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19 April 2022
On the occasion of the Royal Oak’s jubilee, the exhibition Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon at Harrods will bring visitors on an immersive journey through the collection’s 50 years of innovation.
The exhibition retraces the Royal Oak’s journey from iconoclast to icon by detailing some of its avant-garde attributes and explaining how this model has asserted itself in both the watchmaking landscape and the larger cultural world. The visitor is invited to deep-dive into the Royal Oak’s genesis and development into a full-fledged collection through a display of select models from the brand’s heritage collection, starting with the original 5402 Model from 1972, whose hand-finished steel case and bracelet elevated this humble material to the same status as gold.
The exhibition continues with a selection of 2022 novelties celebrating the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary. The latest generation Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin sits amongst the highlights. While it has retained the aesthetic codes of the original watch, this timepiece welcomes a new selfwinding movement, Calibre 7121, fast-forwarding the Royal Oak into the future. Visitors will also be able to admire the new Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin Openworked, whose highly contemporary design reflects the Manufacture’s ever-more creative reinterpretation of age-old techniques attuned to the Royal Oak’s uncompromising spirit.
The experience concludes with a number of interactive activities including an immersive screen forest and a watchmaker’s bench where guests will be able to observe the techniques that go into the creation of a Royal Oak bezel.
The Royal Oak, designed by Gérald Genta for Audemars Piguet in 1972, broke prevailing aesthetic codes at a time when fine watches were predominantly smaller, round and honed from precious materials. Its large body of hand-finished stainless steel, its octagonal bezel secured with visible hexagonal screws, its integrated steel bracelet and its extra-thin selfwinding mechanism created a stir. Building on the network of family artisanship, known as établissage, that saw the development of fine watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux, the Royal Oak resulted from the extraordinary collaboration of many internal and external talents, committed to pushing further the limits of their crafts and surpassing their own doubts.
Inspired by the cultural and industrial revolution of the 1970s and launched in the early years of the quartz crisis, this timepiece combining sportiness with ancestral know-how heralded the beginning of a new fine watchmaking era in tune with changing lifestyles.
True to the Manufacture’s DNA and free-spirited attitude, the Royal Oak has been consistently reinterpreted over the years to stay relevant and ahead of its time whilst maintaining its iconic features. Although it has drawn inspiration from fields as diverse as art, music, architecture and sports, it has also greatly inspired the watchmaking industry and the larger cultural world.
50 years on, more than 500 models have been created, turning this iconoclast into a cultural icon within and beyond watchmaking.
The exhibition is on view at Harrods from 5 to 30 April 2022.
Harrods Brompton Rd Exhibition space
Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL
Entrance through Door 9 – Hans Road
Monday to Saturday; 10:00am - 9:00pm
Sunday; 12:00pm-6:00pm (Store opens for browsing at 11:30am)
Open to the public, no ticket or reservation needed.