Back in 1997, this model was unveiled to mark the Royal Oak's 25th anniversary and has remained faithful to the original size of the first Royal Oak "Jumbo", ref. 5402 (39MM). Today, the first generation of Royal Oak chronographs is gaining considerable interest amongst collectors.
Tampering with an iconic watch's original design is often challenging and is always a daunting task for watchmakers.
While the first complications in the Royal Oak first appeared in the early '80s with Day-Date ref. 25572, Audemars Piguet took nearly 25 years to change the Royal Oak's design by housing two push buttons on the outside of its case. Loyal to the original "Jumbo" diameter measuring 39MM, Audemars Piguet managed to accommodate one of the flattest self-winding chronograph calibers ever made in its time. The first Royal Oak self-winding chronograph from Audemars Piguet, often compared to the Rolex Daytona 116520 and sold for a similar time span of 14 years (1998-circa 2011), it is now a collector's watch of its own.
Chess player Garry Kasparov (AP ambassador since 1996) is particularly fond of this timepiece due to his close ties with the Swiss manufacturer. Some collectors will even go so far as to nickname this watch after him.
Mini memo: How do you date an Audemars Piguet (all types of models) by their serial number?
NB: one may observe a discrepancy between the serial number (fabrication date) and the selling date on the certificate; some watches could stay some time in display before being sold...
The model will encounter subtle evolutions and variations, with different materials, dials and bracelets.
We can note a difference on the tapisserie pattern of the dials between the first series along with later models. They are called "small tapisserie" for the very first series E blue dial from 1998 to 2003 retaining the same attributes of a vintage Royal Oak such as the 5402 or 14790 models (dial produced by Stern Création dial maker, wristband manufactured by Gay Frères). The dial is perfectly symmetrical with its three sub-counters with bronze-colored bezels.
Some of these dials have the ability to turn brown by developing a "Tropical" patina.
Image of a first serie - full set
Image of an advertisement - circa 1999
A yellow gold variant has the same attributes as the first series, and we can observe that the indexes will change shape on the gold model in later series:
The later series have a wider tapisserie on the dial, that is known as the "Grande Tapisserie" introduced by the white dial that quickly joined the series of models 25860ST.
Unlike its long-time rival (the Rolex Daytona 116520), this model has a date window located between 4 and 5 o'clock and an 18K gold oscillating weight. The dial is marked with the Audemars Piguet logo at 12 o'clock, and the upside-down triangle-shaped hour-markers make it easy to recognize the Kasparov chronographs at first sight.
The model reference 25860ST was replaced circa 2008 by the model reference 26300ST featuring similar characteristics, introducing new colors; as well as a new case and a different push-button system.
Model 26300ST.OO.1110ST.08 Chocolate dial
Model 26300ST.OO.1110ST.06 Panda Racing dial
The gold models are recognizable by their dials which have square shaped indexes:
The Audemars Piguet 2385 caliber is the flattest self-winding chronograph caliber of its time and is only 5.5mm thick.
Like the generation of Royal Oak 38mm chronographs unveiled at Baselworld 2019, the "Kasparov" chronographs do not sports a caliber manufactured by Audemars Piguet.
The caliber is made by Frédéric Piguet (this case can be compared to the Rolex Daytona 16520 powered by a Zenith caliber!). It is an F. Piguet caliber model number 1185 also used on both the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph as caliber 1137 and the Bréguet Marine Chronograph as caliber 576.
Image of the face of the Piguet 2385 caliber
Image of the back of the 2385 caliber with an 18K yellow gold oscillating weight.
Image of the FP logo from the Frédéric Piguet manufacturing company
Image of the date-windows mechanism of caliber 2385
For its mechanical aspect, the power reserve lasts up to 40 hours with a frequency of 21,600 alternations per hour.
• 1 : Hour hand • 2 : Minute hand • 3 : Second hand • 4 : Chronograph hand • 5 : Minute counter hand (up to 30mn) • 6 : Hour and half-hour counter hand • 7 : Date window • 8 : Start and Stop push-button for chronograph • 9 : Push button to reset to zero • A : Crown for manual winding of the movement • B : Crown for setting date • C : Crown for setting time
The very first generations of Kasparovs are equipped with a "simple" clasp buckle bearing the Gay Frères signature.
Image of the wristband
Close-up of Gay Frères Logo
The following series are equipped with the famous folding buckle signed "AP"; as a matter of fact, this buckle has been imaginated by Emmanuel Gueit - the designer from the Royal Oak Offshore:
"AP" folding clasp open
"AP" folding clasp closed
The pushers screwed onto the case are designed to ensure the case's watertightness at 50 meters.
The 39mm "Kasparov" chronograph has been produced in various limited editions throughout its lifetime. Here are the most notable examples:
A particularly rare titanium "City of Sails" version launched in 1999, with a limited series of 300 pieces, easily recognizable by its blue "Klein" dial and yellow hands. This model is referenced as model number 25860IS.
Image of the dial model number 25860.IS.O.1110IS.01 (credits to Sotheby's)
The bottom of the case is marked with a special inscription ©xupes
The 300-piece limited edition bears the serial number E, meaning circa 2000.
The first ever version of the Royal Oak on a rubber wristband, this "City of Sails Alinghi" version is limited to 1,250 pieces for the prestigious "America's Cup" sailing competition, also for the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak (2002).
Image of the first Royal Oak fitted with a rubber strap
Image of the Rose Gold version model number 25979OR.0.0002CA.01
Model 26014 was released in 2003 to celebrate the opening of the New York flagship boutique. This model has a PVD treatment to blacken the steel and comes on a black alligator wristband. This edition is limited to 150 pieces.
The model 26035PT was made entirely out of platinum to launch the opening of their first Parisian boutique (circa 2005). The square indexes confirm that it is an edition made of precious metal.
The ChronoPassion Edition was created in 2005 and was sold by the first exclusive Audemars Piguet retailer of its time: ChronoPassion rue Saint Honoré. Fifty copies of this titanium edition were produced, bearing the model 26041TI.GG.1110TI.01.
Limited edition of 21 copies made in 2005 in partnership with the Portuguese National Park. This pink gold edition is fitted on a brown alligator wristband and bears the model number 26059OR.
Limited edition produced in 2006 for the "Grand Prix de Montreux", showcasing the most iconic sports cars, on the banks of Lake Geneva, limited to 25 pieces.
An annual gathering of the most prestigious collector cars in Paris. The 2007 edition of the show was marked by a collaboration with a chronograph limited to 50 pieces.
150 pieces of The National Classic Tour edition were produced circa 2007 for the Belgian event bringing together collector cars. The National Classic Tour edition combines a steel case with a rose gold bezel on a brown alligator wristband. Its reference number is 26157SR.OO.D088CR.01.
A commemorative edition for the Indian cricket player. 150 pieces of this version have been produced in 2008. It combines a pink gold case with a brown alligator wristband. It bears the model 26161OR.OO.D088CR.01.
The Seddiqi edition was produced for Audemars Piguet's historic distributor in Dubai, and is available in a limited edition of 50 pieces.
This titanium model (circa 2009) has a black dial with red-orange indexes. The model was fitted with an alligator leather strap under the model number 26138TI.OO.D002CR.01.
Image of the model number 26138TI.OO.D002CR.01 dial.
Image of the back of the case with the Seddiqi retailer engraving based in Dubai.
Produced for the 2009 Edition of the QE ll Cup - the famous Hong-Kongese horse race. It showcases a pink gold case, with diamond index, holding ref. 26277. Produced only in 100 pieces.
The parisian retailer commercialized two limited editions.
The reference 25983SP associates a steel case with a platinum bezel, a saphire caseback which displays the caliber ref. 2385
The second Dubail edition was limited to 50 pieces (circa 2010) and is characterized by its platinum bezel, a leather strap, and sapphire caseback whose oscillating weight bears an engraving of a Parisian retailer (a rare detail for an Audemars Piguet chronograph during this time period).
Image of the ref. 26103SP "Dubail" edition
Limited series in pink gold commercialized by the famous Italian multi-brand retailer Restivo circa 2012. This especially rare model bears the reference 26123OR.OO.D002CR.01.
Bucherer Edition commercialized for the 125th anniversary of the multibrand boutique, produced in only 20 pieces in 2013
The Eurocopter edition is distinguished by its panda dial and sky blue chrono hands. This is a very limited edition made for the company Eurocopter. The steel model has a solid case back, engraved with the company's name and bears the model number 26137ST.00.D002CR.01.
Certain double signed pieces have been brought to the light (especially in the Middle East):
Undoubtedly the rarest edition, 3 copies were produced during the year 2000 in collaboration with the Indianapolis circuit. In partnership with another well-known Swiss manufacturer, legend has it that Michael Schumacher (that year's winner) could not bring himself to wear it.
G. Bush, former U.S. President, graciously donated his personal timepiece for a charity auction to benefit Save The Children in 2007.
IIt has always been a custom in the Middle East to see watches offered to those in authority, as a sign of gratitude or as a token of thanks. This specific double signed model are extremely prized by collectors during auctions.
Only celebrating its 20th birthday, this watch has a very promising future as a collector's timepiece with the enthusiasm for its 39mm (a diameter that is now exclusive to the Royal Oak Jumbo) as well as its price compared to current new models make it a perfectly pleasurable investment (as a reminder, the price for a new watch in 2007 was €13,970 while a Rolex Daytona was priced at €6,950). With the 2019 launch of the 38mm collections (model number 26315ST), trends show that there is demand for diameters that can accommodate more wrist sizes, since the 41mm chronographs are often described as too imposing in size.
Tracing the history of a manufacture is not an exact science, so do not hesitate to send us your comments or send us photos if you have a timepiece that is not mentioned in this article.
Written Clément C. (@clement_41W)
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