Patek Philippe Twenty~4 Automatic 7300 Vs. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15450: Comparing Two Watches With Integrated Bracelets And Diamond Bezels
The at times perceived as serious world of fine watchmaking can be intimidating in the early stages of building a collection. You live a modern lifestyle and you no longer want to continue wearing your mother’s or grandmother’s hand-me-down. It looks too chichi, and you can’t even read the time. It’s time get something for yourself.
Mom’s watch may have been du jour in its day, but it is tired and perhaps needs to retire like, well, Mom.
Time for an upgrade! What should you buy?
Luxury sports watches: the start of something beautiful
You may have worked hard to play hard, and now you are here and hopefully ready for fine high horology with a bit of glamour. Here are two of the more affordable models from two of watchmaking’s finest brands: Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.
Although any five-figure watch is going to be indulgent to say the least, these two beautiful timepieces are certainly expensive, but still manage to offer a lot of value. Each is very different, but they offer the same ideals: everyday reliability, fantastic quality, heritage, prestige, and dollops of that essential spice, diamonds.
It’s easy to dismiss jewel-adorned watches as simply that, but these two watches are special. They both rely on rather excellent in-house automatic movements that are proven workhorses for their respective brands. They are both built and finished to standards higher than my top shelf. And they have the versatility to accompany you on all of life’s most important occasions.
It is pertinent to highlight this early on because high horology isn’t just about dainty precious metals and complicated manual movements that need to be repaired because you sneezed while setting the calendar.
It can be that, but it can also be about an expertly crafted, reliable, base-metal companion with watertight seals and quickset dates.
With that in mind, take a look at these two preeminent offerings and see how they might perform in your modern life.
Let’s also refer to them as being luxury sports watches from here on for the sake of simplicity. Allez!
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak: the sporty supermodel
The watches gathered here, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Twenty~4, straddle the divide between casual and formal. Both carry price tags that blow through the $20,000 mark with ease, and both are relatively scarce at retailers due to the popularity of the luxury sports watch category at the moment.
The luxury steel sports watch category was invented seemingly overnight back in 1972 when Audemars Piguet launched Royal Oak.
For all intents and purposes, the Royal Oak was a man’s watch. In 2012, the collection welcomed a 37 mm model as a more wearable offering for its female clientele, who wanted the venerated Caliber 3120 from the prior, larger automatic watches and the option of a contemporary diamond bezel.
The 37 mm Royal Oak is hardly Mini-Me. It is as well crafted as all of Audemars Piguet’s offerings and performs to the highest standards of timekeeping. The finish is immaculate, the proportions correct, and, most importantly, the feel and presence of a Royal Oak are all present and accounted for.
The 37 mm Royal Oak is luxury sports watch through and through.
Unmistakably an icon, the Royal Oak is admired and loved for its bezel with exposed bolts, the sharp lines of its octagonal case, integrated bracelet, and the famous tapisserie dial relieved with a waffle-iron surface. With diamonds set into its bezel, it achieves a more ornate visage without compromising any of the characteristics that make it a hard-wearing classic.
The Caliber 3120 automatic movement is beautiful. Exquisite in every detail, there is enough hand-finished visual interest to keep you from dealing with the menial trivialities of an email inbox, and it is a wonderful conversation starter at parties thanks to the transparent sapphire crystal case back through which you can see the swinging gold rotor featuring the coats of arms of the founding Audemars and Piguet families.
The movement is marked by first-class watchmaking decoration all the way through, from the mirror polishing on the bevels of bridges to the slots in the screw heads. All of it is what they refer to as in the industry as very cool. And cool plunges to sub-zero with the 0.88-carat coating of glistening diamond ice on top.
The sparkles are a problem for some, as one of the more recognizable traits of the Royal Oak has been its straight-grain, satin-finished bezel. However, since that is not you, let’s briefly move on to a pleasant surprise that hasn’t been compromised by diamond settings: the hexagonal white gold bolts.
The bolts (not screws) sandwich together the thin rubber gasket visible from the case side between the monobloc case and the bezel. The bolts are highly polished and offer a smooth lake-like surface of reflection. The brilliant-cut diamonds that surround them resemble more that lake freezing over, and what a sight it is!
The scintillating diamonds are a decadent counterpoint to the otherwise sporty watch, their size and shimmer unmistakably there to remind you to feel good about yourself. And “feel good” is more than just a feeling inside, as skating your fingertips over them is a very satisfying and mature thing to do. Ahem.
A similar tactile feeling is generated by running your fingers over the bevel that smoothly flows from the case sides and continues all the way through the sides of the bracelet, following its taper, with perfect polish throughout. The starkly contrasting brushing is a nice touch, and the numerous facets of the bracelet’s links glint and glimmer just like the diamonds under even the dimmest of light when their polished sides surface.
Watches are a tactile hobby, and this is one of the reasons the Royal Oak has managed to engender continuous enthusiasm over its decades-long existence. The signed screw-down polygonal crown, case, bracelet, dial texture, hands, and hour markers are all very elaborately crafted to elicit a strong response of wanting to touch the thing. As inviting as it looks, it feels even more special to stroke and touch like a pet.
Balance on the wrist is not lost to style, either. It is a wonderfully composed form that distributes its not insubstantial weight evenly across its sapphire crystal case back and around the wrist comfortably. The Royal Oak takes comfort to another level: operating the sequentially folding, signed clasp is slightly fiddly, and the imprecise action of its pushers is the only gripe here.
When reading the time, the dark, pantograph-turned guilloche dial almost distracts you like an open box of chocolates. So rich and defined is the texture, I couldn’t fault anyone for lingering just a moment longer in admiration.
The gold handset is very handsome, immaculately polished and rhodium plated, with sharp oar-like forms indicating the time comfortably. The hour and minute hands, filled with luminous paint, look similar to the applied rhodium-plated polished gold indices, also filled with luminous paint, which reaffirms the bold design continuity found throughout the watch.
It’s all glitz and glow, putting on a show day or night.
Overall, the chiseled supermodel look of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is very attractive, and the feel of the storied Gérald Genta-designed bracelet against the skin is very much a satin-and-lace affair. It is an extremely luxurious everyday sports watch with 50 meters of water resistance, ready to ride into the next adventure with you the moment you step off the runway.
Patek Philippe Twenty~4 Automatic: belle of the ball
The Patek Philippe Twenty~4 Automatic is the belle of the ball, a stunning debutante having joined the female-oriented Twenty~4 collection in October 2018. The rectangular-cased collection has gone round since its launch more than two decades ago.
Fortune favors the bold, and chance and choice converge once again for Patek Philippe to have a collection that is moves us. The choice, in this case, was twofold: move away from the parochial case shapes and the electronics. The case was redesigned to an overall more conventional round form, and Patek Philippe outfitted the watch with a modern classic movement – the invulnerable, automatic Caliber 324.
In rounding the case, Patek Philippe also re-positioned the diamonds, setting them all around the bezel. The design team under Sandrine Stern also decided that more is more with a lacework-style gem setting technique called Dentelle that produces an offset two-row configuration to highlight the diamonds’ radiance. There are 160 Top Wesselton-grade diamonds in total, all immaculately cut and exactingly set to high standards.
The poise with which the Patek Philippe Twenty~4 wears these diamonds is nothing if not cultivated, like embroidered dew drops tailored to dazzle, but the watch can be more casual than it may first seem. That is its greatest party trick. The sartorial elegance and the spiritedness of the lacework setting ensures that the diamonds always catch light in a fantastically pleasing way, but they never detract from the gestalt of the watch.
As cool as the 0.77-carat “ice” set into its bezel is, the stainless steel case and its integrated bracelet are completely polished all around. The level of polish is so high that even a shoe shiner would be impressed. Cool as ice as its styling may be, the steel also appears warm because of the radiance and luster of the reflective surface finish.
The bracelet joins the case with a stepped and staggered formation. The links are curved to comfortably conform to the wrist, meeting the case at pointed corners on the cushion-shaped platform of the circular bezel. The bracelet barely tapers, but doesn’t feel as bulky as it may first appear and does a good job of staying out of harm’s way.
The clasp is a double folding mechanism with spring-loaded pushers opening and closing the parts of the stylized Calatrava cross engraved into each side. When the clasp is closed, the engravings match up perfectly and form Patek Philippe’s famed logo. The clasp also feels secure, and you can continue sipping your evening drinks without fear of it opening unintentionally.
While the case and bracelet are novel and sublime, it is Patek Philippe’s dial that makes the Twenty~4 studiously refined. The seminal Pilot’s Calatrava (Reference 5522A-001) inspired the Arabic numerals on the Twenty~4 Automatic, rendered in gleaming white gold with a slightly softer and gentler form. They are applied to a stunning blue sunburst dial with a very purposeful, finely textured finish.
The dial has true character and will provide endless entertainment while being a joy to read. That is because the baton shapes of the handset are borrowed from the sibling Nautilus collection, proven for the last four decades to be supremely legible. The organic shape of the hands is a wonderful complement to the numerals.
The minute track chapter ring is bolstered with applied index markers spaced every five minutes. Generous amounts of luminous paint coat the hands and numerals.
Some might (in my view, misguidedly) suggest that this Patek Philippe’s dial is plain but I wouldn’t listen to them. It is finished to such a high degree and appointed with thoughtful flourishes that make time telling so intuitive, it will spoil you for every other time-telling experience day or night. Even the date window is adorned with a handsome gold frame featuring rounded corners.
Borrowing from the pilot-style watches and collocating it with an ocean-inspired, relaxed attitude bring the Patek Philippe Twenty~4 to an altruistic nexus rarely seen from the storied Geneva company to create a unique women’s collection.
It is a very stylish and confident watch for the very stylish and confident woman. Its leisurely cool complements modern femininity while retaining the sophistication, tradition, and craftsmanship of luxury high horology.
The Twenty~4 Automatic’s beating heart is the artistically made Caliber 324 S C. It features a detailed finish bestowed by the skilled hands of artisans in Patk Philippe’s workshop and is a model of reliability and beauty. The large gold rotor engraved with the Calatrava cross is swathed in Geneva stripes, and the movement’s components are decorated in the finest tradition, all on display behind a sapphire crystal case back.
The Calatrava cross also appears on the crown, but operating the crown will not stop the second hand for precise time setting, adding a dimension of poetry to the experience of owning a Patek Philippe: time doesn’t stop. The crown is a push-pull affair, which means easy access for changing the date at the end of months with shorter days.
The Twenty~4 is a top example of a luxury emphasis in a dressy sporty watch that is most things to most people. It shies just short of being outright sporty but has a robust construction and movement that can handle it all. And despite all the diamonds, it does not overshoot good taste.
Whether you’re dressed in haute couture in a city restaurant or lounging by the resort pool, it demonstrates incredible panache through its comfortable bracelet, outstanding ergonomics and weight balance, overall presence, and the sensuality of its design. It is stylish and graceful and will move with you like it is an extension of yourself. Water resistant to 30 m, it will also not complain if you decide to kick off the sarong and have a quick dip.
Spoiled for choice
Both watches can command any room they occupy, just like their wearer.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak expresses vitality through design while the Patek Philippe gives dignified elegance verisimilitude. If they were alive, the Audemars Piguet might have a stare just short of searing intensity while the Patek Philippe would look at you with endearing, ceaseless affection.
When it comes to choosing which of them you want to live with, I’d suggest you forget everything that you’ve just read and choose the one with the most diamonds. After all, they are a girl’s best friend.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/en/watch-collection/royal-oak/15451ST.ZZ.1256ST.01 and www.patek.com/en/collection/twenty4/7300-1200A-001.
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Twenty~4 Automatic Ref. 7300/1200A-001
Case: 36 mm x 10.05 mm, stainless steel, bezel set with 160 diamonds (~0.77 ct), water resistance 30 m
Movement: automatic Caliber 324 S C, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, power reserve 35-45 hours, 39 jewels, variable inertia Gyromax balance, Silinvar Spiromax balance spring, Patek Philippe Seal
Functions: hours, minutes, sweep seconds; date
Price: $26,083/€23,470/CHF 23,000
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref. 15451ST.ZZ.1256ST.01
Case: 37 mm x 9.8 mm, stainless steel, bezel set with 40 diamonds (~0.88 ct), water resistance 50 m
Movement: automatic Caliber 3120, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, power reserve 60 hours, 40 jewels, variable inertia balance, hacking seconds
Functions: hours, minutes, sweep seconds; date
Price: $26,400/€26,600/CHF 26,500