Exhaustive review of Royal Oak Midsize (36MM) by Clément C.

Scaled-downed versions of the Jumbo case, financially more within reach than the mythical 5402 version, the so-called Royal Oak “Mid-Size” are currently surfing on a fashion trend. Smaller cases are currently getting back the favors of aficionados… Fashion trends again…

This review of the Mid-Size Royal Oak seemed appropriate in the context of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Royal Oak, one of the myths of watch collectors, without a doubt.

Manufactured since the beginning of the 70s, the Royal Oak models in smaller cases versions have become true collectors items, with small details changes over the periods. The purpose of this review is to give you an oversight as precise as possible of all the models we know of. 36mm cases are nowadays an excellent investment proposition, and a fine watch idea when the watch has been well maintained…

Here goes some history:

The Royal Oak model was originally designed in 1971 by Gerald Genta at the request of Georges Golay, at the time general manager of Audemars Piguet. Shaking up the world of luxury watch making, at times when the industry was severely aching, this launch looks like today a true success from the beginning, yet not all stars were aligned at the time.

The first and most famous version of the Royal Oak, the 5402 model, took watch collectors by surprise at the time, with its innovative design, its 39MM case in one block, its octagonal bezel recognizable at first sight, and its full metal bracelet which remains today one of the icon of watch making and which made the brand even more famous.

Illustration of the initial trademark
Illustration of the 3.756.017 trademark originated by Audemars Piguet

The positioning of the brand is very clear from the start: A steel watch priced like a gold watch. At the time, 5402 were as if not more expensive than some of the gold models from Rolex and Patek!

Commercial ad of the 5402

5402 reference shook up the world of watch enthusiasts with a at the time “large” diameter when most diameters were 36 mm for men..when not less. Times change as today the 5402 reference is considered discrete thanks to a reasonable size.

Commercial ads for Royal Oak with reference 5402.

The legend says that it took almost two years to sell the first 1000 Royal Oak ever produced…A myth was born in any event, and stayed with us for almost 50 years…

This article focuses on mid-size versions as alternatives to the Jumbo size. Mid-size Royal Oak are the alter ego of Patek Philippe 3800, little brother of the iconic Patek Philippe 3700 model.

Advertisement from 1977

An amusing detail on this ad for the Royal Oak, with several offerings in different sizes, where one can figure the first prototype version of a 4100ST model (much too similar to a 5402…) which will eventually be slightly altered before going public.

Everything starts in 1975 when Georges Golay mandates Jacqueline Dimier to design the next generation of watches for Audemars Piguet. A former employee of Rolex, Jacqueline Dimier had a solid experience and a true repution in watch design.

Her work includes several versions of the Royal Oak with the challenging of reducing the “perfect” size of a Jumbo model, most specifically in order to tackle the Asian market, where men are known to have smaller wrists… Jacqueline Dimier will design 36mm cases, as well as women versions in 26 and 30MM.

The first ever 35.5MM model release is a contemporary of 5402, released in 1976. And so was born the 4100 reference...

Year 1978

Reference 4100

The 4100ST reference (ST stands for steel…) is powered by an automatic 2123 caliber derived from 888 caliber by Jaeger-Lecoultre.

Illustration of a 2123 Caliber

This model is very close, without a doubt, to the 5402 version, with the date indicator at 3 o’clock. The 4100ST version has a third second hand and the AP Logo is positioned at 12 o’clock.

The 4100ST version is characterized by long index and a small “tapisserie” version similar to 5402, as well as a folding clasp imprinted with the AP Logo.

Illustration of the AP Clasp

The 4100 version has a non-screwed down crown, and as such is not necessarly water-proof.

It is important to take into consideration that 4100ST model is also known in some Audemars Piguet certificates as 14100ST (the reference apparently started to shift from a 4 digit reference to a 5 digit in the early 80s). The 4100 model also has a steel and gold version bearing the reference 4100SA or 14100SA.

Ref 4100SA Gold and Steel

There exists a full gold version with the reference 4100BA or 14100BA.

Illustration of ref. 4100BA in a rare configuration with a diamond dial circa 1978 (Credits Ponti collection)

There's also a gold version with a diamond bezel and diamond index under ref. 4153

Illustration from ref. 4153. credits Christies

Year 1980

Reference 14332ST ou 4332ST

Produced for a limited number of years, during the early 80s, this reference is powered by a 2124 / 2125 caliber. The main difference of this version is the screwed down crown which enables for the watch to be water proof. The folding clasp is the same as in the earlier version.

Illustration of ref. 4332ST Credits : Antiquorum

Year 1982

Reference 56023ST

Small production in 1982 of a quartz version. Excellent alternative to automatic calibers, this reference is one of the thinnest Royal Oak (7MM).

From an aesthetic standpoint, it is very hard to differentiate this model from a 4100ST or 14790ST model, but for the Automatic Label marked on the dial which has been taken out.

The 56023ST Dial

This reference can be compared to a Patek Philippe Aquanaut quartz, reference 5064A, with prices which are (currently) way under automatic versions… Maybe not for long…

Illustration of the caseback
Illustration of the Audemars Piguet 2506 caliber

The caliber is Audemars Piguet reference 2506 which is beautifully decorated and competes with automatic ones. Probably one of the most beautiful quartz caliber of all times (comparable to 5035 calibers in Rolex Oysterquartz).

To the extent that the caliber has not been changed during servicing (which is quite a possibility), one can figure years of production as follows:

YearCaliber number
1982between 258601 - 260100
1983between 260101 - 260690
1984between 261101 - 261700
1985between 261701 - 262400
1986between 5261701 - 262400
1987between 263101 - 263600

Note : This reference can also be called 6023ST on some AP certificates. There is also a steel and gold version bearing the reference 56023SA or 6023SA.

Illustration of ref. 56023SA

There is a version in full gold bearing the reference 56023BA or 6023BA.

Illustration of ref. 56023BA (credits Ponti Collection)

Year 1983

Reference 25572

Commercialized in 1983, the Day Date Royal Oak can tell the day of the month as well as the day of the week. This is the first appearance of a complication version on a smaller size Royal Oak. The dial is perfectly designed and balanced. One can tell an evolution of the “tapisserie”, which will be enlarged in later versions.

Later on, the reference will be known as 26330ST with a 39MM case (not in production any more).

Illustration of the Royal Oak Day Date known as “the Owl” (Credit Artcurial)
Illustration of ref 25572BA in gold credit Adpatina
Illustration of ref 25572BA in gold

Year 1985

Reference 25594

Commercialized in 1985, this model is similar to the reference 25572 with a day date complication and a moon phase complication.

First generations have a micro tapisserie which will similarly be enlarged (bigger squares) later on. What is amazing with this reference is the readability of the dial in spite of the number of complications…

Illustration of ref. 25572 with a rare "Bleu Klein" dial MK2 Dial « Petite Tapisserie »
Illustration of an ad of the ref. 25594 white dial
The dial has changed during the 90s
Evolution of dials of ref. 25594ST

Year 1988

Reference 14486

The reference 14486 was commercialized circa 1988 for few years. The model bears a screw-down crown and is powered by a 2131 caliber.

Illustration of ref. 14466ST.0.0477ST.01 (Credit Eppli)

There's also a gold and steel version with ref. 14486SA.

Year 1991

Reference 14700ST

The reference 14700ST appears circa 1991. This reference is so called a transition model as it was produced for a very limited period, apparently between 1991 and 1992.

Illustration of ref. 14700

In contrary to other 36mm versions, this model bears a bezel which is thicker than on typical other models, which results in a subtly larger dial! In this context, the AP logo has been enlarged as well on the dial, and the font of the word “Automatic” has been reduced. (Note : The size of the AP logo can vary depending on the models we've seen)

This subtle change gives an impression of a bigger watch when on the wrist. The first series of the model bear a 2125 caliber, to be replaced by a 2225 version, derived from Jaeger Lecoultre 889-2.

Thanks to this great caliber, the case of this watch ranks amongst the thinnest (7.8 MM). Another some detail change, the crown does not bear any logo, and the folding clasp does not have a lock security system.

Clasp of ref. 14700ST

There is also a steel and gold version 14700SA, and a gold version 14700BA.

Ref. 14700SA, credits Christie's
Ref. 14700BA, credits Christie's

Year 1992

Reference 14790ST

Probably the most popular version of the Royal Oak mid size, proposed to the public in several different versions and dials, this reference was produced between 1992 and 2006. Many details have changed over time on the various versions, from the font on the tapisserie, to the index and the crown.

Illustration de la Reference 14790ST

There are probably three generations of 14790ST, with smaller variations within each generation.

The three generation of dials of ref. 14790ST
  • MK1 dial from 1992 to 1995
  • MK2 dial from 1995 to 2000, with charcoal grey, white, grey, blue “klein”, salmon dials…
  • MK3 dial from 2000 to 2006. This dial is much different from earlier versions, with smaller baton indexes, and luminova. There are different dial colors, such as blue, white, black, grey, and very rare versions in red and yellow

For your references, MSRP back in 1993 was 36.800 francs for a steel version with a reference ST.14790.789 and 55.800 francs for the steel and gold version with reference SA.14790.789.

The model bears a screwed down crown and is as such waterproof.

The screwed down crown

The clasp has evolved over time. The AP logo appears on the clasp circa 2000.

Folding clasps from bracelets in the mid 90s
Last folding clasps of ref. 14790 between 2000 and 2006.

The opening is enabled thanks to an ingenious system (see below)

The ingenious clasp on the bracelet

The 14790 reference is probably the version having the most number of different dials over time.

Illustration of the MK2 dial
Ref 14790 « Salmon Dial »
Ref. 14790 circa 1997 in its special electric blue version « Bleu Klein »
Very rare version of the 14790, with ref. number ending by .12 (credits SingaporeWatchClub)

The first series were equipped with 2125 caliber and then replaced by caliber 2225.

Illustration of a magazine showing the ref. 14790 with its MK3 dial circa 2003

Note: There is a steel and gold version with reference 14790SA and a full gold version with reference 14790BA.

Illustration of ref. 14790BA

There also exists a rare version in Rose Gold with ref. 14790OR

Illustration of ref. 14790OR

Year 1993

Reference 25730ST

Initially developped on ref. 25685BA with caliber 2129, the Dual Time version is introduced in the Royal Oak collection in 1992. The Royal Oak Dual Time gives possible the display of two time zones, date, and power reserve. Now equipped with caliber 2229-2845, the "petite tapisserie" from the dial will evolve over time and enlarge.

Illustration of ref. 25730 petite tapisserie
Illustration of ref. 25730BA - Credits Adpatina

Year 1994

Reference 14800

Commercialized in 1994, this version is the first Royal Oak with a leather strap. This model bears the same proportions than a regular 14790ST with a 36MM case. It is interesting to note that one can not adjust a steel bracelet on this version. The leather strap comes with a folding clasp. The watch is powered by a 2225 caliber.

There are several versions for the dial (blue, white with baton indexes, white with roman numbers, salmon dial…)

Reference 14891

This ref is commercialized concurrently with 14800 reference, and comes in precious metal such as gold.

Reference 14813

Reference 14813 is commercialized late 90s. This reference is solely offered in precious metal, sometimes with diamonds inserts. 14813 version is powered by caliber 2225 also equipping ref 14790.

Year 1997

Reference 14990

This version comes in a limited edition of 250, the “Time for the Trees” foundation is a version similar to a regular 14790 but for a transparent caseback, a 2125 caliber, and a beautiful oscillating weight decorated with an oak tree.

Crédits : The Keystone
Illustration of caliber 2225 Credits : The Keystone

Reference 15090ST Nick Faldo

First limited series with mechanical movement to honor the professional golf player Nick Faldo, the 15090 Royal Oak ref is characterized with a signed caseback and a specific dial. This serie is a limited edition of 175 pieces. There is also an even more limited series in full gold with reference 15090BA.

Edition Nick Faldo 15190SP Steel et Edition Nick Faldo ref. 15090BA Rose Gold (crédits Christies)

Year 1998

Reference 15070ST

This reference is the first of a long series of partnerhips with the nautical world. This edition sports a beautiful dial “electric blue” and makes a reference to the “Sydney to Hobart” race.

This model is powered by caliber 2225 that we can find on most Royal Oak mid size at the time. To the contrary of 14790, this model sports a transparent caseback which lets appear a gold oscillating weight.

Illustration of Ref. 15070ST/O/0789ST/01 (crédits Antiquorum)

Year 1999

The Royal Oak collection continues to broaden over time with different complications, such as reference 25920 which is launched in 1999.

Illustration of ref. 25920ST

The calendar complication can deal with bissextile years and only need one adjustment a year for the month of February. Reference 25920 is powered by caliber 2224/2814. This reference also exists in full gold under the reference 25920BA.

Cette Reference existe également en or jaune sous la Reference 25920BA

Reference 15100ST

Commercialized in 1999, the reference 15100ST/O/0789ST/01 “Foundation” replaces reference 14990 “Fondation Time for the Trees”.

This new reference is characterized by an Oak Tree on the dial. It is powered by caliber 2225, which is derived from caliber JLC 889 with 28800 Al/h

This edition is limited to 450 in steel and 50 in gold. The model has a transparent caseback so one can admire the gold oscillating weight.

Illustration of Reference 15100ST Crédits : Bonhams
Illustration of Reference 15100BA

Year 2002

Reference 15190SP

Limited Edition of 500 to celebrate Nick Faldo, this reference is the only one where the transparent case back will let you admire an oscillating weight with the shape of a golf ball.

Year 2005

Reference 15189ST

Commercialized in 2005, reference 15189 also called “Royal Oak Pictet” (Pictet being one of the most prominent asset manager) is one of the latest series of Royal Oak Midsize. This limited edition was created for the 200th anniversary of the Pictet Group.

The model sports a white dial with short index (similar to 14790 version), it comes originally with a leather strap and a box bearing the go of the asset manager company.

Illustration of the "Pictet" box

The caseback reads 1805 – 2005

Illustration of the caseback ref. 15189ST

Reference 15188ST "The National Classic Tour"

Limited Edition of 20 only, released in 2005, this edition is very similar to the Nick Faldo reference but for the logo of the National Classic Tour, an exceptional event in Belgium gathering collectors classic cars. This reference comes originally on a brown leather bracelet with a folding clasp.

Mid-size collection has been discontinued circa 2005, giving a new ref. 15300 with a 39MM case. Ref. 15450 is today's equivalent of the 14790ST with a thicker case then previous references.

Illustration of the Royal Oak National Classic Tour (credits : SingaporeWatchClub)

We hope that you have appreciated this article as much as we appreciated writing it. Going back in the history of watchmaking is definitely not an exact science, please bear with us if you disagree or would like to add some comments, we would be pleased to discuss the matter with you. We are always keen on photos of your own watch.

Written by Clément C. (@clement_41w)

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