The Royal Oak is a watch that is as iconic as they come. Launched by Audemars Piguet in 1972, it has left a profound impression on horological culture through its distinguished design and impact on other high-end luxury watchmakers who followed in AP’s footsteps to produce their own stainless steel luxury watches – something that had never been done before. However, while the Royal Oak’s legacy is enshrined within its stainless steel sports watch appeal, AP also saw the potential within the Royal Oak as a vehicle to exhibit their craftsmanship and avant-garde design language – something they have executed upon through the use of precious metal Royal Oak variants, of which we have one of the rarest, the ref. 4287BC
Launched in the early 1980s as the successor to the ref. 4100, the ref. 4287 was one of the very first Royal Oak references to feature a diamond-set bezel and is one of the rarest Royal Oak variants ever commercially produced, with AP recording only seven sales across the entire reference. Four of these examples were in yellow gold (ref. 4287BA), and just three were in white gold (ref. 4287BC), which were sold over four years: one in 1983, another in 1985, and the last in 1986, which happens to be our example. In fact, the ref. 4287 was so rare that its only appearance in Audemars Piguet’s official catalogue was a picture in the 1981-1982 edition with a single picture of a yellow gold example. AP never created a technical data sheet as they did for the majority of their watches back then, and something they do for every single watch today, nor were any descriptions written or plans of the watch created, meaning it is something truly off the beaten track.
What makes the ref. 4287’s use of diamonds so important is that the Royal Oak’s design was incredibly controversial at the time of its release due to its exposed screws, amongst other details like the O-ring under its bezel. However, instead of using diamonds to hide its bezel screws, Audemars Piguet instead highlighted the Royal Oak’s bezel’s octagonal shape with four brilliant-cut diamonds set into each of its eight sides; while also leaving each of the eight bezel screws exposed to act like additional diamonds. In essence, this use of diamonds showcases AP’s careful consideration between balancing the Royal Oak’s iconic design elements that make it so unique and their own desire to add glamour to what was, and still is, a rather industrial-looking timepiece. Additionally, the ref. 4287 moved away from the pattern of diamond setting as displayed in the ref. 4275 and ref. 4153 that featured diamonds in the polished bevel along the edge of the bezel, thus creating the style of gem setting that the Royal Oak still employs.
Adding to its unique design, the ref. 4287 also features a non-guilloche dial that forgoes the Royal Oak’s iconic tapisserie, resulting in a timepiece that is wholly different on the wrist when compared to Royal Oak examples with the tapisserie pattern. Adorned with diamonds for each of its indexes except for 12 and 3 o’clock, the ref. 4287 embraces its luxurious styling in its entirety, something that its lack of luminous hands also points to as the ref. 4287 completely breaks away from AP’s original sporty vision for the Royal Oak.
Made of 18kt gold and measuring 35mm, the ref. 4287 is a mid-sized Royal Oak variant that has had a full-sized impact on the iconic collection through its timeless gem setting and brave move away from the Royal Oak’s ethos as a sports watch and into the limelight as a luxury timepiece that doesn’t shy away from its elaborate aesthetics. Offered in white gold and featuring a stunning blue dial, our example retains the Royal Oak’s stainless steel spirit but with the ref. 4287BC’s signature details will ensure it flies under the radar when needed but can still pack a hefty punch of wrist presence when called upon.