The Royal Oak turned 50 this year and all those decades later the watch is still as polarizing as it was when it debuted and it's also one of the most sought after watches on the planet. Much more than a watch, the timepiece has become a design icon and its history has been collected in a new book from Assouline that will hit shelves later this month.
"Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon retraces how the Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak created a stir upon its release in 1972, with its armor of hand-finished stainless-steel encasing the thinnest self-winding mechanical movement of its era and has shone around the world in the decades that have followed. For the first time, steel was ennobled to the same status as gold. Inspired by the profound cultural, artistic, and industrial changes of the 1960s and early 1970s, this forward-looking timepiece anticipated a more active yet casual lifestyle, while heralding the beginning of a new high-end watchmaking era combining sportiness and refinement.
Although an outlier at birth, the Royal Oak soon found an audience among the free-spirited youth, who recognized the watch’s audacious blend of technological advances and ancestral craftsmanship. The Royal Oak has been a canvas of innovation ever since, conversing with art, music, architecture, and sports. Today, a cultural artifact beyond watchmaking, the Royal Oak is an object of permanence in a world of obsolescence, embodying the creative freedom and the youthful spirit of those who have contributed to writing its story.
The book presents the Royal Oak’s history from a broader cultural perspective, while shedding light on new archival materials uncovered by Audemars Piguet’s Heritage department alongside exclusive testimonies of long-standing friends of the brand. The lively narrative text is illustrated with imagery from six decades of groundbreaking art, architecture, fashion, music, and cultural history, paralleling the evolution of this trailblazing timepiece beloved by innovative tastemakers and influential celebrities around the globe.
Furthering the Royal Oak’s unique cultural journey, Bill Prince also gives voice to what he calls “Generation Royal Oak,” a group of watch connoisseurs who came of age following the timepiece’s launch and whose achievements reflect the global, cultural movement that inspired it. This cohort notably includes Kevin Hart, Bjarke Ingels, Elle Macpherson, Mark Ronson, Serena Williams, and Ning Zetao, to name but a few."