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The Collector’s View: Rare Watches: The Audemars Piguet Lady Royal Oak Ref.77321

by Sharon Tan on August 17, 2017

Deployant Friend, Sharon Tan shares her fascination with mechanical watches in her first contribution here. She tells her fascinating story, and a grand reveal of the rare watch. The Audemars Piguet Lady Royal Oak Ref. 77321 in a stainless steel 33mm case, with an automatic movement.

When I was first introduced to the abyss of watches, it took me some time to get familiar with some brands and their representative icons. For Audemars Piguet, it was without contest the Royal Oak. Unfortunately, most people (read: men) opted for the Royal Oak Offshore which was a tad loud and big for my liking. It never crossed my mind to pursue one. That was until I chanced upon a 33mm Royal Oak Selfwinding in a store, and went “ Hey! It comes in this size? I have to try it!”. I was captivated by the design and the fit instantly, but didn’t leave the store with the watch.

 

The Audemars Piguet Ladies Royal Oak . Most are equipped with a quartz movement, but this one beats with a mechanical heart. In the current AP Collection, a mechanical Lady RO exists in gold and frosted gold, but with a handwinding movement.
The dial carries a waffle detail, characteristic of many Royal Oak dials, but is not visible in this photograph.

 

I went on a frenzy hunt on the secondary market only to discover how elusive this piece is! By the time I gave up and wanted to get it from the store, I was told that the last piece on our sunny island (incidentally the exact piece I tried on) has been sold, and that the design has been discontinued. The 33mm Royal Oak has been replaced by the 67651 which had a Quartz movement with vastly different details. I was pretty upset about it, and wondered where and when would I be able to find this mythical item.

It was several months later that this piece appeared again! My boyfriend knew I’ve been stalking the regular stores and forums, and did the same after I lamented how difficult it was to find this watch. He resourcefully found a piece on the second hand market, and gave it to me for my birthday!! Goes without saying, I was over the moon and couldn’t stop admiring the piece over dinner.

 

Dial detail, showing the intricate patterns and texture on the dial. The fold in the leaf shaped hands is visible. The mirror polish on the hand show the the logo on the dial reflected off the inside of the sapphire glass.

 

The octagonal bezel and “Grande Tappisserie” dial is instantly recognizable. This beauty here is the Ladies Royal Oak Selfwinding, ref 77321. The Royal Oak design is iconic and a definite head turner. While the classic Royal Oak 15400 or 15450 is masculine and edgy, this 33mm Ladies Royal Oak has made a few tweaks to soften its edges (quite literally) to appear more feminine.

On the dial, the white gold applied hour markers are leaf shaped instead of the classical baton. On closer look, the leaves have centerfolds so they shine differently when the light hits from different angles. A similar approach is taken for the hour and minute hands to give the watch face a rounded and softer look than the classical Royal Oak.

First, the size.

Most ladies, including yours truly, have what I call a “Small Wrist” problem.

With a 5.25” wrist, most watches above 37mm would not sit pretty. For the automatic movements, the 15400 and 15450/15451 are 41mm and 37mm respectively (replacing the 15300 which is 39mm) and certainly cannot sit well on a wrist like mine. Moreover, the larger case and lugs are designed at a fixed angle so it gets pretty awkward when the overhang is too far from the wrist. But the 77321 measures only 33mm, and this fits most ladies wrists perfectly, and looks more elegant than an otherwise chunky rock star look.

 

A row of diamonds mark the signature octagonal bezel of the Royal Oak for a touch of feminine elegance.

 

The next thing to capture a lady’s attention would certainly be her best friends on the iconic bezel. 32 brilliant-cut diamonds set perfectly on the bezel. I particularly like the black dial with stainless steel case as it brings out the sparkle in the diamonds. While the black straps and dial provide a dark contrasting background, the silver bezel and case adds on the shine of the stones, making them look brighter and larger. Besides, black goes well with most dresses and accessories.

 

The AP Lady RO is quite a special watch. It has been discontinued for many years, and examples in good condition are hard to find in the secondary market.

 

Then there are some curves in the details to make it more feminine. The sapphire glass is ever so slightly convex shaped, giving the watch an interesting reflection of lights. The curve of the glass also gives off a jewelled feel, as opposed to a clean regular glass. Not forgetting the cabochon cut sapphire set in the crown. Definitely a nice touch to add curves onto a crown that was modelled to look more like a nut.

 

 

The case back is engraved Lady Royal Oak.

 

For the ladies interested in the works, this piece runs on Calibre 2240. This is probably one of the very few models, of not the only, Ladies Royal Oak Selfwinding. Most other Ladies Royal Oak are quartz pieces. Besides the obvious “Automatic” label at 6 o’clock, another easy way to tell them apart is date window which is missing from the quartz movement.

Overall, this time piece is easily worn from work to weekend shoppings and fine dining. It’s elegant without being dainty; bold without being flamboyant; classical without being boring.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ladies 77321 sitting perfectly snug on Sharon’s 5.25″ wrist.

Bio notes: Sharon Tan is an engineer through and through, always fascinated by machinery and gadgets big and small. She was introduced to horology relatively recently, and was instantly captivated by the blend of art, science and engineering all encased in a disc. Her choice of watches ranges wildly from simple iconic pieces to watches with interesting movements or unique finishing. She also wants to bring more ladies into this male-dominated industry. Outside of her work and watches, you’re most likely to find her running.

Photography notes: The watch is particularly difficult to photograph to show the intricate tapisserie patterns on the dial while keeping exposure proper for the rest of the dial and show the hands. But therein lies the attraction. The combination of the black dial, the patterns on it, with the black polished hands means that an exposure to reveal all elements is not usually possible. But on the wrist, the watch shows a rich veneer of  the dial texture playing with light, catching it from different angles. The beautiful texture and pattern only revealing itself on close examination. A quick, cursory look at the watch would only reveal a black dial, which may appear totally without any texture.

Also note that the watch is worn by Sharon, and carries the marks of daily use. While we did take some precautions to clean the watch, we left some of the minute debris to show that this is a well loved watch, worn by the owner, and not a safe queen only to be used for display.

Captions by The Editor.

 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ladies Ref 77321 in Stainless Steel Specifications

 

Case: Stainless steel case, glare proofed sapphire crystal, diamond-set bezel, crown set with a translucent cabochon sapphire

Width: 33 MM
Thickness: 10.4 MM
Water Resistance: 50 M

Dial: Black dial with “Grande Tapisserie” pattern, white gold applied hour-markers and aperture

Bracelet: Hand-stitched “large square scale” black alligator strap with stainless steel AP folding clasp

Setting: 32 brilliant-cut diamonds, ~0.65 carats (bezel).

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