As every keen watch enthusiast knows, this year marks an important anniversary in the history of both watchmaking, and a small, independent, family-owned company based in Le Brassus, Switzerland, known as Audemars Piguet. It was forty years ago that Audemars Piguet took the bold –in the opinion of many, downright rash –step of offering a watch that was unlike anything else anyone had ever seen. That watch was the Royal Oak.
Though it’s become one of the most widely recognized watches in the world in subsequent decades, in 1972 opinion was pretty evenly divided –both inside and outside the company –as to whether the launch of the Royal Oak was a stroke of genius or simply suicidal. For one thing, it was unlike any watch that Audemars Piguet –known before that fateful year primarily for its expertise in complicated watchmaking and for its beautiful gold and platinum dress watches –had ever made before. It was actually unlike any watch anyone had ever made before –by 1972, there were certainly chunky sports watches galore in stainless steel, but an elegant, stainless steel, integrated bracelet luxury sports watch was simply unheard of.