The first high jewelry (or Haute Joaillerie, if you prefer the French) Royal Oak watch by Audemars Piguet debuted in 1982. Since then, Audemars Piguet has treated us to a plethora of gem-set Royal Oak watches, not only in a range of precious metals and sizes but also using an assortment of gemstones such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Now the watchmaker from Le Brassus is back to flex its mastery of high-jewelry techniques with the brand new Audemars Piguet Snow-Set Royal Oak 34mm and 37mm watches, which is the first time we’ve seen this relatively new and ultra-challenging gem-setting in the Royal Oak collection.
Snow setting is the method of taking different-sized diamonds to create an irregular, yet cohesive, pattern. Think different-shaped snowflakes all coming together to cover the ground in glorious bright white. It sounds simple in theory, but managing to blanket a surface with a mosaic of diamonds in varying sizes is no easy feat. However, when done right, it results in a dramatic display that, if I may argue, is more visually interesting than uniformly diamond-paved surfaces. To be clear, this isn’t the first time Audemars Piguet has used snow-set diamonds — the 2015 Diamond Punk and 2017 Diamond Outrage high jewelry pieces already showcased the arduous technique. However, these are the first Royal Oaks to get this dazzling treatment.
Audemars Piguet has made four of these new snow-set diamond watches: Royal Oak Selfwinding 34 and Royal Oak Selfwinding 37, both available in 18k white gold or 18k pink gold and both entirely set with brilliant-cut diamonds ranging from 0.5mm to 2.2mm in diameter. The 34mm versions have 2,255 brilliant-cut diamonds (approximately 6.6 carats) whereas the 37mm models include 2,123 brilliant-cut diamonds (approximately 7.2 carats), spread across the case, crown, bezel, dial, and bracelet. What’s more, the dials of all four pieces are also home to 13 baguette-cut diamond hour markers.
Unlike the regular-production Royal Oak Selfwinding 34mm and 37mm watches, these diamond snow-set high-jewelry pieces do not include date windows on the dials. That was a smart decision since a date window would have disturbed the parade of gleaming gems. As such, the 34mm model runs on Caliber 5809 with 50 hours of power reserve, while the 37mm variant runs on Caliber 5909 with 60 hours of power reserve — the same movement used in 37mm variants of the recently released Royal Oak 1017 ALYX 9SM watches that David Bredan wrote about. Naturally, the movements are visible through sapphire casebacks, showing off a 22k gold rotor and traditional decorative embellishments such as Côtes de Genève, circular satin, and snailing.
It’s also worth mentioning that these snow-set versions have less than half the water resistance of their non-full-gemset counterparts; 20m instead of 50m. Then again, who is going anywhere near a pool (or a sink full of dirty dishes) with these high-jewelry watches?
These are not timepieces you’ll see regularly (if ever) out in the wild. Royal Oaks are already highly exclusive watches that few can access, but cover them with factory diamonds, and it’s a whole other ballgame. Judging from the pictures, Audemars Piguet did a spectacular job with these high-jewelry Royal Oaks and will, no doubt, have plenty of folks requesting to buy one, despite their hefty price tags. The pink gold snow-set diamond Royal Oak Selfwinding 34mm in pink gold (ref. 77452OR.ZZ.1365OR.01) is priced at $198,500 USD. The brand has declined to make public the retail prices for the other three models available, but I can say with certainty that the 37mm versions will be even more expensive. For more information about the Royal Oak snow-set diamond watches, please visit the brand’s website.