A 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, the reference 14790 is a scaled-down version of the original reference 5402, retaining many of the same features, such as the “Petite Tapisserie” dial, and overall proportions.
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. Produced until the turn of the millennium, it remained in production for longer than any other mid-size reference and was offered in a much wider range of configurations than ever before – from Ferrari red dials to tantalum and steel cases.
A FADED “YVES KLEIN" DIAL
Throughout the lifespan of the 14790, Audemars Piguet experimented with a range of adventurous design choices. This specific example was born with an unusual Yves Klein blue dial, with the nickname emerging from the resemblance to the deep blue hue first mixed by the French artist of the same name.
However, whilst the dial would have been a bright blue when it first left the manufacture, it has gradually faded over time, creating a subtle colour tone, which alternates between navy and a light electric blue. The elevated sections of the tapisserie are much lighter than the rest of the dial, being almost white in colour, which creates an intriguing effect when the light hits it at different angles.
The “Audemars Piguet” and “Automatic” signatures have also developed a subtle creamy patina, with hints of silver and gold. In many ways, the dial reminds us of pair of washed out denim jeans, which have lightened in colour over time, displaying a charming colour and texture that only comes with age.
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. The Extract from the Archives notes a “.05” dial code at the end of the reference number, which the manufacture uses to indicate any Yves Klein dials which come in for inspection. Intriguing and characterful, this example combines the excitement of the electric Yves Klein colour with the charm of patina.
THE ROYAL OAK CASE
At 36mm in diameter, and only 7.5mm thick, this Royal Oak case is a beautiful twist of perspectives and size. Thanks to the slim profile of the case and bracelet, the ref. 14790 hugs the wrist, in a way that is both supremely comfortable, yet distinctively elegant and characterful. Collectors have noticed that on account of the unique case shape of the Royal Oak, the 14790ST wears much larger on the wrist than its dimensions would suggest.
This 14790ST comes with its original stainless steel bracelet and “AP” signed clasp release. The hollow blade-style clasp, which is correct for a ref. 14790 from this period, features appropriate signatures throughout. The caseback indicates the watch’s unique serial number (D-61XXX) and case number (N. 1XXX).
The Royal Oak 14790ST 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.
This Royal Oak 14790ST Faded Yves Klein comes an Extract from the Archives, which describes the dial as as “lacquered sapphire” colour, which refers to the hue more commonly known as Yves Klein among collectors. The matching case, movement and serial number are also indicated.
To find out more about the reference 14790, you can read our Collector's Guide on this mid-size Royal Oak.