Last week, Audemars Piguet released an array of new watches, ranging from steel Code 11.59 to an astonishing grande complication watch – to be precise, the most complicated wristwatch ever created by the brand – as its first semester 2023 collection. In the middle of that, as a slightly more discreet release, was a model that clearly brings the cool factor to a high level. Royal Oak Jumbo? Check! White metal with blue dial? Check! White gold and low availability? Unfortunately, check! But more importantly, there’s the dial. Because the new Royal Oak Jumbo 16202BC brings back one of the rarest but also most desirable dial styles used by AP in the past, the so-called Tuscan dial. And here’s an early hands-on session with this Jumbo Grained Blue dial.
The return of the rare Tuscan dial
As with many of the nicknames given to rare and collectables (well, they became collectables recently…) Audemars Piguet watches, the so-called Tuscan dial has to do with the Italian market and the members of the collector’s community – dealers and watch enthusiasts. Not only the name refers to Italy, but it has been given by Italians. No surprises, since this has long been one of the key markets for the brand, in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The reason behind this nickname, however, remains sort of a mystery, as the connection between Tuscany and the grained blue dial isn’t obvious.
What’s a Tuscan dial? Well, it’s a rare texture, once used by Audemars Piguet on a variety of models. While most watch enthusiasts are familiar with the tapisserie pattern – and its multiple variations (petite, grande, mega or evolutive) – there are more patterns and textures that have been used on the Royal Oak and other collections. The Tuscan dial was primarily released in the 1990s and has remained a rare sight, used on Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars, on one particular Royal Oak Jumbo model and on a variety of classic Perpetual Calendars.
The concept was that of a hand-hammered dial, with a grained or frosted surface – a surface treatment that will come back in the late 2010s with independent watchmakers. Except that AP’s interpretation of the hammered surface was rougher and less regular. It’s a rare dial, and it is even rarer in the context of a Royal Oak Jumbo watch. Indeed, it only appeared once (at least to our knowledge) on the classic 39mm Royal Oak Extra-Thin, within the 20th anniversary “Jubilee” collection, on the highly coveted and low-produced platinum examples.
For the 20th anniversary of the model born in 1972 and designed by Genta, Audemars Piguet re-issued the Jumbo and released a collection of models in various metals, from the classic 14802ST in steel with blue dial (the first re-edition of the historic Jumbo style), to its rare sister with salmon dial (both for a total of 700 watches), and then 280 examples in yellow gold and 20 in platinum, some of them with a so-called blue Tuscan dial. An example has recently been covered on MONOCHROME, as part of the 50th-anniversary auction held by Phillips. And it sold for 800k Swiss francs…
What’s more important, in addition to the overall rarity of this dial on the RO Jumbo, is the fact that it’s the only watch to feature this dial without additional complications. The simple time-and-date display allows looking at all the details that this offers, with its rich, complex and man-made texture, where imperfections create charm. Combined with a dark blue colour, it results in a watch that is typically Royal Oak, yet with a twist given the lack of a tapisserie pattern.
The Royal Oak Jumbo 16202BC Tuscan Dial
Before we move to the specificity of this new version, the 16202BC is first and foremost a modern Royal Oak Jumbo… with everything it implies. It is thus the latest generation of a watch that started its life in 1972 as the reference 5402, slightly updated with a logo at 12 o’clock as part of the mid-life facelift, before being discontinued in the late 1980s. The model will come back with the Jubilee collection in 1992, with the reference 14802, followed by the 15202 in 2000 and its facelift in 2012 for the 40th anniversary, bringing back the logo at 6 o’clock.
Last year, Audemars Piguet released the important update many were waiting for, as a treat for the 50th anniversary of the watch. Visually, almost nothing changed. Small details are to be discovered, such as a dial colour that is the exact replica of the original model, or tiny updates on the case and bracelet. Not sufficient enough to differentiate a 15202 from a 16202 from the other side of the room. What mattered in this 2022 update was the movement. After 50 years of JLC-based, even-though internally produced movement, AP moved to in-house developed and manufactured, yet respecting the codes of Extra-Thin and bringing some notable updates.
Since the introduction of the reference 16202, we’ve seen already 4 editions; ST with steel case and tapisserie blue dial, BA with yellow gold case and gradient tapisserie golden dial, OR with rose gold case and tapisserie grey dial and PT with platinum case and gradient sunray-brushed green dial. There’s now a fifth version, representing the metal that wasn’t yet in use, white gold, known as reference 16202BC. And it isn’t the direct successor of the 15202BC, a white gold watch with tapisserie salmon dial. Sorry for the disappointment, the white metal/salmon dial Jumbo version isn’t yet in the pipeline.
Being a reference 16202, this new Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin Tuscan dial is sharing all elements with its sisters. 39mm diameter, classic case, same finishing overall as a steel model, same bezel with 8 screws, 8.1mm height and 50m water-resistance. The bracelet, even though made of white gold, is also identical and has the same clasp – which means no micro-adjustment and no quick-release system. Inside, it’s the same modern engine, the in-house calibre 7121, with its extended power reserve of 55h, its quick-set date, its modern 4Hz frequency and an overall more robust construction despite the obvious thinness. One difference (but it concerns all references 16202 produced since January 2023), the rotor is now gold-coloured and features AP’s logo instead of the 50th-anniversary emblem.
What changes then? First, the material used for the case and bracelet, which now is 18k white gold. Two consequences. The colour is a bit warmer than stainless steel and platinum, with a different shine to the brushed and polished surfaces – we’re talking minimal differences, of course. Second, the weight of the watch is significantly higher than the stainless steel version, and not far from the platinum model. Other than that, no differences.
So yes, this new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo 16202BC is all about its Tuscan dial. Or a dial that comes close to the old Tuscan dials, without being an exact replica. The initial article we published using the official images already gave us a sneak peek at the texture, and the fact that it didn’t seem to be as irregular and man-made as the original 1990s versions. Up close with the actual watch, this is even more obvious. The old, rough and imperfect (understand charming) texture of the old Tuscan watches has been replaced by a more modern look.
Audemars Piguet itself is clear about this evolution, stating that the texture of the dial has been reworked to bring “a finer and brighter grain that plays with the light differently.” The result doesn’t seem to be hand-hammered like in the past, but the result of a more modern process. There’s no denying the quality and the level of detail of this new Tuscan dial, however, the charm of the manual work is somehow gone, replaced by something finer, slightly colder and less rich in its render. It has a less pronounced texture than in the past, yet it retains the shine and reflectivity of the classic Tuscan dial, having some iridescence in the way it reflects the light.
The colour found on this new 16202BC also shows evolution. Just like the steel model, the blue colour found here (which isn’t Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50) is obtained thanks to a PVD process, guaranteeing stability over time and consistency over the entire production. The blue tone is then covered with a translucent coating that accentuates the relief and brilliance of the dial – as you can see, this coating is thin and doesn’t make the dial flat. The rest of the dial is traditional, with applied markers and hands made of polished white gold and then filled with luminous material, a logo printed in white at 12 o’clock and the applied AP emblem at 6 o’clock. The 2-hand display with date is retained too, with a tone-on-tone date disc.
What to think about this new take on the Tuscan dial? Well, you’ve probably understood from the description above that the result was more modern, less irregular and thus slightly less charming than the dial found on a 14802PT. It somehow makes sense in modern production, knowing that the 16202BC isn’t released as a limited edition. Consistency in the texture and colour is somehow expected.
Nevertheless, the result is appealing and sits right in between the classic tapisserie pattern and the (too) flat dial of the green platinum model. It retains the classic combination of white metal over a blue face – something that is a signature element of the RO Jumbo – with some texture on the dial, yet without being yet another petite tapisserie. And it makes this Tuscan version of the Jumbo exclusive, quite discreet, different and desirable. It is a special watch, because it’s the only white gold version, and because its texture is nothing like the rest of the current production. The most sophisticated of all 16202 Jumbos, if you ask me.
Availability & Price
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin 39mm 16202BC Tuscan dial is released as a boutique exclusive model, but not as a limited edition. As always, don’t expect the brand to make this watch in large quantities, so availability will be difficult. It is priced at EUR 78,000 (including taxes) or CHF 65,000 (before taxes). For more details, please visit audemarspiguet.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.