As we begin awaiting 2018’s SIHH novelties, we thought it’s high time to take a closer look at a few of the season’s favorites, including the gloriously over-the-top 15202, left for the first time as a modern, non-limited reference entirely in 18-carat yellow gold. It is not merely the all-gold situation that lends the 15202 relevance though — there are a couple other (albeit much more subtle) visual cues that set this specific reference aside, and might make it more desirable for collectors in the future. Probably most obvious, is that the simple time and date-only dial configuration, done from the ‘AP’ emblem at 6:00, which pays direct homage to the original steel 5402 published in 1972. This aesthetic also tips its hat towards the yellow gold 5402BA Jumbo released five decades later — the first time Audemars Piguet rendered the Jumbo in this precious metal.However, more notable is that the depth — the new 15202 steps a hair over 8mm, 0.2mm thicker than the original 5402, and the closest we’ve seen to people pioneering ultra-thin dimensions because the 40th Anniversary variations from 2012 — hence the ‘Extra Thin’ naming convention. This new-but-really-old profile, coupled with all the eminently wearable 39mm case size truly feels just like the sweet place for your Royal Oak, and has much to do with why this iconic design managed to develop into this kind of future-proof classic in the first place.The Jumbo Royal Oak in its classic arrangement is a wristwatch that historically, with measurements, should wear tremendously thin. However, this new reference is one which still manages to leap off the wrist, as a result of its solid yellow gold case, and light-gobbling “Petite Tapisserie” tonal champagne colored waffle dial. People who are searching for a marginally more toned-down aesthetic nevertheless rendered within this precious metal will love the next of those 15202’s two brand new dial variations: a gorgeous blue, which, given the spate of blue-on-bronze sports watches we’ve seen this year, is as much on-trend, as it is a bit less ostentatious.
Most of the gold watches sold are 18k rose, pink or red gold. A quick once-over of a catalogue proves that. Yellow gold is slightly out of fashion. Audemars Piguet is the first amongst established, high-end watchmakers to emphasise the metal, with a full range of yellow gold Royal Oaks presented at SIHH 2016, including a chunky chronograph.
Last year, however, Audemars Piguet announced arguably the most interesting yellow gold Royal Oak of all, a limited edition made for Singapore retailer The Hour Glass. It’s Royal Oak Extra-Thin ref. 15202 – the model that’s closest to the original 1972 Royal Oak “Jumbo” – in bright yellow gold, with a dark green dial.
In the regular collection, the only precious metal the Royal Oak Extra-Thin is offered in is rose gold, giving it an ostentatious, contemporary look. The yellow gold limited edition instead harks back to the original Royal Oak “Jumbo”, which was available only in yellow gold, the de rigueur colour of gold back then.
Typical of a Royal Oak, the surfaces and edges of the case are gorgeously finished. The mirror-polishing is lustrous while the brushed surfaces are fine and precise. No doubt the finish is a scratch magnet, but fresh off the production line there are few watch case as tangibly sexy as a Royal Oak.
It’s still loud and flashy, but the colour of gold makes it that much more different from the numerous, run of the mill rose gold watches. The feel is slightly retro, accented by the green dial, another unusual colour. Green pairs with yellow gold very well, but it’s not often found in modern watches. The shade brings to mind British racing green, and is slightly glossy; a marginally less glossy finish may have been more suited to the shiny case. The dial motif is the chequerboard tapisserie that’s a trademark on the Royal Oak.
The movement inside is identical to the ordinary version of this watch, the slim, automatic calibre 2121 that is still regarded as one of the most sophisticated automatic movements despite being just shy of 50 years old. Today the movement is exclusive to Audemars Piguet (which makes it in-house, having bought the rights) and Vacheron Constantin; though decades ago Patek Philippe also used the same calibre in the original Nautilus ref. 3700 “Jumbo”.
Originally developed as the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920 in 1968, the movement is very thin, just 3.05mm high, but with a full rotor, instead of the micro-rotor common in slim automatics. That called for some clever engineering, most obvious being the metal ring on ruby rollers that supports the rotor. In The Hour Glass edition the 18k gold rotor – which ironically seems to be rose gold – features an open-worked hour glass and hand-engraved limited edition lettering. While appropriate for the edition, the logo looks somewhat uninteresting relative to the rest of the watch.
Pricing and availability
Available only at The Hour Glass, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin The Hour Glass Edition (ref. 15205BA.OO.1240BA.01) is priced at S$79,600 including seven percent local tax. That’s equivalent to US$58,800, and about five percent more than the regular production rose gold model. While the premium over the ordinary model is modest, it’s still stiff for a time-only wristwatch.