develop a very pleasant gold copper tone on certain areas giving it even greater panache.

     

    Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak A series “The A2” Ref. 5402ST
    Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak A series “The A2” Ref. 5402ST

     

    It is believed that the reference 5402 A series Number 1 was sold to an “Imperial” family and the whereabouts of the watch are now unknown. However, what is certain is that the Number 1 was worn and the present example is the lowest known number to appear to the market and to the best of our research, the only one that has remained in unworn condition, making this specific timepiece one of the most important examples of one of horology’s most iconic timepieces. 

    To preserve the present watch in its untouched state, we, at Phillips, decided not to open it or give it any service. The watch is truly as it was back in 1972.

     

    We wish to thank the Audemars Piguet team for providing the images featured on the AP Chronicles website.

     

    Advertisement of the Royal Oak Ref. 5402 from 1974. Image: Audemars Piguet Archive
    Advertisement of the Royal Oak Ref. 5402 from 1974.
    Image: Audemars Piguet Archive
    • Manufacturer: Audemars Piguet
      Year: 1972
      Reference No: 5402ST
      Movement No: 122'813
      Case No: 67002.A2
      Model Name: Royal Oak A series "The A2"
      Material: Stainless steel
      Calibre: Automatic, cal 2121, 36 jewels
      Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Audemars Piguet bracelet, max length 185mm
      Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Audemars Piguet deployant clasp further stamped Gay Frères 1.72
      Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
      Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed
      Accessories: Accompanied by Audemars Piguet box, hang tag and certificate of origin. Further accompanied by Audemars Piguet and Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo co-signed Royal Oak 50th Anniversary Attestation.

    • Catalogue Essay

      Launched in 1972, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the world’s first stainless steel luxury sports watch with a fully integrated bracelet. Designed overnight in response to an urgent request for an ‘unprecedented steel watch’, it was at the same time the most expensive stainless steel watch ever made. The brand sought famed designer Gerald Genta, who developed a brilliantly engineered, monoblock case, with a distinctively maritime feel, featuring an octagonal bezel secured by eight hexagonal, white gold screws, and a dial with tapisserie motif. While today the Royal Oak is a legend, at the beginning it was more than a bet, it was a true visionary revolution, the first appearance of what is today's most successful kind of wristwatch: the luxury sport watch in steel.

      The Royal Oak model reference 5402ST has been produced in four different batches: A, B, C and D with small design details that made each slightly different.

      The reference 5402 remained in the Audemars Piguet Catalogues for 25 years and was produced in 6,050 examples over the different series.

      Rarely has a timepiece had such historical importance, relevance and influence as the Royal Oak. It created a game changing genre and since then there has been a before and after.

      The present Royal Oak ref 5402 Series A is the earliest number to ever grace an international auction room as it bears the number 2 making it the second Royal Oak ever made! In fact whereas the A series number 1 was sold in 1974, the present example was sold in May 1972 weeks only after having been presented.

      Adding an extra element of historical relevance is the fact that the present watch bearing number 2 was one of the four Royal Oak models presented to the press and public at the opening of the Basel watch fair in 1972.

      Considering the skepticism the Royal Oak was met with 50 years ago due to its avant-garde, novel design and philosophy, one can only assume that the buyer was himself a forward thinking, risk taking individual.
      The present example is truly a time capsule as since 1972 it has remained totally unworn and comes with its full set of accessories.

      The consignor bought a Royal Oak when it was launched and more or less at the same time his brother in law, who was then an Audemars Piguet retailer, offered him this watch as a wedding gift.

      Fortunately the consignor put this watch away and wore the other on a daily basis, a watch that 50 years later is still on his wrist.

      The lowest numbered reference 5402 A series to ever come to the market, the present watch is unpolished and unworn. The dial has started to develop a very pleasant gold copper tone on certain areas giving it even greater panache.

      It is believed that the reference 5402 A series Number 1 was sold to an “Imperial” family and the whereabouts of the watch are now unknown. However, what is certain is that the Number 1 was worn and the present example is the lowest known number to appear to the market and to the best of our research, the only one that has remained in unworn condition, making this specific timepiece one of the most important examples of one of horology’s most iconic timepieces.

      To preserve the present watch in its untouched state, we, at Phillips, decided not to open it or give it any service. The watch is truly as it was back in 1972.

    • Artist Biography

      Audemars Piguet

      Swiss • 1881

      A specialist in the manufacture of complications since it was established in 1881, Audemars Piguet never ceases to impress with a rich history of creating bold, even audacious, timepieces underpinned by traditional watchmaking at its finest. This Le Brassus-based Swiss manufacturer is one of only two major manufacturers still owned by the founding family. Since its earliest days, AP is considered a leader in the field of minute repeaters and grande complication pocket and wristwatches. The brand is devoted to preserving the history of watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux, showcased at their superb museum in Le Brassus.

      Today, the brand is best known for its Royal Oak models, a revolutionary luxury sports watch launched in 1972. Other key models include early minute repeating wristwatches, vintage chronograph wristwatches, such as the oversized reference 5020, perpetual calendar watches and the Royal Oak Offshore, first introduced in 1993.

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Ref. 5402ST
An historically important and extremely well-preserved stainless steel wristwatch with date, bracelet, box and certificate of origin

1972
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
CHF200,000 - 400,000 
€196,000-393,000
$212,000-425,000

Sold for CHF1,058,500

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi

Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

+41 22 317 81 81
[email protected]

 

Virginie Liatard-Roessli
Head of Sale, Specialist
+41 76 338 91 03
[email protected]

The Royal Oak 50th

Geneva Auction 6 May 2022