It takes a bold spirit to make changes to an iconic watch design – but that is the case at Audemars Piguet, which is marking the 40th anniversary of its women’s Royal Oak timepiece with a collaboration with jewellery designer Carolina Bucci, who brings a glittering Florentine finish to this celebration model. The Royal Oak Frosted Gold, from SFr37,500 to SFr51,500 (about £30,562 to £41,979), is being launched at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, which begins today and for the first time is opening to the public, on January 20.
The partnership came about after the venerable watch brand’s CEO François-Henry Bennahmias met the Florence-born jeweller in London and noticed that she was wearing a vintage Royal Oak – an elegant gold men’s version. Bucci explained that she had fallen in love with the watch when she saw one in New York on a stranger, whom she’d followed to enquire what it was. Eventually her husband bought her one as a birthday present, and she says she has never wanted another watch since. Bennahmias looked into Bucci’s work and an idea began to form.
Nobody had ever altered the twin pillars of Gérald Genta’s original 1972 men’s Royal Oak design – the octagonal case with its eight industrial-looking screws, the engraved grid “tapisserie” dial (the women’s version was designed by Jacqueline Dimier in 1976). But Bennahmias was amenable to altering the bracelet, especially once he discovered that a hallmark of Bucci’s work is finely hammered gold that, on jewellery, gives a sparkle akin to tiny pavé diamonds. Bucci’s craftsmen liaised with their contemporaries at Audemars Piguet to perfect the magnificent new finish on the bracelet. “It took a long time,” says Bucci. “I kept sending samples back until it was right – but they also added so much, like the polished edges that give it an exciting contrast.”
The final result is a new classic. A very pure Royal Oak design with two hands, a square date window and index digits, it gains a shimmering, feminine softness from the hammered gold. It has the design’s intrinsic sportiness yet is dressy enough for evening. It comes in white or rose gold and in two sizes – a 33mm quartz version and 37mm automatic. Production is very limited and orders taken will be delivered from March.