: Royal Oak 50th Thematic Auctions
TEXT Francis Cheung

There is no doubt that the watch industry is rather fond of celebrating anniversaries, and as it has been 50 years since Audemars Piguet unveiled the now iconic Royal Oak, we would expect the maison would mark the occasion in grand style, with a new Royal Oak collection consisting of several refined designs and new calibres ranging from the highly sought after 16202 “Jumbo” reference to a several spectacular openworked variations. As if the maison’s novelties are not enough to choose from, the auction market is also devoted to this opportunity by organising related thematic sales, offering some of the most pristine and rare examples, and original design sketches from esteemed designer Gerald Genta. 


Original design artwork of the Royal Oak by Gérald Genta (left), sold for 564,500 CHF; The first draft for the prototype of the Royal Oak by Gérald Genta (right), sold for 151,200 CHF. ©Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s starts things off in the spring auction season with their “Gérald Genta: Icon of Time” sale. Instead of focusing on watches, this sale offers the precious original concept drawings by Genta that were hidden away in the archives of the Gerald Genta Heritage Association. Interestingly enough, each lot is accompanied by an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) that features a digital replica, a certificate of authenticity, and some multimedia content on some specific lots. The sale is separated into three instalments and set to happen in Geneva, Hong Kong, and New York respectively. The first sale in Geneva, hosted in February, had quite some success, with the total sale price surpassing 1 million Swiss Francs for just 31 drawings. The top lot, as you might have guessed, was the original prototype design of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which sold for 564,500 CHF (premium included). On top of that, Sotheby’s is also offering Gérald Genta’s personal Royal Oak watch in their auction: Important Watches: Part I, happening in Geneva on May 10th, so be sure to check out these upcoming sales if you are interested in collecting Genta’s artwork or his very own historically important timepiece.


A black PVD coated Royal Oak Jumbo reference 5402ST, believed to be the former property of Karl Lagerfeld. ©Phillips

Known for shedding light on some of the most exclusive examples from private hands, Phillips also announced the thematic sale “The Royal Oak 50th”, to offer 88 lots of the coolest Royal Oaks to the market. Some of the highlights include a reference 5402 in black PVD which is believed to be the former property of none other than Karl Lagerfeld, the legendary fashion designer, and two heavyweight grand complications such as the 25865ST, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar and a split seconds chronograph, and the 25990BC which features the same complications but fully decorated with diamonds and mother of pearl subsidiary dials. The auction will take place on the 6th of May in Geneva, with international viewings already taking place in the meantime. 


A Royal Oak Grande Complication reference 25990BC (left); a white gold Royal Oak reference 14701BC with a jasper dial, part of a 5-piece series. ©Phillips

Lastly, Ineichen will be hosting the “Royal 50” on the 28th of May in Zurich. The catalogue is yet to be published at the time of writing, but the sale is said to consist of 50 lots of Royal Oaks. Until then, you might also want to check out the spring sales of Christie’s and Antiquorum which will happen earlier during the first half of May, as there are quite a few interesting perpetual calendars such as a C-series stainless steel and a recent reference in white ceramic, both featured in the Christie’s auction, Rare Watches: Featuring The Kairos Collection Part I.