Twenty-seven thousand. That’s the number of watches Audemars Piguet produces in a single year. (For comparison, Rolex, the largest luxury watchmaker, cranks out that many in just two weeks). Another number: $4,000. That was the price of the Royal Oak at its introduction in 1972, an eye-popping figure at the time for a sport watch rendered in stainless steel. Yet the Royal Oak created a sensation, so much so that it remains the company’s signature timepiece. Over the years, the Royal Oak line expanded with new materials, moon phases and other complications, but it’s still the burnished steel model, with its signature octagon shape and visible screws, that gets hearts beating in time, even if inflation has increased the price. Every case and movement is meticulously assembled, beveled, finished, polished, engraved and tested by hand. Sure, Audemars plays off its glamorous associations, from sponsorship of the Alinghi America’s Cup team to a partnership with Maserati. Yet it’s the company’s respect for centuries-old traditions that keeps collectors coming back for more.


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph

Diameter: 39 mm

Movement: Self-winding

Case: Stainless steel

Price: $18,400