I swore that despite the Royal Oak’s 50th this week I would not join the party. This not because I have anything against it, quite the contrary. Rather, that I aim to feature whatever is most interesting in the market at any given time. Surely, the odds of an all-time RO surfacing during the week of celebrations were infinitesimal. I was, as I often am, wrong. I’m not a ‘everything tropical is great’ guy, but I do love a uniquely damaged dial as strongly as Theo & Harris. Alright, perhaps not quite that much. However, this 5402 is truly an example which I don’t think I’ve seen one like before and, for its charm, I’m going to tip my proverbial cap toward the Royal Oak’s 50th.
You all know the history, this is integrated sports steel genesis. It’s not difficult to find an early Royal Oak for sale. With time, one can find a 5402 in A-series or even full yellow gold. The challenge, which I encounter frequently, is finding examples with a charm all their own. This can resolve through history, special retailer signatures, slight variations inter-reference, or just outright weathering. This example is definitely the latter. It is worth noting that the C-Series was one which echoed the A-series placement of AP at 6, not a replacement dial.
Originality and honesty are prized qualities for any watch. If, for example, a watch has a beautifully tropicalized dial but no surface wear, questions should be asked. That can happen. But not often. Originality often means matching levels of wear in all components. The beauty of this watch is not just the damage of its dial, but everything. True (not intentionally aged) tropical 5402 dials often show a darker ring around the bezel, as when the sun hits the dial UV light often doesn’t reach the inner angles. The look you see here and its unevenness are a mark of correct processes. Somewhat hilariously to me, AP even released a faux-tropicalised dial in their modern range with the recent onslaught of models that had this effect. To my eye, it doesn’t even register against honest wear.
This example has seen a life, no doubt. The case bears moderate to heavy surface wear, its dial is caramel and tobacco, and the tritium plots are no doubt greying out. Despite these many flaws, I kind of dig it. This may be a character fault, but I quite like watches that have clearly lived a full life. This not the same as over-polishing or restoring a dial. This watch is, make no mistake, technically abused. But abused in the correct manner (for me). It comes as a naked watch from a well-regarded West coast retailer.
Find this 5402 here from The Keystone for 135000 USD.