The watch-collecting world was recently rocked by news of the discontinuation of a well-loved steel sports watch: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15202ST. For many, the Ref. 15202ST (AKA "Jumbo") was a "grail" watch whose limited production was only compounded by year-long waitlists. Audemars Piguet announced that the Royal Oak 15202ST would effectively be discontinued in 2022 and be replaced by another reference. Since its debut in 2012, the Ref. 15202ST has been a staple in the manufacture's core collection and is perhaps the most coherent interpretation of the original Ref. 5402 design that Gérald Genta presented in 1972.
Audemars Piguet's announcement comes hot on the heels of the demise of another classic luxury sports watch, namely the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-010. While the end isn't exactly nigh (the Ref. 5711/1A-010 will see one final production run), collectors have scrambled to get their hands on these references, with prices skyrocketing on the "grey" and secondhand markets. These timepieces are seen as an investment piece in more than just the fiscal sense: waiting periods are in yearly denominations, and there is no queue order or "first-come-first-serve" policy. This would explain why the initial comments made by the public carried such strong emotional undertones. "Tough being an enthusiast these days," read one comment, and "this and the 5711 news makes me want to stop following the watch world almost altogether," read another.
While many choose to bemoan the latest turn of events, it does bring to mind the curious trend of disappearing crowd favourites. From an insider perspective, culling references that become too popular constitutes a necessary evil. Thierry Sterne, president of Patek Philippe, described the deluge of Nautiluses witnessed during Baselworld 2019 as "too dangerous". "We cannot put a single watch on top of our pyramid," he added. It makes sense when you take a second to think about it. The soaring demand for the Nautilus 5711/1A-010, if left unchecked, would essentially overshadow Patek Philippe's other collections and take attention away from future releases. Any perceived stagnation within the company's portfolio could easily lead to its downfall. John Reardon, former head of watches at Christie's, applauded the move due to there being "too many speculators buying [the Ref. 5711/1A-010]".
It certainly helps to view Audemars Piguet's latest announcement as more of a cooling measure. Sure – we'll all definitely miss the Royal Oak 15202ST and the history it brings with it. But at the same time, it's exciting to see how the manufacture intends to top this particular reference. There are numerous possibilities – new formats, new materials, new movements. CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias is certainly tight-lipped about what's waiting around the corner. "We will not make the 15202ST [next year], but that will be replaced by something else, and for specific reasons that we will not talk about today," he said cryptically in a recent video conversation hosted by the AP Social Club.
Subscribe to our newsletter