2022 marks the 50th birthday of Gerald Genta’s market-defining Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which was just recently refreshed with iterative updates across the iconic collection. Among the newly launched pieces is the follow-up to what is arguably the most desirable — and rarest — member of the collection with the new Royal Oak 16202 “Jumbo.” The original integrated bracelet sports watch with a dial framed by that immediately recognizable octagonal bezel, the Royal Oak is like the Grand Canyon — that rare thing of beauty that actually lives up to its lofty reputation. For me, the “Jumbo” has always hummed with the glow of a true halo piece that actually nails wearability by getting proportions just right. Replacing the outgoing 15202 isn’t an easy task, but by keeping the slim case unchanged while adding a brand-new movement (and some very cool new dials, as well), AP left me swooning with the new Royal Oak 16202 “Jumbo” 50th-anniversary watches.
I doubt I’ll get many, if any, chances to see these specific 50th anniversary Royal Oaks in the metal again, so special thanks to the Audemars Piguet boutique in New York City and Optimist Consulting for arranging the shoot.
There are four new iterations of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 Jumbo: steel case on steel bracelet with Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50th anniversary dial; yellow gold case with yellow gold bracelet with smoked gold dial; pink gold case with pink gold bracelet with smoked gray dial; and, finally, the big daddy platinum case on platinum bracelet with smoked green dial. I got to go hands-on with the former two variants listed, which are the steel and yellow gold.
Anyone familiar with the outgoing 15202 will recognize that there aren’t any major changes or overhauls here but rather iterative updates that don’t mess with a longstanding classic. (This is not to say that all 15202 are the same, as there were occasional updates made over the years but none warranting a new reference). The most significant upgrade is the new Calibre 7121 movement, which replaces the seminal outgoing Calibre 2121 that had been around, well, as long as the Royal Oak. The 7121 is slightly larger than the 2121 (29.6mm-wide/3.2mm-thick from 28.4mm-wide/3.05mm-thick) and has 268 components, as compared to the 247 components of the outgoing 2121. This 1.2mm width and 1.5mm thickness increase in the movement results in performance boosts across the board while, just as importantly, not increasing the size of the case one bit.
Just like the 15202, the case of the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 “Jumbo” measures an ideal 39mm-wide and 8.1mm-thick (with 50m of water resistance). The Calibre 7121 gains a new oscillating weight with ball bearings that utilize two in-house reversers, as well as the addition of inertia blocks to the balance wheel to help with shock-proofing. It operates at 28,800 vph with a 55-hour power reserve and now (finally!) has a quick-set date function.
No surprise that the hand-finishing on the movement is excellent with Geneva Stripes, circular graining, and traits tirés beveling throughout. These 50th-anniversary Royal Oaks have special rotors, which will be switched out for the standard non-anniversary production pieces at the end of 2022.
Audemars Piguet R&D Director Lucas Raggi confirmed the new Calibre 7121 will be used as a base for upcoming movements, saying, “Calibre 7121 has been constructed with the expertise of our engineers and watchmakers, specializing in both simple and complicated mechanisms. This cross-department collaboration resulted in the creation of a robust and powerful extra-thin self-winding movement that seamlessly fits in the slender architecture of the Royal Oak “Jumbo” case, paving the way for a new generation of in-house AP movements.”
Beyond the new movement, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 has some very subtle new dial updates. While the layout of the dials remains thankfully unchanged, there are some new techniques at play here, especially with the steel variant. Since its inception in 1972, the classic steel Royal Oak has come in that recognizable petite tapisserie dial with Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 (“Night Blue, Cloud 50”) blue dial. This blue color was developed by Stern Frères back in the early days of the Royal Oak, achieved by using a very sensitive galvanic bath method on the dial which was then finished with a layer of varnish mixed with black color (n° 50). Now, AP uses a PVD method that is more streamlined (and less sensitive, I assume) to achieve what is the exact same blue dial.
The “smoked” gold and gray dials still use the galvanic bath method, with colored varnish sprayed onto the outer edges of the dials until the desired effect is achieved. While I didn’t get to see the smoked gray or smoked green dials, I did spend quite a bit of time gazing at the smoked gold dial. It’s an absolute stunner with matching gold hour markers, hands, and AP insignia. Of course, the deservedly iconic in-house Petite Tapisserie dials are magnificent in the metal. The platinum model foregoes this for a sunburst smoked green dial, which is in line with the outgoing 15202, the first-ever full platinum Royal Oak.