Audemars Piguet presented the first version of the Royal Oak in 1972, the ref. 5402. When the watch world first saw this luxury sports watch made entirely of steel with an octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet, they were stunned. At the time, costly luxury timepieces were made almost exclusively of gold or platinum; steel was considered a cheap material. Fans were quick to comment that the eight screws on the model’s angular bezel gave the watch a distinctive porthole look. The 42-mm size was also notable at the time, earning the Royal Oak the nickname “The Beast.”
This timeless design is still characteristic of the Royal Oak to this day, and for years, it was the model’s unique selling point. As many readers will know, the late watch designer Gérald Genta is the man responsible for the style-defining appearance of the Royal Oak. Genta apparently designed the watch for AP in a single night in the run-up to the Basel fair (later Baselworld) in 1971. Later strokes of genius from Gérald Genta include the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Rolex King Midas, and the IWC Ingenieur. So, now that you’ve had a little taste of the Royal Oak’s history, let’s take a closer look at the watch at hand.
Over the last 50 years, Audemars Piguet has produced the Royal Oak in countless varieties, using every material imaginable and in a range of sizes. Among the more exotic references out there is the Royal Oak ref. 25572BA, also known as “The Owl.”
Classic Elegance With a Day-Date Function
The ref. 25572BA “The Owl” is a relatively rare and unusual specimen that first appeared in the 1980s, and has since made a lasting impression on the watch industry. The first thing that you’ll probably notice about this Royal Oak is its dial, with subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock (hence its nickname). The statement piece is clearly not a chronograph, given the lack of a stop seconds hand and chronograph push-pieces. Upon closer inspection, you’ll likely note the day and date functions. The day of the week is displayed at 9 o’clock, while the date is at 3. The warm, cream-colored dial features the petite tapisserie finish that is still typical of the model today.
The case of the ref. 25572BA measures just 36 mm across, which seems almost dainty compared to its 42-mm stainless steel sister model. Nevertheless, the Royal Oak seems larger on the wrist thanks to its shape and integrated bracelet. The manufacturer produced both the case and bracelet of this variant in 18k yellow gold.
The case size and material were likely concessions to more conservative clientele from the 1980s, who struggled to comprehend a luxury watch made of stainless steel. Adding the day-date function likewise made the watch a competitor – purely functionally-speaking – to the Rolex Day-Date, a watch that was just as popular then as it is today. AP produced the ref. 25572BA until the mid-1990s.
“The Owl” is powered by the in-house AP caliber 2124/2810. This movement is based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre 900 and features 38 jewels and a 40-hour power reserve. Highlights of the caliber include a 21k yellow gold rotor and Côtes de Genève finishing.