The beginning of a journey takes but one step. In an age of square and round watches, the industry gripped in the throes of the quartz crisis was trying to outcompete itself on a battlefield of watch straps and materials. Standing above the fray and towards even more risk was a company near the brink, that company was Audemars Piguet (AP) and they were bent on stepping in a new direction.

This extra-flat self-winding tourbillon from AP is STILL the thinnest tourbillon today. It was made in 1986, proof of Audemars Piguet's watchmaking primacy.

This extra-flat self-winding tourbillon from AP is STILL the thinnest tourbillon today. It was made in 1986, proof of Audemars Piguet’s watchmaking primacy. (As seen at exhibition)

Having covered the unique design of the Royal Oak previously, I was filled with quiet anticipation at looking from the perspective of the Piguet family; Introduced as an avant garde case design, the Royal Oak polarised watch lovers around the world into camp “gotta have” and “oh I don’t know”. According to CEO ad interim Francois-Henry Bennahmias, “When we first introduced the Royal Oak in 1972, visitors from other brands came over to our booth to offer congratulations and words of support but while walking away, they were whispering about the end of Audemars Piguet.”

The exhibition takes visitors through the paces of Audemar Piguet's heritage and history

The exhibition takes visitors through the paces of Audemar Piguet’s heritage and history

As the chartered bus whisked us away from Art Plural Gallery towards the Old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, I had enough time to ponder and digest the impact and risk taking daring-do of a family which by and large spat in the face of the quartz crisis and declared- the future is still mechanical when they first released the series A Royal Oak.

And they were right.

Finished base automatic calibre with solid gold oscillating weight.

Finished base automatic calibre with solid gold oscillating weight.

To say the exhibition was educational would do the brand great disservice. The truth is, the exhibition lit something in me previously dormant- I was never a huge fan boy of Audemars Piguet, in fact my only exposure to the marquee at any depth was limited to the handful of Schwarzenegger movies. Did the octagonal case shape strike my fancy? Indeed it did, that’s what drew me to a Baume & Mercier Riveria (I own one) in the first place, but did I understand the Royal Oak’s position in history at the time? I did not.

This machine used to make the "tapisserie" dial is still used today.

This machine used to make the “tapisserie” dial is still used today.

Here I was, at the art deco inspired former KTM railway station pondering over brie, beetroot salmon and champagne- with knowledge gleaned from master watchmakers and senior executives; my mind was bursting with new factoids- the dial design? That’s called “tapisserie” pattern. Did you know it’s not stamped? No way! Did you know each bracelet link is finished by hand? Get out of here! Did you know it was AP that started the big watch trend in 1993 before EVERYONE else (Hublot included)? F#@k off.

Should you attend the exhibition? You bloody well should, even if not for love of watches, I think the Royal Oak 40 Years display can teach you a thing or two about the importance of – risk taking, innovation and trust (of your gut and in the designer you hired).

Consider me their newest fan.

Limited spaces: Pre-book your slot- Registration can be done at here.
Time: 10 – 14 October 2012
Venue: 30 Keppel Road, Former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station