Audemars Piguet’s New Royal Oak Models: The 16202 Jumbo
THE HOUSE THAT INVENTED THE LUXURY SPORTS NICHE IS LAUNCHING A NEW LINE TO CELEBRATE THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS BEST-KNOWN MODEL, THE ROYAL OAK.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Royal Oak and its genius designer, Gerald Genta, you’ve probably landed on this article by mistake. But even if you did, the story we’re telling you will prove interesting to learn: it’s about the watch that was the first to use stainless steel in a luxury timepiece and was aimed at a sophisticated but sporty clientele who lived somewhere in the netherworld between Mad Men and the Flower Power.
Still, the company’s gamble — which in the early years failed to sell these expensive timepieces at all — turned out to be a winning bet over time. Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak was followed four years later by Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, and together these two timepieces became a true status symbol for watch enthusiasts around the world.
Today, in this 2022 that has seen Patek definitively retire its 5711 in stainless steel after its swan’s song with the limited edition in Tiffany Blue, Audemars Piguet has instead decided to celebrate its primogeniture with a timepiece that faithfully interprets the original spirit sketched by the pencil of Gerald Genta, on that eventful night filled with coffee, adrenaline, and cigarettes that had penned a fundamental page of recent watchmaking history.
THE NEW 16202 JUMBO
Calling it a Jumbo makes one smile a bit today. Anesthetized by the anabolic dimensions of timepieces during the last ten years, this 39 mm diameter watch appears almost minute in its unchanging design, characterized by its substantial octagonal bezel, secured to the case by the traditional hexagonal screws.
Even the dial is unchanged, with its signature petite tapisserie pattern, which in the traditional steel model is displaying a brand new blue-grey color called Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50. A color that echoes exactly the one initially created for the original ref. 5402 of 1972 (although today, it is obtained by a different process that ensures a more uniform coloring between the dials).
And the design of the face of the watch is also reminiscent of one of the origins. We see again bagnoire-type indexes and the AP logo applied at six o’clock, with the Audemars Piguet Automatic writing at twelve o’clock, and the minute track printed directly on the dial.
Speaking of versions, the new 16202 features four of them. It starts with the reissue of the Jumbo in stainless steel and continues with other precious metal versions. Two gold versions, the first in rose gold with a smoke grey dial, and the second in yellow gold with a smoke gold dial, and last, the exclusive platinum version, with an English green smoke dial.
AN ALL-NEW CALIBER
But the absolute novelty lies inside the watch, and you can’t notice it at first sight. Or at least, it’s not that obvious — but it revolutionizes everything we knew about this timepiece. The original caliber 2121, an ultra-thin automatic movement derived from the famous Jaeger LeCoultre 920 series, has been replaced with a newly designed in-house caliber, the 7121 movement, which offers characteristics of absolute excellence.
The new caliber took five years to design. It achieves far superior specs to the original 2121 and is of a different size, something that involved a total redesign of the space inside the case to house it.
It is slightly larger and thicker than the original movement but offers 55 hours of power reserve towards the original 40, and beats at 28,800 bph instead of 19,800, making it more accurate, and offering a smoother movement of the second hand. Plus, it’s now equipped with a quick-set mechanism that allows you to change the date on the fly — something that used to be a royal pain in the ass, given this timepiece’s small edgy crown. Last, a little treat: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak models produced in 2022 will have a distinctive rotor design, clearly visible from the exposed case back, which will set them apart from all those manufactured in future years. A small sign of distinction that makes this edition of this very special watch even more special.
A WATCHMAKING ICON YOU CAN TOUCH, BUT YOU REALLY CAN’T
We, watch enthusiasts, are quirky people to whom nothing ever goes right. If a classic is revised somehow, good heavens! If it’s not updated, same old, same old! The margin to avoid angering brand purists is so narrow that you always end up displeasing someone.
But beyond the constant mood shifts and discontent of horology enthusiasts, we feel we can say that the 16202 achieves a balance of tradition and clever, innovative touches that verges on perfection. It recalls the classic Genta-designed reference in its shape and looks, but it refines it with small strokes of novelty that make this watch wonderful and appealing to all fans of the brand and also to those who have never seriously approached it, possibly out of reverence.
The new Audemars Piguet 16202 Jumbo is a true classic, which will not struggle to become the main attraction of the show, now that its most challenging antagonist, the 5711 Nautilus, is no more. And which, after fifty years, rewards not only Genta’s genius but also the resourcefulness of the company that trusted him, and that too often remains underestimated, even by timepiece connoisseurs.