A rare, and charismatic early C-series perpetual calendar yellow gold wristwatch of the famous Swiss watch brand Audemars Piguet, founded in 1875. Reference production period: from 1982 to 1993. Estimated production year: circa 1987. 18k yellow gold, diameter 39mm, 8.25mm thick, solid yellow gold caseback with the Royal Oak logo, “Quantième Perpétuel Automatique” inscription, case number and the watch number in the series engraved, early non-signed (‘flat’) crown. Matt yellow-gold-toned Mk1 dial (so-called ‘champagne’ dial), calendar counters with a recessed outline, Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar early stick yellow gold hour and minute hands, and so-called small logo. Self-winding caliber 2120/2800 with an inertial segment in 21k yellow gold, ultra-thin, with a power reserve of up to 40 hours. Functions – indication of time in hours and minutes, perpetual calendar with indicators of date, day of the week, month, and moon phase. Royal Oak 18k yellow gold bracelet, white gold first-generation Royal Oak double folding clasp.
Audemars Piguet officially launched the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar as the reference 5554/25554 in 1984, although the watches were produced from 1983. Their production was followed by the present Ref. 5654/25654, which featured a slightly thicker case (8.25mm vs 7.5mm for the Ref. 5554/25554) to optimize the design for waterproofness. In the book “Audemars Piguet 20th century complicated wristwatches”, the brand states that production was initiated in 1982, two years prior to the date of the official launch, and 800 pieces of Ref. 5654/25654 were issued from 1982 to 1993, with 422 of those being in yellow gold (Phillips reports 430 pieces in yellow gold), mainly with a matt yellow-gold-toned Mk1 dial (‘champagne’ dial, as the present example), though some had a matt silvered dial. So, according to the brand, the reference 25654 (up to 1984–1985 the four-digit reference 5654 was used) is in fact the earliest Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar produced from 1982 on the basis of the caliber 2120/2800.
The characteristic feature of the present reference is its caliber 2120/2800 – the first Audemars Piguet automatic perpetual calendar in series production, and the second automatic perpetual calendar caliber ever produced. The small thickness of the movement made it possible to produce remarkably thin and elegant watches, which is especially significant given the complexity of the function of the perpetual calendar itself. Caliber 2120/2800 is the first version of such a movement by Audemars Piguet; it differs from subsequent versions in that it was not equipped with a leap year indicator, although it was Audemars Piguet who, in the 1950s, had invented this function for calendar wristwatches. With a thickness of 3.95mm, caliber 2120/2800, and its 2120/2802 and 5134 clones remained the thinnest perpetual calendar movement with a central rotor of an automatic winding system until 2018. The movement is based on a self-winding movement-blank supplied by Jaeger-LeCoultre, while the calendar module is based on a kit from the Dubois Dépraz factory. Both are long-term partners and suppliers of Audemars Piguet.
The distinctive 1980s vintage full-gold look attracts modern collectors as a signature timepiece of that epoch and due to the important perpetual calendar version becoming ever harder to obtain.
The present early C-series example has a distinctive full-gold appearance, hugely popular in the 1980s. Its beautiful matt yellow-gold-toned dial, with characteristic small lettering of the logo (‘small logo’) and no leap-year indication is a feature of the first-generation dials (Mark 1) that Audemars Piguet used in Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars until 1993. The distinctive 1980s vintage full-gold look attracts modern collectors as a signature timepiece of that epoch and due to the important perpetual calendar version becoming ever harder to obtain.
For the discerning collector, we additionally report that early Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars, including the present reference, offer a promising subject for thoughtful study. As far as we know, there are several varieties of Ref. 25654BA.OO.0944BA.01, making collecting even more fun. Here we should note the following, the most important varieties, which mainly relate to the execution of the dial. Firstly, there is either the old (‘small’) logo type of dial, by tradition designated as Mark 1, or the new logo (the surfacing examples with the new logo show that the production of the reference continued for some time after 1993, or we assume that these were replacement dials). Secondly, the hour markers at 3, 9 and 12 o’clock – in the first version these are larger gold pearls that are set on the edges of the counters (‘tight pearls’); in the second version, small gold pearls are spaced from the edges of the counters (‘loose pearls’); while in the third version, there are printed strokes (‘no-pearls’; note that the matte silvered dial design, the second main version of this reference, is used here). Thirdly, there are dials with calendar markings in either English, French or German. Additionally, other versions should be noted, including those with an unsigned (early, ‘flat’) or signed ‘AP’ (later, ‘signed’) crown, as well as a white gold first-generation Royal Oak double folding clasp or yellow gold second-generation double folding clasp.
The present example features a Mark 1 dial with small logo, ‘tight pearls’, English calendar, ‘flat’ crown and white gold first-generation Royal Oak double folding clasp.
Reasons to bid
The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar ‘Golden Nugget’ Ref. 25654BA.OO.0944BA.01 C-series would be an excellent purchase for the collector who desires a charismatic, and rare perpetual calendar wristwatch from a world-renowned traditional watch brand, one of the undisputed leaders in the haute horlogerie watch market. The present reference is the earliest perpetual calendar in the Royal Oak collection, with which it began the use of complication calibers. Ref. 25654BA is a classic collector’s item that communicates a certain era in the development of the Royal Oak collection – from 1982 to 1993, when the classic leap year indicator was absent on the perpetual calendar dial. This epoch’s feature is further emphasized by the charismatic full-gold ‘Golden Nugget’ execution. For the collector, undoubtedly the most interesting feature of this watch will be the matte ‘non-tapiserrie’ Mark 1 yellow-gold-toned dial, with the so-called ‘small logo’, characteristic for the production of the early period. Other execution features, rare and typical for the early production period, undoubtedly increase the attractiveness of the present lot.
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the legendary Royal Oak, this Ineichen Auctioneers sale offers an unprecedented selection of perpetual calendar watches produced by Audemars Piguet since 1982. Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars, which enjoy the active interest of collectors, represent one of the most valuable, admirable and collectible parts of Royal Oak collection heritage. In addition, the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar remains relevant as a luxurious daily wearer, enriched with a practical perpetual calendar function and self-winding movement, one of the best in its category. The keen collector should note that also offered for purchase in this sale are other attractive and collectible Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars, including the rarest and most desirable Ref. 25654BA Yellow Gold ‘Tuscany Dial’, early Ref. 25654SA C-series ‘Two-tone’, stainless-steel Ref. 25829ST Open-worked, and a magnificent pair of extremely rare Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar pocket watches in platinum and rose gold, among others.