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 bright blue "Yves Klein" dials to tantalum and steel cases.
An all-gold design
An all-gold Royal Oak is a bit of a paradox. The Royal Oak was originally conceived as a luxury steel watch, yet its design and proportions render wonderfully when executed in yellow gold. This 14790BA adopts the same key traits as one of the more unusual versions of the 5402BA, with its yellow gold case, golden dial and golden date disc. Usually more susceptible to wear than its stainless steel equivalent, this 14790BA is extremely well-preserved, retaining its original lines, crisp hallmarks and a thick case.
At 36mm in diameter, and only 7.5mm thick, this Royal Oak case is a beautiful twist of perspectives and size. It comes with its original bracelet and deployant clasp, featuring the hallmark of famed bracelet maker Gay Frères, who produced the first Oyster bracelets for Rolex, as well as integrated bracelets for the original Nautilus and Royal Oak. The caseback indicates the watch’s unique serial number (E-18XXX) and case number (N.1XXX).
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 14790BA wears much larger on the wrist than its dimensions would suggest.
This ref. 14790 retains the more understated “Petite Tapisserie” pattern on the dial, forming the square and lozenge motif, as seen in earlier executions of the Royal Oak. Newer versions of the Royal Oak have since adopted AP’s bolder “Tapisserie Evolutive” dial pattern, less faithful to the original design. 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.
Though the grey dial has traditionally been the most popular variant, the vintage aesthetic and monochromatic appearance of a 14790BA with a golden dial means it has recently started appealing to a growing number of collectors. A detail often bemoaned by many for seeming like an afterthought, it also features a gold-coloured date disc, wonderfully complementing the shade of the case and dial (yet again reminiscent of the original 5402BA). With the yellow gold variant of the 5402 having been produced in far fewer numbers than its steel equivalent, there is reason to believe that this was carried across to the 14790, with few yellow gold examples having come to market to date.
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.
This Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 14790BA is accompanied by its wooden box, Certificate of Authenticity (from November 2021, confirming the case number, movement number, date of sale and photographs of the watch) and service paperwork (from November 2021, when a complete maintenance service was carried out).
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Royal Oak 14790BA will be subject to 20% VAT.
To find out more about the reference 14790, you can read our Collector's Guide on this mid-size Royal Oak.