All of us know that yellow gold is slightly out of fashion. Audemars Piguet is the first amongst established, high-end watchmakers to emphasise the metal, with a full range of yellow gold Royal Oaks presented at SIHH 2016, including a chunky chronograph.
Last year, however, Audemars Piguet announced arguably the most interesting yellow gold Royal Oak of all, a limited edition made for Singapore retailer The Hour Glass. It’s Royal Oak Extra-Thin ref. 15202 – the model that’s closest to the original 1972 Royal Oak “Jumbo” – in bright yellow gold, with a dark green dial.
In the regular collection, the only precious metal the Royal Oak Extra-Thin is offered in is rose gold, giving it an ostentatious, contemporary look. The yellow gold limited edition instead harks back to the original Royal Oak “Jumbo”, which was available only in yellow gold, the de rigueur colour of gold back then.
Typical of a Royal Oak, the surfaces and edges of the case are gorgeously finished. The mirror-polishing is lustrous while the brushed surfaces are fine and precise. No doubt the finish is a scratch magnet, but fresh off the production line there are few watch case as tangibly sexy as a Royal Oak.
It’s still loud and flashy, but the colour of gold makes it that much more different from the numerous, run of the mill rose gold watches. The feel is slightly retro, accented by the green dial, another unusual colour. Green pairs with yellow gold very well, but it’s not often found in modern watches. The shade brings to mind British racing green, and is slightly glossy; a marginally less glossy finish may have been more suited to the shiny case. The dial motif is the chequerboard tapisserie that’s a trademark on the Royal Oak.
The movement inside is identical to the ordinary version of this watch, the slim, automatic calibre 2121 that is still regarded as one of the most sophisticated automatic movements despite being just shy of 50 years old. Today the movement is exclusive to Audemars Piguet (which makes it in-house, having bought the rights) and Vacheron Constantin; though decades ago Patek Philippe also used the same calibre in the original Nautilus ref. 3700 “Jumbo”.
Originally developed as the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920 in 1968, the movement is very thin, just 3.05mm high, but with a full rotor, instead of the micro-rotor common in slim automatics. That called for some clever engineering, most obvious being the metal ring on ruby rollers that supports the rotor. In The Hour Glass edition the 18k gold rotor – which ironically seems to be rose gold – features an open-worked hour glass and hand-engraved limited edition lettering. While appropriate for the edition, the logo looks somewhat uninteresting relative to the rest of the watch.