Prior to 1972 there hadn’t been a haute horlogerie luxury sport market. Hard to believe since now almost all haute horlogerie brands design a watch for this category. But in the 1970’s the idea was unheard of. Blasphemous even.
But Audemars Piguet was in bad shape. In the early 1970’s they found themselves floundering amid the quartz crisis. Finances were in turmoil and there was a good chance the company could go under. Nobody was buying haute horlogerie dress watches. Sometimes crisis brings failure—and other times it inspires big ideas. Such was the case with Audemars Piguet…
They had gotten wind that the Italians might be interested in a luxury sports watch in steel. Maybe they could fill this market. But who would be a good person to bring some freshness and originality to the table? Enter designer Gerald Genta, just a young and inexperienced lad at the time. He was to become famed for designing some of the most iconic watches ever, including the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Universal Geneve Polerouter and Omega Constellation.
What Genta presented to Audemars Piguet was the Royal Oak, the first ever luxury sports watch. Since nothing else was working, the brand decided to gather their resources and throw a Hail Mary pass. Audemars Piguet produced 1000 pieces of the Royal Oak. You have to realize that this represented 1/6 of their entire production. The Royal Oak was special not only for its looks and materials, but also for its movement. Audemars Piguet kept it all high class by putting in the 3.05mm self-winding calibre 2121, still considered one of the best movements ever.
As you well know, the Royal Oak was a resounding success, selling out the first 1000 pieces. Audemars Piguet then invested in producing another 1000 up until 1976 when the model changes. These first A series pieces are numbered from A0001 to A2000. For many the A series is a grail, the one that started a whole new market for watches. The Patek Philippe Nautilus and Vacheron Constantin 222 (later the Overseas) are in the same class, but it’s not the same. Nobody but Audemars Piguet will have the distinction of creating a category—and they did so with the Royal Oak.
This A series from 1972 retains its original dial and bracelet and is in overall great condition, coming from the first run of 1000. You know it’s an A and its number in the run from the letter and number reference on the case back. If you’re looking to own a piece of horological history that’s wearable for all occasions, here’s a chance to do so. And, relatively speaking, you can still pick one up for a reasonable price.