After 16 years, the Royal Oak Chronograph remains a classic in the Royal Oak line-up and a watch that demands admiration. Therefore, we have decided to work on a special review of this amazing reference.
The first Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 25860 was launched in 1998 equipped with calibre 2385, an automatic chronograph movement based off of the legendary Frederic Piguet calibre 1185 also used on the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph —as caliber 1137— and the Breguet Marine Chronograph —as calibre 576— amongst other timepieces. This movement still remains the thinnest automatic chronograph calibre ever made, measuring only 5.5mm in thickness. The movement is composed of 304 parts, beats at 21,600 vph, is fitted with 37 jewels and provides a power reserve of 40 hours when fully wound. The same calibre is fitted in the Royal Oak City of Sails for Alinghi, the Leo Messi limited edition and is also used as a module on the Royal Oak Grande Complication.
The ref. 25860 in 39mm is the predecessor to ref. 26300 —we are reviewing here— and also the new 41mm Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26320. The Royal Oak Chronograph is a model with more than ten different reference numbers and all of them are fitted with the same calibre 2385. The different Royal Oak Chronograph references to date are: 25860, 25960, 25966, 25978, 26022, 26068, 26300, 26320, 26557 and the limited editions Royal Oak City of Sails for Alinghi ref. 25979 and Leo Messi ref. 26325.
The Royal Oak Chrono is such an important watch, that in 2002 while Audemars Piguet was commemorating the 30th anniversary of the
Royal Oak, they named this watch one of the three essential Royal Oak watches along with the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
Skeleton and the Royal Oak Grande Complication. That same year, the Royal Oak Tourbillon Chronograph was released as ref. 25977.
The Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26300 like all other Royal Oak chronographs is fitted with a solid monocoque case with no display case back. This watch is fitted with screw-lock pushers and screw-down crown making it waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. The chrono pushers are easy to unscrew and do not require strong pressure to activate the chronograph.
The dial comes in a variety of colors and configurations; however, one of our favorite ones is this 'panda' dial. This dial is off white with black registers and red accents featuring a 12-hour chrono register at 9, a 30-minute register at 3, a running seconds register at 6 and a date aperture between 4 and 5 o'clock. The date aperture is a great feature that other iconic chronographs like the Rolex Daytona don't have. While the dial features the 'grande tapisserie' pattern, this 'tapisserie' is slightly different to the 'grande tapisserie' on the Royal Oak ref. 15300 or ref. 15400 as the spacing between the pyramidal squares seems to be a little bit wider than on other Royal Oaks. The red seconds hand along with the red tips of the small hands and the red minute track provide the perfect contrast for the ultimate sporty yet elegant look.
The bracelet comes fitted with the AP folding clasp and this particular watch under review was fitted with a one and a half link that is sold upon request through the Audemars Piguet boutiques, Audemars Piguet service centers or via authorized dealers carrying the brand. We personally don't like the look of this one and a half link as it breaks with the perfectly balanced design of the bracelet but for some watchlifestylers, comfort is more important than looks.
Since we are often asked to show pictures of how one model compares to another, we have decided to include some comparison shots of the Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26300 next to the Royal Oak ref. 15300. It would've not been fair to compare such a thick watch against a ref. 5402 or a 15202 as they are too thin.
As you can appreciate in the pictures, the case is considerably thicker on the chrono and the bezel is thicker but also narrower. Additionally, the dial on the chrono sits lower when compared to the ref. 15300.
Regardless, the Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26300 sits very comfortably on the wrist but definitely much higher when compared to the perfect fit of the ref. 15300.
As most of you know, the Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26300 is now discontinued and has been replaced by the 41mm ref. 26320. Regardless of the change in size, the Royal Oak Chronograph will always remain true to the Royal Oak essence and one of our five Royal Oak essentials.
We've heard that there are still some 26300s left at authorized dealers so it's the perfect time to get one. Now if you show up and they are all gone, make sure to at least add a ref. 26320ST with blue dial —our favorite combo on the new 41mm chrono— to your colllection.
Sticker Price for the discontinued ref. 26300ST $22,800 USD. New 41mm ref. 26320ST $23,900 USD. For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.