A fine, rare and attractive white gold chronograph wristwatch of the famous Swiss watch brand Audemars Piguet, founded in 1875. Purchase date: 2008. Case in 18k white gold, diameter 39mm, thickness 11mm, matt silvered dial with enlarged ‘Grande Tapisserie’ pattern, sunken sub-dials, solid 18k white gold caseback with engraved ‘Royal Oak’ inscription, case number and model serial number. Self-winding caliber 2385 with an inertial segment in 18k yellow gold, thin, with a power reserve of up to 40 hours. Functions – indication of time in hours and minutes, small seconds hand at 6 o’clock, chronograph with central seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour counters, and date between 4 and 5 o’clock. Black leather strap, Audemars Piguet ‘AP’ 18k white gold double folding clasp.
The present reference 26022 was produced by Audemars Piguet as a precious-metal Royal Oak Chronograph on either a leather or rubber strap, most likely launched circa 2004. Reference 26022 is widely accepted as a precious metal version of the second-generation Royal Oak Chronograph Ref. 26300 launched in 2008. However, there are reasons to believe that the production of reference 26022 began several years earlier, perhaps as far back as 2005 (Ineichen Auctioneers sold in 2022 a Ref. 26022OR example dated 2005, while Phillips mentions 2004 as the launch date). Multiple versions of model 26022 with yellow gold, rose gold, and white gold versions designated as Refs. 26022BA, 26022OR, and 26022BC, respectively, were produced until at least 2012, and are divided into two types. The first, early type of reference 26022, to which the present lot belongs, has a specific dial design with square luminous hour markers. The prototype of this dial is some examples of reference 25960, early precious-metal versions of the first-generation Royal Oak Chronograph Ref. 25860, launched in 1997. This design took its final form in 2005 with the release of La Boutique Paris Limited Edition Ref. 26035PT. The first-type design dials differ from those of reference 25960 by the use of wide Arabic numerals of the peripheral second/minute markings, contrasting to the normal-width numerals of the majority of Royal Oak Chronograph versions. In 2008, Audemars Piguet made an upgrade to reference 26022, most probably technically similar to the changeover from Ref. 25860 to Ref. 26300 (the replacement of the two-part case with a three-part one). With this modernisation, the designation of the reference 26022 has not changed, but the dial design was modified – reference 26022 of the latter period has the dial of the second type, which generally reminds one of the original design of the Royal Oak Chronograph Ref. 25860 with luminous baton indexes designed by Gérald Genta and a luminous triangular index at 12 o’clock. Production of the second-type 26022 continued until 2012, when the collection was relaunched in a 41mm case (Ref. 26320).
With a solid 18k white gold case on a black leather strap, lucid silvered dial decorated with an enlarged ‘Grande Tapisserie’ pattern, and tangible square hour markers, uncommon for the Royal Oak collection, this extremely charismatic watch represents a spectacular page in the history of the Royal Oak Chronograph collection.
The present example is undoubtedly a testament to this intriguing story with a case number that allows it to be attributed to the latest period of the existence of the first type of reference 26022, additional confirmation of which is a guarantee certificate dated 2008, the year of transfer to the second-type reference 26022.
Royal Oak Chronograph Ref. 26022 uses the self-winding caliber 2385, typical for Royal Oak Offshore Chronographs, which had been developed by the brand in collaboration with movement-blank producer Frédéric Piguet as a personalized version of its legendary caliber 1185. The watch case is fitted with screw-lock pushers and a screw-down crown, making it waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. The chronograph pushers are easy to unscrew and the requirement to apply smooth and pleasant pressure to activate the chronograph is a nice and very useful technical feature of caliber 2385 and its prototype Frédéric Piguet 1185.
Reasons to bid
With a solid 18k white gold case on a black leather strap, lucid silvered dial decorated with an enlarged ‘Grande Tapisserie’ pattern, and tangible square hour markers, uncommon for the Royal Oak collection, this extremely charismatic watch represents a spectacular page in the history of the Royal Oak Chronograph collection. Therefore, the Royal Oak Chronograph Ref. 26022BC.OO.D002CR.01 Type 1 would be an excellent purchase for the collector who desires an attractive, rare and highly collectible chronograph wristwatch from a world-renowned traditional watch brand, one of the undisputed leaders in the haute horlogerie watch market.
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the legendary Royal Oak, this Ineichen Auctioneers sale offers an unprecedented selection of automatic chronographs produced by Audemars Piguet since 1998. Against the backdrop of other lots, above all the automatic Royal Oak Jumbo and Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, which enjoy the active interest of collectors, the Royal Oak Chronograph has so far clearly been underestimated. It is, nevertheless, very attractive and promising for collecting part of the magnificent historical heritage of the Royal Oak collection. In addition, the Royal Oak Chronograph remains relevant as a luxurious daily wearer. The keen collector should note that also offered for purchase in this sale are other attractive and collectible Royal Oak chronographs, including the rarest and most desirable Royal Oak Chronograph Blue ‘Roundel’ Counters, City of Sails ‘Be Happy’ Limited Edition, Royal Oak Chronograph ‘Tropical Hands’, and Royal Oak Chronograph ‘Electric Blue’ among others.