Editor’s Note: This is a preview of the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202. For our actual hands-on reviews, please head to the dedicated section here.
Kind Of A Big Deal
15202ST made its last dash in 2021. Kaput. Gone. Its new titanium cousin for the Only Watch 2021 could keep the torch lit for as long as it could. That was the last unique piece of the ref. 15202. Tears and cries of grown ass men wailing could be heard for days.
Just like the iconic AP Royal Oak 5402ST A- and B-series, the 15202ST was the classic version, the simple time-and-date without the seconds hand. It featured a printed logo directly on the square pattern at 12 and an appliqué applied AP logo symmetrically opposite at 6.
Now, in 2022, there is respite.
For those who missed out on the 15202ST, fret not. The replacement of the 15202ST is here, and the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin 16202ST (along with other non-steel iterations) is for the most part, the same watch.
So if you are still crying over the discontinuation, stop being a baby. Nothing really is lost. At least not visually. And for the most part, given only rappers and ultra-rich snobs can buy these pieces as more to show-off than to actually appreciate them, this discontinuation turned relaunch makes no difference.
But for the rest, there is a lot to appreciate. For the first time since 1972’s inception the Jumbo gets a new movement. Kind of a big deal.
So for those of us who are either in the industry, who genuinely love watches, who hold watchmaking in high regard for the mechanical wonder that it is, who realise the role that the AP Royal Oak played in fighting the Swiss-quartz crisis and kickstarting a new integrated bracelet sports watch revolution, and who understand the history and relevance of watches in general, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 is very different. And interesting. And kind of a big deal.
Cue the Coronation March by Arnold Bax.
Four Routes, One Destination
The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 Jumbo Extra-Thin in its present avatar is only a 2022 limited run, courtesy the special anniversary rotor on the movement.
There are four new iterations of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 Jumbo:
- ref. 16202ST.OO.1240ST.01 packaged as steel case on steel bracelet with the classic blue dial (Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50th anniversary dial) featuring “Petite Tapisserie” pattern, white gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating
For those who might not know, the dial’s special blue colour — Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50 — was first developed by Geneva-based dial maker Stern Frères and was obtained through a rather tedious process that involved immersing each dial in a galvanic bath followed by applying a thin layer of varnish mixed with a few drops of black colour (n° 50). The dial of the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202ST Bleu Nuit is, however, achieved in-house through “PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) to ensure a more homogeneous colour across the collection”.
- ref. 16202OR.OO.1240OR.01 packaged as pink gold case and bracelet with a smoked gray dial featuring “Petite Tapisserie” pattern, pink gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating
- ref. 16202PT.OO.1240PT.01 packaged as platinum case and bracelet with a sunburst effect smoked green dial featuring white gold hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating. It is a version of the watch that won the best “Iconic” timepiece prize at 2021 Geneva’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie
- ref. 16202BA.OO.1240BA.01 packaged as yellow gold case and bracelet with perhaps the best dial of recent years (smoked or fume yellow with golden-brown hues) featuring “Petite Tapisserie” pattern, yellow gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating
No matter which of the four version releases you choose — the yellow gold version is simply stellar and would be my pick even though blue is the classic — the end result is the same; you would have acquired a mythical beast, an object of desire, and a horological jewel of rare sighting.
Same Same But different
Let me again make this very clear: dimensions wise, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 Jumbo Extra-Thin is the same as the outgoing 15202 series, measuring in at 39mm diameter and 8.2mm thickness, and is presented in the form of the same monocoque or “two-part” case construction with eight hexagonal screws driven through the bezel, seal and case.
And the famous Stern Frères’ petite tapisserie dial — that features “small truncated pyramids with square bases are carved out on the dial’s thin metal plate by an old guilloché copying machine that reproduces the motif of a matrix” — pattern, the baignoire or “bathtub”-shaped hour-markers and hands, the original integrated hand-finished and featuring satin-brushing and polished chamfers bracelet design, and the octagonal bezel are all present.
Also present is the 50m water-resistance — and I would have to agree with the enthusiasts’ voice of reason — that for a watch that sets the benchmark for an integrated bracelet sports watch should honestly have been improved.
One design element different worth noting by purists is that the date window aperture is moved to the edge to the dial, with the end frame lining up with the outer edge of the peripheral minute track rather than the inner edge.
But flip the watch and it’s a whole new world to appreciate. It is here that the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 scores, and scores big. I would say that the stars of the new 16202 releases are the new Calibre 7121 and the yellow dial.
The first difference is that the new 29.6mm diameter and 3.2mm thick Audemars Piguet Calibre 7121 movement is bigger than the outgoing Calibre 2121 it is replacing, with the latter reading at 28.4mm x 3.05mm.
Beyond the dimensions, the make up is different as well: Calibre 7121 features 268 components and 33 jewels while the calibre 2121 features 247 components and 36 jewels; calibre 7121 beats at the higher (and the industry standard) 4Hz frequency while the calibre 2121 beat at 2.5Hz/3Hz, and the power reserve has been bumped up to 55-hours from 40-hours.
The new movement now finally also features quick-set date, a special decorated rotor — in 22ct gold but matches the case colour to celebrate the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary and will not be used in coming years, hence the limited-run release — mounted on ball bearings for less wear and tear, and a balance wheel with directly inserted inertia blocks.
The finishing of the movement seems to be on par with what you would expect: hand-finishings, Geneva Stripes, traits tirés, circular graining, snailing, bevelling, the works.
It’s got just about the right amount of tastefully executed updates that will speak to seasoned collectors more than anyone else.
Finding Contentment In The Audemars Piguet Millenary 15016TS
Given the older generation of movements have their own charm, the 15202ST with its calibre 2121 shall remain iconic. And that’s one of get reasons as to why I won’t be parting with my Audemars Piguet Millenary anytime soon.
See, even though it’s not a ‘Royal Oak’, my reference 15016ST features the same movement as inside the Royal Oak 14079ST (Midsize 36mm).
Both the AP Millenary and the AP Royal Oak Midsize feature the calibre AP 2225 (or JLC 889) that measures 26.6mm x 3.25mm, features 36 jewels, beats at the higher frequency of 4Hz, and provides a ~40-hour power preserve.
The Royal Oak 15202ST Jumbo 39mm featured the AP 2121 that was again based on a JLC movement, the calibre 920 ébauche to be precise (though later AP started making it in-house). The JLC 920 is famous for being only used by the ‘Holy Trinity’ brands.
In regards to the ‘Extra-Thin’ part, the JLC 920 measures a similar 3.05mm in thickness, features the same 36 jewels and offered the same ~40-hour power-reserve. The differences are in the larger 28.4mm diameter and the lower frequency, the latter of which Audemars Piguet “improves” in 2022 with the 16202’s calibre 7121 to make it the same as AP 2225’s 4Hz.
See what I am getting at?
Not only do I have in my Audemars Piguet Millenary a sound movement that’s been used in the mythical ‘Royal Oaks’ before, I can actually wear my Millenary without thinking I will be getting mugged.
Next, there’s that absolute 0% chance of me actually being offered the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 Jumbo Extra-Thin at retail.
And then, there’s that sinking feeling that the original 15202 came with the calibre 2121, and in that association lies the crux of my appreciation for the watch to begin with.
Simply put, for those who are feeling saddened by the RO’s availability issues and what not, there is lots more to Audemars Piguet than just the Royal Oaks, and should you end up buying a mechanical watch from the brand, you are still in possession of a piece coded with this brand’s historic legacy.
“Calibre 7121 has been constructed with the expertise of our engineers and watchmakers, specialised in both simple and complicated mechanisms. This cross-department collaboration resulted in the creation of a robust and powerful extra-thin selfwinding 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”.Lucas Raggi, Research & Development Director
That’s All Folks!
The H. Moser & Cie revived gradient dial trend is surely catching fire, and when you look at executions like the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 Yellow gold, it’s hard to imagine why not.
Like I said earlier, my favourite of the new releases is the ref. 16202BA.OO.1240BA.01 with a yellow gold case and bracelet that beautifully frame the fume yellow and golden-brown dial. I am someone who is not a gold wearer, but this is different. It’s like having the warmth of the mid-day sun on a blistering cold winter day, all in its regal avatar, but without the burn.
I also appreciate how the yellow dial features complementing yellow gold applied hour-markers and hands, providing a nice bit of continuity.
Unlike in the platinum version, the famous “Petite Tapisserie” pattern is retained here. The smoked effect has been made possible by “meticulously spraying coloured varnish onto the rotating dial’s periphery (that) furthers the Tapisserie’s shimmering moiré effect”.
Other than that, ignoring the politics of after-market price hikes, unavailability or waiting-lists, and if AP is selling these through their own AP Houses or ADs, I really do like the design of the updated new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 that will continue to speak to those who loved the aesthetic codes of the 15202 series.
You may or not wish to even try to buy these, but one thing is for damn certain – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks set the benchmark for integrated sports steel models, and that benchmark currently touches the sky.
To find out more about the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202 and other AP watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are courtesy are © Courtesy of Audemars Piguet © 2022 Audemars Piguet