the sub register : discussing oddball Royal Oaks

an interactive roundup of interesting watches on the market

 

Shaking things up straight away in the second installment, this week's #TheSubRegister features some interesting picks and perspective about some watches I know very little about, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.  Bringing some perspective on the venerable tool watch is Nat.  Nat is a very good friend of mine that I actually met through bicycle racing, and now we are typically texting each other back and forth throughout the week discussing various watch musings.  As I'm sure you'll see, he has a quite a way with words, and brings a good perspective on the watch market from someone who's not lining up at the next Philips auction to get the next Patek Philippe Chrono the big sites deem as "important."  His own introduction is as follows:

My name is Nat Coghlan and for as long as I can remember, I have been a collector. A hobby that began with comic books, and took an embarrassing pit stop in pogs, before making its way to guitars, eventually expanded to watches. Between my collector hobbies and my past work in university admissions, I like to think that I am fairly discerning.
When it comes to watches, I'm a big proponent of buying (and wearing) what you like, but making sure your tastes are appropriately researched and refined.  
I'm always happy to talk watches, or guitars, or bikes (not so much pogs these days) and can be reached at natcoghlan@icloud.com

 

Nat happens to have the hots for Royal Oaks, and he emailed me about the following, so I figured, why not make it a post.  Diving into some less common RO variants, starting with this:

 

AP RO Military Dial 14790ST

NC:  I had the opportunity to fire on a military dial before, but I passed it up and kind of kick myself for doing so. I decided the dial was too weird at the time and not Royal Oak enough, but after seeing it in the metal I realized that the dial is awesome and the 36mm case size is even more awesome. I think the case size will keep this, and it's weird brethren under the radar for a while, but I think sub 40mm watches will have their day in the sun soon. That, and true vintage Royal Oaks are pretty hard to come by, and when you do see them, they are well thrashed. There's a C series up on Matthew Bain right now and the bezel is pretty knackered and I don't even want to know what they are asking. The original RO dials are gorgeous, but they are not known for holding together especially well. They are a good example of something being "tropical" actually being the dial deteriorating. If I'm not mistaken, this went for 30-35k: http://www.hqmilton.com/watches/1970s-audemars-piguet-royal-oak-5402 Granted it is an A series, which is the most desirable, but the case/bezel is pretty rough, and the dial and hands are worse for the wear too.  This one is listed at $8,900 from Legends of Time.  

CT:  This one gives me very mixed feelings.  I love that it's way more purpose built and utilitarian looking than the originals, capturing the pure tool watch aspect of its origins.  But, since it's actually a later release and not actually intended for military use, it makes me second guess it slightly.  I love the hands and the arrow tipped seconds.  I completely agree 36mm watches are on the way up, I personally think it's just about the pefrect sized watch.  I've never had a typical RO on the wrist, so maybe I don't get it, but I do agree that the original dials start to look more damaged or degraded than "tropical" or patinated.  I do like the simplicity of the original text though.  
 

AP RO 36mm Day-Date Moonphase Ref. 25594

 Photo courtesy of eBay listing, click through for more info.

Photo courtesy of eBay listing, click through for more info.

NC:  More 36mm weirdness. I like this dial a lot because I really like the Royal Oak dial and I really like moon phases. Chocolate in my peanut butter right here. I especially like the combination of a moon phase on what is considered one of the sportiest watches of all time. Considering that the Royal Oak was a really expensive sports watch only offered in steel at its inception, I think it only makes sense to have a moon phase variant. I personally prefer this over the Royal Oak perpetual calendar, which I feel is too busy. I think the dual register day/date and moon phase is really well balanced and still lets plenty of the Royal Oak DNA shine through with the dial, hands, markers, and logo. There are some examples of this in two-tone as well and I think it works. The Royal Oaks in two-tone that I've seen in person always look really nice. They have none of that "your dad's drunk friend who hits on your girlfriend" two-tone vibe that so many Rolexes unfortunately have. As you can see, the minute hand's lume fill is starting to deteriorate, which is either unfortunate, or makes it that much more like its 5402 brethren.  $7,900 asking on eBay here.

CT:  This one works for me, and I do appreciate that it's kind of under the radar.  It's a nice balance of new and old, originality and interpretation.  I particularly enjoy your commentary on the two-tone versions, and agree on the perpetual calendars.  I particularly like the seriousness through simplicity of the AP font on the dial, and this one has an attractive timelessness to it.  It's always said one of the most captivating features of the RO's is the attention to detail and level of finishing on the case and bracelet.  It's tough to tell from the photos if the bezel has seen a polish, but overall the case looks honest. 

 

AP RO Offshore Triple Date with Box and Papers

NC:  The Royal Oak Offshore triple calendar. The Offshore that time forgot. Yes, this is an Offshore. A 36mm Offshore. I personally think the Royal Oak Offshore chronograph is an abomination. The more I see them, the more I hate them. This little oddball though, well I don't hate it. That doesn't mean I love it either. The dial is well balanced, it misses out on the worst of the Offshore dials, but it also kind of misses out on the best of the classic Royal Oak dials. In a lot of ways, this epitomizes "designed by a committee". Whether it was or not, who knows. Will this become the Paul Newman of Audemars in forty years? Probably not, but you never know.  Recently sold on Chrono24 here.

CT:  The triple date doesn't do it for me.  I don't know if it's trying to be something it's not, or too busy or what, but I'm out on pretty much anything off shore.  I'm out on the term off shore - if you're off shore and you need an off shore watch don't buy a diver made to be worn off shore for godsakes.  I've never seen this one in the metal, but at 36mm, the thickness concerns me as well.  My bottom line:  if you need an "offshore watch" and/or a triple calendar complication, buy a JLC or the ilk. 

 

Nat's Take

It is tough to say if these references will start gaining traction because there are lots of Royal Oaks variations out there currently, and lots of current production references that stay pretty true to the original 5402. But, as the original A, B, and C series continue to climb I would not be surprised if we see some of the lesser appreciated references from the 90s start to fetch more coin. 

 

CT's Take

I think in terms of Royal Oak's going forward, the true vintage will continue to gain, but the newer versions that stay true to vintage will remain calm, especially in the used market, since they are so true to the original.  Some 80's and 90's oddballs like that military dial or moonphase have opportunity though because they're less common and I would guess less likely to be remade over and over.  You kind of see the same thing with subs and speedmasters too.  True vintage works, oddballs and LE's can work if done right, but neo-vintage or newish can hold value if purchased used, but isn't necessarily going to ever increase in value for a long time because there are just a ton of them, and the design is too true to the original without being the original.  

The Speedmaster, remained largely unchanged from the mid 70's to the early 90's with the last of the tritium lume dials.  Because these are in kind of a weird neo-vintage era since they do not have the distinguishing characteristics of the true vintage models, and are very similar to the present day and still available Speedmaster, these kind of just float by.  The tritium should age well, and create an attractive vintage watch in the future, but its overall success holds back the potential for it to really realize a vintage appreciation in price.  A watch like the original Speedymoon, however, would be a good example of the odd ball / LE during this era that has done and will continue to do well, just because it was a little different, giving it that edge for future vintage success.  These were the first Speedmaster's with moonphase, and the only with moonphase and tritium lume.  This example, in very good condition, recently sold with an asking price of 9900EUR on OmegaForums.net.  So, I kind of think these less common, complicated RO's have the opportunity to take a similar course.  

What are your thoughts on complicated Royal Oaks?  See anything out and about that catches your eye?  Please contribute to the conversation by using the hashtag #thesubregister on instagram or twitter, reach out via the contact page, or send me an email at meticulist.net@gmail.com.