‘Mini Jumbo’ 4332SA Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
In the time the very first 36mm Royal Oak, the 4332, was released, bimetal was the most desirable. The Royal Oak was introduced to elevate steel beyond its initial tool watch remit. But almost as soon as the ink from Genta’s pen had dried, it was introduced in precious metal. This was the 80s. Stockbrokers were crawling out from their Countaches to find another line, the Berlin wall was about to fall, and Arnold was pumping iron. The 80s were proud to be the 80s, and subtlety was not in the vernacular. While we love a bit of IYKYK wrist stealth here at Hairspring, there’s also something to be said for simply leaning into a garish gilty pleasure when the occasion calls for it.
And it’s in one of the great unsung Royal Oak references. The 4332 is called the ‘Mini Jumbo’, a nonsensical name if ever there were one, for being the largest midsized RO case at 36.5mm. It was also the first midsized Royal Oak with a screwdown crown, more robust and physically larger. Before the longest running and most well-known midsized ref. 14790 took over, two major mechanical transitional references came and went in the 14486 and this earlier 4332/14332, and it was a bit larger but thinner (hence the name). Relative to most all iterations, it’s quite scarce. There are 201 examples in steel, 298 yellow gold, 20 white, and 376 in this bimetal. That’s just 895 in the world. Vintage touches like petite tapisserie and a flat AP signature mean a lot to a select few. These dials stand in stark contrast to modern stamped AP dials, a bastion of handcraft and artfully layered guilloché.
The obvious social faux passe that everyone will want to avoid is looking a bit tacky. But that’s what happens with two-tone on that Datejust you had to buy to get a Daytona. Two-tone on a 222, Santos, non-diamond 116503, or indeed Royal Oak, appears obviously deliberate and can’t be conflated with AD consolation, and as such has a confidence of its own. Some will call it Wolf of Wall Street, but it’s a self-aware Wolf of Wall Street look. And, hell, it’s a great film and great bit of Americana. That’s what this Royal Oak wants to do: pump iron with Arnold, cruise in a Countach, and go drinking in East Germany. If that doesn’t sound like a good time, we’re very different people. Keeping it 80s, President Reagan put it best, ‘The future belongs to the brave.’
This example is a clear standout too. It’s an anthracite dial with clear lovely indices. The case is fantastic, example the high edge sharpness you want to see on Royal Oak bevels. This reference often confuses because it was introduced with unsigned crowns but later transitioned over to an AP signed end. The transition is thought to have occured around the five digit reference shift, 1985 of so. In any case, it’s a killer example of a scarce and very enthusiast RO reference. Give bimetal a shot, I’ve never known of a single person who did and was sorry about it.