Mention the name Audemars Piguet to any man who is into watches at all, and he will immediately think of one watch, or at least one family of watches. And one man. The Royal Oak was created in 1972 by watchmaking’s favorite design guru Gerald Genta (who also created a string of icons like the Omega Constellation, plus the Patek Philippe Ellipse and Nautilus).
The Oak’s groundbreaking sporty design, with its octagonal bezel fastened with visible gold screws, defined a new era in everyday luxury for Swiss watchmaking. It would be fair to say that the Royal Oak—and particularly its much more muscular cousin the Royal Oak Offshore, debuted in 1993—have been such successes for the brand that coming out with anything remotely game-changing is both difficult and risky. Last year AP tried to disrupt the status quo with the 11.59. It was not a runaway success with the critics. But then, neither was the Royal Oak at first.
For several years however, AP was also working on something altogether different—and last week it unveiled it. The [Re]Master01 Selfwinding Chronograph is a compelling new (and also old) recreation of one of the rarest of its classic chronographs—the Reference 1533—from way back in the 1940s, an example it bought back at auction just five years ago.
According to company estimates, AP made only 300 chronographs in total in the five decades from the 1930s to the 1970s. The design takes most of its aesthetic cues from a period when men generally wore posh dress watches (unless they were doing something military) and yet still required them to do some nifty calculations. But this is not another example of a house simply coughing up a nuts-and-bolts replica of a timepiece from its back catalog.
The new [Re]Master is a striking balance of old and new. For a start, it's much larger at 40mm in diameter, runs on an automatic movement (rather than the traditional hand wind), and the bezel is more open to make the crisply printed gold colored dial that much more visible. But the combination steel-and-rose-gold case with its very retro teardrop lugs, printed gold dial with tachymeter, and blued hands are all true to the original. So rather than create a curiosity, Audemars Piguet has launched a potential new family of elegant sports watches that celebrates as much its penchant for innovation as its history.
At a pre-tax price of $53,100 you might think that’s whole big chunk of history to fork out for. But even with only 500 of these watches made, this is a beautiful piece of engineering that will doubtless make its influence felt not just at Audemars Piguet but in the wider watch market, too.
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