The name “Royal Oak” was inspired by the tree that saved Charles II of England. He hid in it to escape the Roundheads, following the Battle of Worcester in 1651. This story inspired a public holiday Royal Oak Day which is observed each year on May 29th.
The Royal Oak also has its history remembered in the British Royal Navy. At least 4 British Royal Navy battleships had the Royal Oak name. Gérald Genta designed the first Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in 1971 and released it at Baselworld in 1972. He modeled the timepiece after the shape of the front of the diver’s helmet from early Royal Navy divers.
The AP Royal Oak collection ref. 15400ST made its debut in 2012 as the most contemporary version of the company’s signature timepiece. It’s a watch that successfully bridges the aesthetics of what made the Royal Oak so popular together with modern appeal.
The 15400ST sports a 41mm size case rather than the 39mm diameter of the 15300ST it replaced. Because as most of us know, the luxury watch audience has been gravitating towards larger timepieces for a while now. The stainless steel case is of course home to the iconic eight-sided bezel dotted with eight exposure screws. The bezel sits on top of the just-as-famous “Grande Tapisserie” dial. While this particular model has a White dial – referred to as “Silver Toned”, there are also Black and Blue options.
The textured dial sets the background to the straightforward functions—three center hands and a date window at 3 o’clock. AP aficionados will quickly notice the presence of the white gold applied double batons at the top of the dial for 12 o’clock. Although this index style did not exist on the preceding 15300ST, it was present on the inaugural Genta Royal Oak in 1972.
Along with the bezel and dial, another characteristic design trait of the Royal Oak is its bracelet. In typical fashion, the steel bracelet on this Royal Oak 15400ST is integrated into the case. Plus, there’s the pair of vertical chains that run through the horizontal links that is so distinct. Manufacturing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak bracelet is a notoriously complex process. In fact, much of it is by hand. But, it’s undeniable that the finished result is worth it.
From the initial sketch in 1998 to serial production in 2003, Audemars Piguet created its Caliber 3120 entirely in-house. While the historic brand’s fame has been based for many decades on complicated timepieces, most of these used calibers that date from the years when Audemars Piguet (AP) held a 40% share in Jaeger-LeCoultre. AP sold those shares to the Richemont Group in 2000, and the big investments made since then have been used to finance expansion of AP’s two factories in Le Brassus (AP’s historical headquarters) and Le Locle (AP Renaud & Papi).
Caliber 3120 is a movement for a three-handed watch with stop-seconds function and instantaneously jumping date display. Its diameter is 26.6 millimeters and its height is 4.26 millimeters. It contains 40 jewels and 278 individual parts. The balance’s frequency is 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour and the power reserve is 60 hours. Sixty hours of power isn’t unusual these days, but Caliber 3120 achieves this feat without relying on two barrels. Instead, the longevity derives from the movement’s optimized power-decline curve, which results from a modified mainspring and from changes in the barrel and the gear train’s transmission ratio.
The date mechanism is unusual, too. It’s equipped with a safety system that prevents the date disk from blocking if the owner tries to manually reset the date at midnight. Thanks to this feature, the display can be manually adjusted at any time without jeopardizing its delicate underlying mechanisms. If the date display is allowed to move on its own, it will automatically and instantaneously jump ahead to show the next date precisely at midnight.
This rare 41mm Royal Oak was purchased new by its only owner via the Audemars factory boutique of Miami on October, 2015 and has been part of a private collection, worn sparingly. The case and bracelet displays minimal wear and the crystal is free of any scratches. The sale of the Audemars Piguet 15400ST serial I is accompanied by its original presentation box, outer sleeve, extra links, hangtags, all papers and booklets as supplied by the manufacturer.
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