Royal Oak | 14790TT
Tantalum & Steel
This Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 14790TT features an unusual tantalum and steel two-tone case, paired with a smooth grey dial. Notoriously difficult to work and rarely ever used in watchmaking, tantalum was sparingly used by Audemars Piguet in a small handful of their watches. In seemingly unpolished condition, this 14790TT speaks to the spirit of experimentation of the manufacture during the late 20th century.
The mid-size Royal Oak
Shortly after the introduction of the original “Jumbo” 5402, Audemars Piguet experimented with a few mid-size versions of the design. These were meant to bring the Royal Oak to a wider audience, who at the time favoured more modestly sized wristwatches. In 1992, Audemars Piguet released the reference 14790, with a reduced diameter of 36mm, down from the “Jumbo” 39mm size.
In many ways, it was intended to be a scaled-down version of the original reference 5402, retaining many of the same features. Though this was not the first or only mid-size execution of the design, it was perhaps the purest and the most well-executed version of the concept. It remained in production until the turn of the millennium, longer than any other mid-size Royal Oak reference made by the brand.
Tantalum & Steel
Since its introduction, Audemars Piguet has used the reference 14790 as a canvas to experiment with different metal combinations and dial designs. From the striking Yves Klein and Ferrari red dials to the varied two-tone cases, the collection offers a rich variety of configurations, where the manufacture has pushed the boundaries of conventional design.
This ref. 14790TT speaks to that approach, with its unusual tantalum and steel case, as well as its lightly textured, smooth dial. An unusual metal, rarely ever seen in watchmaking, dark grey tantalum is highly resistant to both corrosion and wear. An Audemars Piguet advertisement from 1989 describes two-tone tantalum watches in the following words,
“Shimmering and resplendent in grey-blue, with a contrast that is simply unmatched and beautiful.”
An expensive material, traditionally used in the medical and aerospace fields, the metal is also notoriously hard to work. According to Raphaël Balestra, Audemars Piguet's Museum Archivist, the machines that were used to shape tantalum needed replacing much more often, making the watches which integrated this unusual material all the more expensive to produce. Combining this with stainless steel, in a rather subtle two-tone case, speaks to Audemars Piguet’s innovative approach at the time.
At 36mm in diameter, and only 7.5mm thick, this Royal Oak case is a beautiful twist of perspectives and size. The case is an impressive example of workmanship, with a stainless steel bezel, crown and centre links. The majority of the watch - notably the mid-case and larger links - are make out of dark grey tantalum. The subtly contrasting metals elegantly complement each other, creating a monochromatic appearance which matches the dial. This specific watch carries a number below 30 on the caseback, suggesting just how few pieces were produced in this unusual configuration.
The Grey Dial
Whilst almost all Royal Oaks feature the "Tapisserie" pattern, this 14790TT features an unusual smooth grey dial. This slick dial is lightly textured, with an applied "AP" at 12 o'clock and a black print surrounding the date and the minute track. Evidence suggests the dial was manufactured by Stern Créations, the storied manufacturer which also produced dials for the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Rolex “Stella” models, among others.
This unusual dial perfectly complements the tantalum and steel case, creating a watch which integrates various different shades and grey, with complementary textures. Whilst most of the 14790 watches integrating tantalum feature a dark grey dial, this example further sets itself apart by having a light grey one.
The Royal Oak 14790BA is powered by the ultra-thin AP caliber 2225, derived from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s JLC 889 calibre movement. Formed of 280 components, the 40-jewel movement is rhodium-plated, with fausses côtes embellishment.
To find out more about the reference 14790, you can read our Collector's Guide on this mid-size Royal Oak.
|Model:||Royal Oak Ref. 14790TT|
|Movement:||mechanical automatic AP Caliber 2225|
|Functions:||date, hours, minutes|
|Features:||light grey dial
|Case:||36 mm tantalum & stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||tantalum & stainless steel AP-stamped bracelet and clasp|
|Box & papers:||-
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