The Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ has been a staple for Audemars Piguet since 1972. Along the way it has seen quite a few changes and for better or worse, changes will divide opinions, but this latest iteration may have finally brought the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ in the 21st century. As you likely know, the reference 15202 was discontinued by AP last year, which got many thinking what may happen to the RO ‘Jumbo’ and if there was going to be a new one what would it look like, would the size, layout and dial remain the same or would AP tinker just a little too much? Finally, that question was recently answered with the latest iteration of the RO ‘Jumbo’ – the reference 16202.
It is exactly 50 years since the Royal Oak was first introduced, as the world’s first true luxury sports watch at the Basel Watch Fair back in 1972. Even then it caused quite a stir. As the world’s first luxury sports watch: it was imposing, yet impressively thin and, despite being the most expensive watch of its type on the market, it was available only in stainless steel. However, that changed in 1977 when the first yellow gold 39 mm Royal Oak became available, bringing a whole new character to what would soon be regarded as an iconic design.
So, with the intro and brief history part out of the way, now for the stuff that you’ve been waiting to hear. The 15202 is history and the 16202 is the present and for this reason AP is releasing four new references of the 16202. As customary, there is the steel with a special blue anniversary dial; a pink-gold version with a smoked grey dial; a yellow-gold version with a smoked gold dial; and then there is a platinum version with a smoked green dial – which in all honesty is pretty much identical to the piece we saw last year.
Now, when the 15202 was announced to be discontinued and that there would indeed be a new reference to replace it on its 50th anniversary – this of course got a lot of people talking about the possible changes. Like most people, when you hear the word change it conjures up different emotions and perhaps one of the overriding emotions is fear. We’ve seen what watch manufacturers can do to newer iterations of said timepieces, so this emotion isn’t that unreasonable in this context.
Audemars Piguet are known for breaking the rules but in the case of the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’, it’s the same extra-thin, 39mm, self-winding, sweeping second-less iconic watch we’ve all come to know and love, and it’s a wonderful thing. As the saying goes “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” but look for marginal gains towards perfection and this is what AP have achieved with the 16202.
The 16202 is basically the same as the 15202 but with a new dial and calibre. In the grand scheme of things this perhaps isn’t that big of a change but to some people who treasure what made the 5402, 14802 and 15202 special this change may just be a step too far for them. The one thing that always connected those past references was the movement; the AP Calibre 2121, which was developed by JLC as the calibre 920 – half a century ago. This movement is what made the Royal Oak possible, at the time it was the thinnest self-winding calibre at just 3.05mm thick, which afforded the moniker “Extra-Thin” to the title of the Royal Oak.
By AP essentially changing the heart of Royal Oak, can the new 16202 still bear the torch for the Jumbo? Let’s see. Have the dimension changed in anyway, nope it’s still the same svelte 39mm x 8.1mm case that the 15202 came in. So, exactly what has changed and what has been done to accommodate any changes.
Externally, the case dimensions remain the same as the 15202, but it’s what is on the inside that has dramatically changed. What AP have done is build an entirely new calibre from the ground up: the calibre 7121, which is larger than the 2121 by 1.2mm and more complicated too by 21 extra components, and even more accurate thanks to the higher frequency of 28,800 vph, but even better – it has a power reserve of 55-hours, some 15 hours more than the 15202. However, another interesting fact is that the 7121 movement is tad thicker than the 2121. The fact the case dimensions remain the same, but the movement has been brought up to 21st century standards is an achievement Audemars Piguet can be proud of.
Five years of development were necessary for the realisation of the new Calibre 7121, which is endowed with more energy than its predecessor and is also equipped with a contemporary central oscillating weight mounted on ball bearings that utilises two reversers developed in-house to ensure bidirectional winding. Its balance wheel is fitted with inertia blocks that have been directly inserted within the balance wheel to avoid unnecessary friction. In addition, Calibre 7121 is equipped with a patented extra-thin low-energy date-setting mechanism. This removes the laborious task of rotating the crown back and forth to set the date, and while this doesn’t sound like much one must remember that octagonal crown is the most comfortable thing to twist.
Upholding fine watchmaking tradition, Calibre 7121 has been finished with refined Haute Horlogerie decorations such as “Côtes de Genève,” “traits tirés” and circular graining that can be admired through the watch’s sapphire caseback. And just to make things a little more special, the new Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin timepieces are fitted with the dedicated anniversary openworked oscillating weight in 22-carat gold, which features the “50 years” logo and the engraved Audemars Piguet signature. For the occasion, the oscillating weight has been matched to the colour of each case – a practice usually reserved to complicated timepieces. The “50 years” oscillating weight will be fitted to the Royal Oak anniversary models throughout 2022.
Other than the new calibre 7121, the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ is still the same watch many have come to admire over the many years it has been in production. The dial features a new hue which is called Bleu Nuit Nuage 50. It has kept its original baignoire or “bathtub”-shaped hour-markers and hands, which enable the luminescent material to be poured in for optimum legibility. The dial has also retained the polished gold applied AP monogram at 6 o’clock, as well as the printed “AUDEMARS PIGUET AUTOMATIC” mention at 12 o’clock. The “SWISS MADE” indication, which came to replace “SWISS” around the mid-1980s, remains positioned at 6 o’clock, with the words SWISS and MADE on either side of the hour-marker to balance the dial.
So, that’s pretty much the new Royal Oak Extra-Thin Jumbo; it’s the same watch we’ve come to know and love over many years. Of course, there will be references that proceed this 16202 but the new calibre brings this iconic piece into the 21st century but what AP have done is make sure they’ve preserved the model’s history. No revolution here just meticulous evolution, which AP must be applauded for.
The new Royal Oak Extra-Thin ‘Jumbo’ ref. 16202, as mentioned, is available in stainless-steel, pink-gold, yellow-gold and Platinum. Prices range from £27,900 – in excess of £80,000. For more information, visit audemarspiguet.com.