Buying the watch seems like a rite of passage for modern celebrities who want to mark the fact that they managed to buy a house for mom right up there, start an Instagram-only swimwear brand, and invest in a likely shaky restaurant concept . Celebrities who don’t need a chance to shop consider the Royal Oak a milestone watch: Steph Curry wore his to take an MVP award, Luka Doncic received one when he won Rookie of the Year, and Justin Bieber bought one as a wedding present.
The popularity of the watch among celebrities is all the more surprising given its origin. The clock was made on a wing and a prayer: according to legend, an AP manager called designer Gérald Genta one evening in 1970 and asked him to mock a new clock. The company was on the verge of collapse; The manager needed the watch design the next morning. Genta was inspired by a diving helmet of all things – a crispy device that doesn’t exactly scream an iconically stylish and elegant watch. Somehow the angular octagonal shape and the exposed screws that he came up with made a lasting impression on the world of watches. Last year, according to my calculations, celebrities wore the Royal Oak more than any other watch. Walking through the athletes, actors and musicians who are interested in the watch in gold and steel, studded with diamonds or individually designed by high fashion designers, goes a long way towards explaining the versatility of the watch.
Wherever Mayer goes, the world of watches follows. He certainly wasn’t the first celebrity to wear the Royal Oak, but he sparked shopping sprees when he wore this particular vintage perpetual calendar on a self-proclaimed GQ shoot. Due to the tendency of collectors to snag whatever Mayer had co-signed, dealers began hoarding this particular model.
Is the Royal Oak a sports watch that attracts the world’s elite athletes? Or is it a dress watch that is worn at the most important award ceremony in a person’s life? Steph Curry knows this is a trick question. The answer – and the secret to the Royal Oak’s success – is that it is both.
What makes the Royal Oak so popular with red carpet hikers is that, while Audemars Piguet has that distinctive sharp shape, it doesn’t shy away from redesigning it in every possible way. Here Scott wears the Royal Oak with a matte gold finish – the result of hammering the metal with what the brand calls a “diamond-tipped tool”.
Do you understand what I mean? This watch has range! The Royal Oak is so beautiful that Scott bought it twice, this time with a little more ice cream.
But the Royal Oak isn’t just a blank canvas for AP. Other designers want to have fun too. This version of the Royal Oak was designed by Alyx and Givenchy designer Matthew Williams, who told me last year that the Royal Oak has been his Grail watch since he saw Kanye wear one in the mid-2000s.
But the Royal Oak doesn’t have to be set with rainbow sapphires or customized by Matt Williams to be valuable. Just ask Bieber, who bought this very classic vintage version of the Royal Oak to celebrate his wedding.
Just in case you thought the Royal Oak was a new Hollywood fad, here is the fresh Prince of Bel-Air itself in one of the most classic versions of it.
The Royal Oak is not only easy on the eyes. Williams actually wears hers on the court during the game. This is how this luxury watch made it onto a Wheaties box. This piece was custom made for Williams so the push button is on the left side of the case, not the standard right side. This configuration means that the watch will not penetrate William’s skin during the game.
Serena, Curry, now Anthony Davis: The road to athletic greatness is paved with championship wins, record-breaking statistical performance, best-in-the-world status and a Royal Oak. Davis’s is an entirely different take on the RO: it doesn’t come in a fine material like gold or dazzle you with sapphires. Instead, the value of the all-black piece rests on the technical precision and horological dark arts that emanate from this tourbillon.
Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod in billions
They know that a watch really stands for something when it appears on the wrists of fictional characters. The Royal Oak is often worn by wealthy and powerful characters, like Billion’s cold-blooded CEO of Ax Capital, Bobby Axelrod. (Dwayne Johnson’s character in Ballers also wears a Royal Oak.)
Lewis’ clock on the show seems like a prop made for billions, but a similar model to the one pictured above exists in the real world.
John Legend knows he doesn’t have to change his Royal Oak to make it a great watch. And he knows a Royal Oak is nowhere near enough, so he buys it in gold with dark dials and in rose gold with a chronograph.
For some celebrities, however, the Royal Oak is just a starting point, a slight suggestion of what a final piece might look like after they have minted it. Or in Quavo’s case, less a stamp than a tray full of diamonds. This is probably not even the craziest or most expensive RO RO Quavo owns. He showed off another equally icy version with a skeleton dial on Snapchat. “Skeleton over 100,000,” he wrote.
What watch do you wear after solidifying yourself as the best young player in the NBA, beating a game-changing summer beater over Kawhi Leonard, earning comparisons with Larry Bird, and being everyone’s surefire choice to win multiple MVP trophies one day ? There is really only one.
Combs’ take on the Royal Oak makes every other version of the watch look kind of strict, which is no easy task. You really have to respect the ingenuity of using a Cuban link chain as a bracelet. Combs’ gonzo version of the watch is proof of what makes it so great. Although Combs changed the watch in almost every way, his piece retains its essential royal oak. Other, normal-looking watches can’t withstand so many adjustments, but the Royal Oak will always have the iconic shape to fall back on.