Audemars Piguet has created a true masterpiece with the Royal Oak. There is no question that the model remains highly coveted among watch enthusiasts to this day, but what else does the traditional manufacturer have to offer? A look through the current AP lineup is a bit uninspiring. Apart from the Genta classic, there is little of interest, begging the question: Is Audemars Piguet overrated?
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: Curse or blessing?
The Royal Oak has been a cornerstone of the watch world since its initial debut in 1972. At the height of the quartz crisis, when traditional Swiss luxury watch manufacturers were under threat, Audemars Piguet commissioned designer Gérald Genta to create a completely new stainless steel watch. He delivered a design masterpiece, cementing his place as a legend in the watch world. The Royal Oak became the very first stainless steel luxury sports watch, setting the course for the industry that we know and love today. It goes without saying that the Royal Oak remains integral to the AP portfolio to this day. I mean, what do you think of when you hear the name Audemars Piguet? The Royal Oak, of course! If you take the time to browse the Swiss manufacturer’s current catalog, you’ll soon realize that the Royal Oak is pretty ubiquitous. There is the classic stainless steel version, as well as variants in precious metals, paved with gemstones, featuring complications, and more. Sure, the Royal Oak Offshore offers a little variety, but it still comes shockingly close to the original and is ultimately just a sportier version of the classic. Does AP really have nothing else up their sleeves?
Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet: A ray of hope?
There is, of course, one other model in the Audemars Piguet portfolio: the Code 11.59. This collection, first introduced in 2019, is described by AP as a new chapter in the brand’s history. The Code 11.59 strikes a more elegant tone than the Royal Oak and could easily be deemed the manufacturer’s sole dress watch. It’s available in ceramic, rose gold, and white gold, and comes in several different sizes with various movements and complications. I have to admit that I’ve personally never been that interested in the Code 11.59 collection and have only peripherally taken notice of its offerings, but even so, I really like a few of the watches. The tourbillon variants, in particular, are very easy on the eyes and feature refreshing designs. The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet is in many ways a great complementary collection to the Royal Oak, but it is clearly overshadowed by the popular classic and doesn’t get the attention it deserves among watch lovers.
The Competition Shows How It’s Done
Rival traditional manufacturer Patek Philippe has been a bit more successful on the diversification front. While the Nautilus is undoubtedly their flagship model, Patek understood early on the need for other icons in their portfolio. Thus, they have several other lines that have grown to become classics in their own right. Those who like to keep things elegant and understated will love the beautiful dress watches in the Calatrava and Grand Complications collections, while the popular Aquanaut line has offered another great sports watch option since 1996. Thanks to its striking dial design and rubber strap, the Aquanaut doesn’t just live in the shadows of the Nautilus, but rather stands on its own merits. While Patek’s portfolio is definitely more varied than that of Audemars Piguet, the most important point is that the former’s success isn’t exclusively dependent on their top model. Thus, Patek was able to discontinue the stainless steel version of the Nautilus seemingly out of nowhere. I think the competitor from Le Brassus, Switzerland would struggle to do the same.
Is Audemars Piguet overrated?
The short answer to this question is: No, Audemars Piguet is definitely not overrated. The manufacturer crafts stunning timepieces that are among the finest the watch world has to offer. With the Royal Oak, the watchmaker made itself immortal; the model’s design is timeless. That said, the success of the masterpiece is as much a blessing as it is a curse. I think AP has failed to establish other iconic models and is far too dependent on the Royal Oak. There is nothing else in their portfolio that makes watch enthusiasts sit up and take notice. The Code 11.59 was a step in the right direction; it’s completely different from the Royal Oak and comes across as refreshingly unique. Now the brand just has to help the model gain some traction. Add another sports model that sets itself apart from the popular classic, and we’d be getting somewhere. What do you think of Audemars Piguet? Do you agree that they place too much emphasis on the Royal Oak? Or do you think they are well within their right to do so?