When Audemars Piguet bowed out of the watch fairs in 2019, there was no indication of how the maison planned to present its novelties moving forward. They seem to have taken this year’s challenges in stride though, and their latest collections have been trickling out every few weeks, with the watches arriving in boutiques soon after, perhaps a more sensible approach; clients are not distracted by other simultaneous presentations, and they’re able to get their hands on the watches within a reasonable timeframe. One such launch for 2020 is the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding, in a new size variant to the Royal Oak family. At 34mm, it is by far the smallest size equipped with a self-winding movement, ever so slightly bigger than the 33mm series, although the latter features a quartz movement. Though not specifically categorized as a lady’s watch, one can very much assume it is a strategic move responding to Royal Oak fans with smaller wrists, but also to those who also wanted a mechanical watch as well.
Given the very specific niche that Audemars Piguet is addressing with this new mechanical watch, which is currently the smallest mechanical reference in the family, its calibre 5800 is, in fact, sourced from Vaucher, where it is originally presented at their calibre 3002. This is a sensible move from Audemars Piguet, for it allows the 34mm Royal Oak to have a well-proven movement (Vaucher is a specialist that supplies several high end brands, such as Hermès and Richard Mille) that is properly adapted for the proportions as it has quite a slim profile for an automatic movement at 3.7mm, while providing a useful 50 hours power reserve and operating at 28,800vph. As an AP calibre 5800, it receives the maison’s own decorations, and can be seen through the watch’s sapphire display back. This specific model photographed, other than the go-to steel and blue dial sports watch package, also features a diamond-set bezel for those who seek some additional sparkle on their watches. With 40 brilliant-cut diamonds, five between each screw, totalling around 0.71 carat.
The dial on the 34mm does not bear the ‘automatic’ stamp, like the 37mm does. It’s interesting to note that the blue dial presents a slightly different shade of blue than other Royal Oaks; historically, the wide shades of blue used in the octagonal icon surely evoke a different character for each model.
Long before this frenzy of stainless steel, blue dial, and sports watch package began to dominate the market, the Royal Oak line had some very vibrant colours that really brought out the charm of the scalable Tapisserie pattern. For instance, reference 14790, the famous 36mm midsize Royal Oak produced from 1992 to 2006, had three different dials throughout the production, and a large variety of dial colours were produced, including special orders for important clients. One of which had a concentrated, rich, ultramarine blue dial nicknamed the “Yves Klein blue” within the collectors’ community, for its resemblance to the French artist’s favourite pigment. This vibrant dial was rumoured to be a limited run of 50 pieces, made only available through a Dutch retailer.
In terms of modern references, there is the 15202IP, the “Jumbo” Royal Oak hailed by many. Its 39mm proportion, ultrathin movement, titanium case and bracelet made it a very appealing package for the Royal Oak ultimatum. The dial, too, is handsome. It has a deep, royal blue dial with a dim radial gradient, creating a visually captivating abyss complemented by the polished titanium bezel. There was also the reference 26574PT, a Royal Oak perpetual calendar that came out last year, which had a fresh, ice blue dial matched with a dark blue chapter ring and subsidiary registers.
Looking back at this new 34mm reference, the Grande Tapisserie dial indeed sits on the darker side of the spectrum compared to the wide shades of blue which have appeared on vintage and modern Royal Oak dials, with its colour being officially called blue-grey. Although colour is certainly a subjective preference, the diamond bezel definitely brings a classy and fashionable option to feminine audiences and collectors.
The blue-grey 34mm Royal Oak also stands out as the other three variants in this size come with a silver-white dial, and are available in three different metal configurations: stainless steel, two-tone stainless steel and pink gold, and pink gold with a diamond bezel. With mechanical Royal Oaks previously available in case sizes ranging from 37mm to 44mm, the latest 34mm additions certainly provide a welcome addition to those who have been eyeing its iconic look while also wanting a more wearable option for slender wrists.