It is no exaggeration to say that Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak sports watch has become an icon of modern horology. Created in 1972 by the late, great Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak arrived on the scene during a time of worldwide economic gloom when the last thought on most people's minds was to spend more than Sfr 3,500 on a wristwatch, least of all a steel one. But the genius of Genta shone through and the original, 38mm model - with its eight distinctive, top-mounted screws securing the octagonal bezel - gradually became the must-have timepiece for watch aficionados the world over.
The Royal Oak subsequently spawned numerous variants over the decades, from gem-set ladies versions to the large and rugged 'Offshore' model which found fame on the wrist of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in all-action movies such as End of Days and Terminator Three - Rise of the Machines. In 2002, meanwhile, the Royal Oak's 30th birthday was celebrated with the remarkable, limited edition 'CW1' concept watch which bristled with advanced features and which has become highly prized among serious collectors.
This year, the 40th anniversary is marked with the arrival of some very exclusive, extra thin versions of the Royal Oak in tourbillon or 'time only' models with platinum cases and openworked dials which display the remarkable skill and dedication of Audemars Piguet's many craftspeople to the full - as well as highlighting the brand's long-standing specialism in the creation of ultra-slim movements. Just 40 examples of each will be available, priced at Ðˆ247,730 and Ðˆ99,090 respectively.
For the traditionalist, meanwhile, Audemars Piguet has created a non-limited, extra slim Royal Oak in steel - Genta's original material. The watch offers all the signature features of the classic model, including the blue, 'petite tapisserie' dial, the integrated bracelet and the same, exquisitely thin movement used in the 1972 version.
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