|Year of production (circa)||
Gold / steel
Audemars piguet service papers 2023
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref. 8638SA 30 mm
Introducing the Modest Royal Oak.
Back in the 1970s, many watch brands faced tough times due to the quartz crisis. Some brands struggled and suffered negative consequences, but others, like Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Audemars Piguet, managed to not only survive but also thrive. In 1972, Audemars Piguet introduced their Royal Oak, a watch that had a revolutionary design by Gerald Genta. It became an instant success worldwide, and the vintage jumbo Royal Oak played a significant role in shaping the brand’s success and becoming an iconic model.
Now, let’s talk about this particular watch, which is the smaller version of the original ‘jumbo’ size. An impeccable condition that has to be experienced in person! With a diameter of 29mm, it looks elegant on many wrists. The bracelet on the Royal Oak is considered one of the finest in the history of watchmaking. This watch is made with stainless steel and 18k yellow gold, and it features automatic movement.
The octagon-shaped bezel is one of the distinctive features of the Royal Oak and is easily recognizable. Unlike modern watches, which often have flashy and glossy bezels that some people don’t prefer, this watch has a brushed gold bezel, creating an elegant look when combined with the tantalum alloy. The petite tapiserrie dial has the same color as the alloy, giving the watch a calm and cohesive appearance. The dial is flawless and features an applied gold logo and hour markers.
One cool aspect of Audemars Piguet’s bracelet design is that each link is different, with the size gradually decreasing towards the clasp. The links are connected with two joints in a tight manner, ensuring that any Royal Oak watch fits perfectly on the wrist and has a solid presence.
In summary, the Modest Royal Oak watch embodies the success and iconic status of Audemars Piguet. With its elegant design, durable materials, and meticulous craftsmanship, it offers a timeless appeal that will grace any wrist with a touch of sophistication.
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The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak represents one of the most pivotal moments in the history of wristwatches. It is the watch that quite literally saved AP and much of the Swiss watchmaking industry with it. To wear a Royal Oak is to wear a fabled piece of watchmaking history on the wrist.
The story starts in 1969. While the Americans are putting people on the moon, the Japanese prepare to drop a bomb (figuratively, of course!) on Swiss watchmaking. December ’69, Seiko launch the Astron, a battery-powered wristwatch that gets unparalleled accuracy from a vibrating crystal. The quartz watch is born! Overnight, watches have become infinitely cheaper, more accurate, and more durable. The Swiss watchmaking industry plummets into (what has later become known as) the quartz crisis: a failure to cope with the influx of cheap, battery-powered watches from Japan.
With sales crashing in the early seventies, an answer was needed. Audemars Piguet contracted designer Gerald Genta to come up with something revolutionary: a luxury steel sports watch. Genta was briefed at 4PM, the day before the 1971 Basel fair. He would need to deliver a game-changing design by the next morning. Genta took on the challenge and drew a shape that was as alien to the conservative watch world as the concept of a luxury steel watch itself. He would later call it his masterpiece, even though his other designs (a.o. the Universal Geneve Polerouter and Patek Philippe Nautilus) aren’t too shabby either.
Genta took inspiration from a divers helmet. Its octagonal bezel with exposed screws being its most distinguishing feature. The petit-tapisserie pattern dial and integrated bracelet with distinctive connecting links complete an instantly recognizable design. The resulting watch was launched in 1972.
At introduction, the AP Royal Oak was priced at 3300 Swiss francs. That is ten times more than a Rolex Submariner! We might consider the trusty Sub to be a luxury sports watch now, but this Audemars was in a different league altogether! There were solid gold Pateks that cost less at the time.
The Royal Oak became a massive success. Patek Philippe later followed its example with the Nautilus in 1976 and Vacheron Constantin with the Ref. 222 in 1977. Many Royal Oak variants followed. Different sizes, complications, colors and materials. The Royal Oak became one of the most iconic watch designs ever, highly sought after by collectors and virtually unobtainable for the lay person. Even for the lay person with money, as AP would cap its output and restrict sales of some variants to only the loyalest of its customers.
Today, the Royal Oak, both vintage and modern, is one of the single-most desirable watches out there. So if you are in the position to get your hands on this one, our advice is to make your deliberations quickly!
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