The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 41mm Replica Watch name for the pattern is ‘Grande Tapisserie’: what that means in effect is that you get tiny hobnailing swirls behind the raised squares, while the squares themselves have a different pattern of flowing lines lightly pressed out. The chrono subdials continue adding depth to the face of the watch: the miniature indicator rings are brushed to a dark blue finish, while the subdials themselves are masterworks of patterning, done in minute concentric circles. The effect of those indicator rings, in particular, is just what you want from a limited edition luxury watch: shine a light on the face, and they positively glow.
If you’re a luxury watch brand that wants to maintain an exclusive image, boutique-only pieces are a great way to get the buying public into your store. And if you’re a luxury watch collector, the extra cachet of ‘hard-to-getness’ renders models like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 41 mm especially desirable.
The specific reference for the boutique-only model of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph is 26320ST.OO.1220ST.03. The difference? The boutique version is in stainless steel, and the famously-tapisseried dial is a stunning matte blue, which seems to shift shades and tones depending on the play of light.
This sort of overblown terminology becomes second nature when you’ve seen enough Royal Oaks. While many a luxury watch has been praised for its design, in reality only a few are able to stand out as all-time classics. The Royal Oak is one of a kind (notwithstanding comparisons with the Nautilus, which has really become a different sort of watch), and that makes boutique editions like this one more valuable than hen’s teeth.
The hands and hour markers are applied white gold. The bracelet is stainless steel with a folding AP clasp.
Simple, classic, and not available to the man on the street (unless your street has an AP boutique on it), the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 41mm Replica Watch is a highly desirable addition to any sports watch collection. Other incarnations of the Royal Oak might be more in-your-face, more outlandish, or just bigger—but for my money, this watch is at its best when it’s done in one metal, and at a reasonable diameter. At its heart, the Royal Oak is still sophisticated, and this version shows the legend in its true light.
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So, what of the watch itself? It’s waterproof to 50 m, so you can take it for a few laps in the hotel pool as well as showing it off in the bar. The crown and chrono pushers are screw-down, which help with water resistance as well as preventing the wearer from accidentally changing the time or starting the timer mechanism. Underneath the sapphire crystal (the caseback is solid), you’ll see the three subdials (seconds, 30-minute counter, hours and half hours counter), a date window (between 4 and 5 o’clock), and the legend ‘Automatic’. This refers, of course, to the movement, Audemars Piguet’s self-winding Calibre 2385.
Of course, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Replica Watch has always been about light. That classic case design was made to be seen in as many different shades of illumination as you can get between the boardroom and the candlelit surrounds of a romantic rendezvous in a high-end hotel room. The use of one material for the octagonal bezel and the dramatically-shaped strap is a masterstroke, allowing the different finishes (polished angles, satinated tops) to play with the available light like a maestro with the instruments of his orchestra.