In the middle of the 1970s, right when the Swiss watch industry had to face the Quartz Crisis, high-end watchmakers had to find the solution to stay alive. Salvation came from a brand new concept, the paradoxically named luxury sports watch. This era gave birth to some icons, and here are the ones to consider.
The starting point, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
If there is one watch to summarize the concept of luxury sports watch, it must be the Royal Oak. This watch actually created the category in 1972. Designed by the famous Gerald Genta, it was steel, thin, luxurious, robust and it was more expensive than most simple 18k gold watches. Shocking and provocative, it was an instant success. Inspired by a ship’s porthole, its iconic 8-side bezel, integrated bracelet and chequerboard guilloche dial were later to be the inspiration for all the other models in this segment of watches.
Today, the Royal Oak still is in the catalogue, with the same aura and presence. It is a 45-year-old classic and yet as fresh and provocative as on the day it was introduced. If you want to be as faithful as possible to the original, opt for a time-and-date version, meaning the modern ref. 15400 or the ultra-thin ref. 15202, which is almost a remake of the 1972 original.