Icons: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

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Speaking of icons, has there ever been any watch more iconic than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak?

Nope, I didn't think so. 

But to understand why, we really need to go back in time. Back to the early 1970's when the watch industry was just coming out of it's golden era, and about to enter into its darkest (the Quartz crisis).

Audemars Piguet, one of the fabled 'Holy Trinity' of Swiss watch companies needed to make a change and what they wanted was to shake things up.

To do this, they asked Gérald Genta (whom had been designing their watches since the early 50's), to design a luxury sport watch. The result, the ultra thin Royal Oak.

The Royal Oak had an integrated bracelet, housed the (now) legendary Jaeger LeCoultre 920 automatic movement, and was made entirely of stainless steel, a first for the industry at this level.

And while it got off to a slightly slow start, it quickly became a huge success. So much so, that the other members of the 'Holy Trinity' also launched stainless steel luxury sport watches, either designed by Gérald Genta, or using the same Jaeger LeCoultre 920.

Patek Philippe launched the Nautilus. All stainless steel, designed by Gérald Genta, and using the JLC 920.

Vacheron Constantin launched their 222. It (to this day) uses the JLC 920, offered in stainless steel, and although it was not designed by Gérald Genta (even though many seem to suggest that it was, but it wasn't), it was obviously inspired by the Gérald Genta Royal Oak.

This trio became a quartet when IWC introduced their legendary Ingenieur SL ref.1832. Designed by Gérald Genta, but using their own in-house 8541-ES antimagnetic automatic movement. It too, made entirely of stainless steel.

Left to right: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin 222, IWC Ingenieur

Left to right: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin 222, IWC Ingenieur

To this day, the Royal Oak, despite the other wonderful watches Audemars Piguet has made, is the main reason (arguably) why it survived the Quartz crisis and still exists as it does today.