25820SP Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar

Any Royal Oak without brushing on the top of its bezel is serious business. At a glance, it almost looks wrong to have a fully mirror-finished bezel. But it isn’t wrong, it’s platinum. And it’s very likely to be a vintage QP. The evolution of the Royal Oak QP is quite a complex and nuanced history, starting in 1984. The earliest QPs lacked leap year indication, but this ref. 25820SP was the first of that second generation which included a leap year. It’s even more instantly recognizable as a heavyweight thanks to that elusive mirror platinum bezel. It is a fitting halo for what was AP’s halo product.

Leap year indication marks the changeover for me, and many others, of true vintage Royal Oak QP to neo-vintage. Things changed majorly in this generation. Prior, all Royal Oak QP dials were smooth. Tapisserie was reintroduced in the halo product, here on the scale we’d call grande. The metal portfolio expanded, even including a highly-coveted tantalum and platinum case. The SP in ref. 25820 here is for steel & platinum. It’s before the grand comp Royal Oaks, but after the pre-leap year QPs everyone keeps going on about. Is the busier 12 subdial with leap year really so destructive to the dial harmony? That’s up for debate, I’d say not really.

For all the variation in the Royal Oak market over the last few years, these rarer and more niche references have remained remarkably stable. They’ve been 140-180K US watches with consistency, largely fueled by just how rare they are. The 25820 was made in 1235 examples across a huge 17 year production, with 378 in this SP case. That’s a lot, by anyone’s measuring stick. But it’s about the same as a standard Openwork today. It’s half the price of a blue ceramic. And without blinking I’d choose it over both. It’s far more classic, discreet, and yet opulent for the bezel. Pre-leap year may still be the collector’s darling, but these second generation QPs have a lot going for them today. Even in the very high end, neo-vintage is where the party is.

This example has a fantastically sharp case, with its Certificate of Origin, lightly worn. That’s all you need. It comes as part of Phillips’ upcoming Watches Online auction, hammering in the next few days.