Seldom does it happen. We saw it with the Hermès Le Temps Suspendu (and whatever the claims for “unisex,” this was definitely a woman’s watch) and again with the Patek Philippe Ladies First Chronograph but, on the whole, the occasion of a man coveting a woman’s watch is as rare as steak tartare. This year, however, we saw something unique, when the pester-power of the alphas actually forced the recreation of a woman’s watch in a version for men.
But to be fair, the gold-cased Audemars Piguet Royal Oak that has received the Carolina Bucci “hammered” treatment is a piece so exquisitely beautiful that no man could be blamed for giving in to his feminine side. With a faint reminiscence of the great Andrew Grima — particularly in his Hammered Gold LED watch for Pulsar in the mid-1970s — the case was delicately pitted to create a shimmering mirage giving the impression, from a distance, of hundreds of tiny diamonds.
The ultimate example of design perfection, the 40-odd years that have passed since the Royal Oak’s inception plus the introduction of radical new materials and technologies have done little to detract from it being one of the most instantly recognizable watches in the world. With a fully-integrated bracelet and case, the two elements separated by means of “sides” and “edges,” the watch reflects light in every direction giving it the fluid form usually associated with jewelry. And this made it the perfect canvas for Florentine designer Bucci, a fourth-generation jeweler famed for the simplicity and elegance of her work.
A signature of Bucci’s work is the “Florentine finish,” which has given the Royal Oak Frosted Gold its shimmering, stippled effect through blasting indentations into the gold with a diamond-tipped high-pressure drill. The difficulty in applying the finish was achieving a uniform effect that did not detract from the fluidity of the Royal Oak lines, and only after many months of trial and error between the two centers of craftsmanship was the desired balance between texture and sparkle achieved.
Already available in rose and white gold, we eagerly await the introduction of a yellow gold version. And for all those men who remember the old advertising slogan: “Ladies, you ride our Harleys, smoke our Havanas, drink our Glenmorangie. Hands off our IWC,” we say: “Touché!”