Monday, 26 October 2009

The Royal Oak — How A Tree Became A Forest

The oak, with its majestic stature and widespreading branches, has long been considered an emblem of strength, resilience and security. The latter connotation was reinforced by the legendary role played by the hollow trunk of one such tree, which, according to legend, served as a refuge for King Charles II when fleeing from pursuers in the aftermath of the Battle of Worcester.

Further confirmation of its noble status was found in the tribute paid by the British Navy, which subsequently named three of its most important vessels "Royal Oak". Thus, from 1802 until the outbreak of World War I, these mighty battleships were to be symbolic of the power of the British Empire.

This rich historical theme represented an invaluable source of inspiration for Audemars Piguet designers in the creation of the Royal Oak in 1972. The Royal Oak was born of a direct challenge to express current lifestyle, anticipating the future, and to create a watch which defies all passing fashions.

The fundamental shape, derived from the nautical association, consisted of an octagonal, porthole-shaped bezel, secured to the case by eight hexagonal screws. As to how it is technically possible to place such screws into equally hexagonal holes, that is just one of the many secrets which this exceptional watch invites its admirers to ponder.

Featuring the first fully-integrated design of its kind, the Royal Oak, with its perfectly-fitted case, bracelet and bezel, constitutes a harmonious and unique whole. The firmly sporting appeal of the watch is accentuated by the clever interplay of matt-finish and brilliant-polished steel. The subtly graded links contribute to the firm, supple feel of a bracelet which adapts to the wearer's wrist as if it had always belonged there.

Nick Faldo, justly famed for golfing exploits such as his consecutive victories in the 1990 US Masters and British Open, is the Audemars Piguet ambassador on the world's most prestigious golfing greens and wears a Royal Oak on his wrist. In tribute to the dual triumph of 1990, Audemars Piguet launched a limited series Royal Championship Edition in tantalum and steel.

For the globetrotters among us, the automatic movement of the Royal Oak Dual Time makes it possible to read two time-zones simultaneously, and also displays the date and the power reserve.

The twentieth anniversary of such a classic naturally called for celebration. The Royal Oak Jubilee, with its ultra-thin automatic movement, is strongly reminiscent of the original 1982 model. In addition, its sapphire glass case-back offers a full view of the specially designed skeletonised rotor, which echoes the inimitable shape of the Royal Oak bezel.

Wrist-watches with chronographs have come to epitomise the performance-oriented sporting spirit of the times, and the Royal Oak is by nature the perfect match for this trend. The new Royal Oak Offshore, complete with an automatic movement capable of measuring time intervals independent of the time of day, is fully water-resistant to a depth of 100 metres.

Finally, the version on a leather strap gives the Royal Oak a chance to attend occasions when the metal bracelet might seem just a touch too sporty. It nonetheless retains the hallmark features, the distinctive bezel and water-resistant screwed-down case.

The economist Helmut Nahr has stated that the nature of time lies in the transformation of things. The Royal Oak, however, while broadening its appeal and adapting to fresh market developments, has succeeded in resisting fundamental change for over twenty years.

Now indubitably a firmly-established watch line in its own right, the Royal Oak, with its broad international renown, has become indissociable from the destiny of Audemars Piguet and has greatly contributed to further enhancing the reputation of the watchmakers of Le Brassus.

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