This year marks the 40th anniversary of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, the iconic timepiece born when AP commissioned the late Gérald Genta to create a sports watch that would look as great on the deck of a yacht as it would on the disco floor. Legend has it that Genta came up with the screwed-down, hexagonal-bezel design overnight, while inspired by a vision of a diving helmet.
Extra-Thin Royal Oak Tourbillon watch with 18-karat rose gold case and bracelet, blue dial with “Petite Tapisserie” pattern, $218,100. Royal Oak Equation of Time watch with 18-karat rose gold case on hand-stitched crocodile strap, $130,600
Fast-forward four decades, and the Royal Oak is again the status watch for sporty men. It’s a resurgence led by another legend, Miami Heat star LeBron James. The basketball player, as smartly appointed an athlete as they come, has a horological influence that can be seen on the wrists of sportsmen including Tom Brady, Sean Avery and Michael Schumacher. James was introduced to the Royal Oak by his friend Jay-Z and bought his first AP back in 2008. Modestly, James doesn’t take credit for leading the AP charge. “I was at the right place at the right time,” he says.
Open-worked Extra-Thin Royal Oak watch, limited edition of 40, $141,400. Open-worked extra-thin Royal Oak Tourbillon watch, limited edition of 40, $353,600
In 2012, AP is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore, its beloved oversize timepiece. The watch, which renders other jewelry unnecessary, is James’ preferred wrist accessory. “I like simple things,” he says, “with a great distinctive look.”
No matter if your style is in step with a 6-foot-8 basketball star’s, these classic watches are a slam dunk on any guy.
Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph watch with 18-karat rose gold case on crocodile strap, $268,700. Self-winding Royal Oak watch with 18-karat rose gold case on hand-stitched crocodile strap, $33,800. All watches at audemarspiguet.com
All photos: Courtesy of Audemars Piguet