High Quality Replica Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak deserves its crown as the ultimate steel sports watch

Having a premium stainless steel sports watch – TAG Heuer, perfect replica Audemars Piguet or otherwise – in your arsenal today? Normal passé, totally regular, what’s the big deal? But back in the ’70s, it was seen as unthinkable. Or at least a bit of a mad idea. In 1969, Seiko released the first quartz copy watch, presenting an existential and very real crisis for the industry. Watches were becoming more affordable, more mass produced, arguably a bit less special.

Rather than accept a changing world, luxury fake Audemars Piguet – the storied Swiss Maison rappers and footballers love that dates back to 1875 – decided to take a new approach, but they needed a watch: something bold, something that hadn’t been done before, something that would eventually end up being the 1:1 replica Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the OG luxury stainless steel sports watch. They needed Gérald Genta.

In April 1970, Genta – then a young designer who had previously worked with Omega and Universal Genève – received a call from Georges Golay, the MD of aaa quality replica Audemars Piguet, on the eve of the Swiss Watch Show. As the late Genta recounted their conversation, the ambitious Golay said, ‘Mr. Genta, I need a steel sports super clone watch that has never been done before, I want it to be something totally new and waterproof.’

“On my part, I understood that what he was looking for was a brand-new waterproofing technology. ‘I want the design by tomorrow morning.’ I designed it overnight and my idea was to replicate the system of the scaphander’s helmet on the watch case – with the eight screws and with the joint visible on the case’s exterior. So I was given the ‘green light’ straight away to begin work on the prototype. I completed the prototype myself within a year. In 1970, I designed the Swiss movement copy Audemars Piguet. And it took one more year before industrial production, which finally came about in 1972.”

When that first 1:1 fake Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (the name comes from a fleet of Royal Navy ships) dropped, it was met with mixed reviews. At 39mm it was big during a time when watches often clocked in under 36mm (despite being just 7mm thick). In fact it was given the nickname ‘jumbo’ due to its size. It was also expensive, retailing for 3,300 Swiss francs, which was 10 times more than a Rolex Submariner at the time. Plus, it was fiendishly difficult to manufacture. The watch’s bracelet required 154 operate components in 34 sizes… tricky.

Despite those potential pitfalls, Genta and Swiss movement fake Audemars Piguet had succeeded in treating a stainless steel watch as a luxury, high-desirable object, something that’s a given in watchmaking today. A handful of iconic ad campaigns helped push the narrative. “The costliest stainless steel watch in the world,” ran one. “It takes more than money to wear a Royal Oak,” declared another.

Genta would go on to design another legendary stainless steel watch in Patek Phillipe’s Nautilus, but it was the cheap replica Audemars Piguet Royal Oak that set the standard, evolving into chronograph, skeletonised and, in 1993, the ‘Offshore,’ a beefier, 42mm evolution designed by Emmanuel Gueit, with rubberised pushers, a tachymeter and improved durability and water-resistance.

After designing more than 10,000 high quality fake watches over the course of his lifetime, Genta died in 2011. He left a legacy of daring and evocative design, lots and lots of really cool watches, but it’s a steel beast, designed in a rush in a Geneva hotel room, that defined his – and Swiss super clone Audemars Piguet’s – contribution to watchmaking.

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