Saturday, 24 February 2007

Buddhist Influences in Royal Oak Design?

Most folk know that the Royal Oak, the original Jumbo, was designed primarily by one Gerald Charles Genta, who did give birth to several iconic watch designs in the 70s and 80s. His watch designs since then, to me, don't seem to be able to match up to some of the designs in his earlier years.

The success of the Royal Oak is however not attributed to one man. It has to do with the watch house, the people running it who gave the green light. It has also to do with the marketing machinery behind it. Audemars Piguet than with Georges Golay at the helm, saw the submitted design and saw fit to give it a try albeit in a limited number, giving birth to the luxury steel sports watch in 1972. It was christened the Royal Oak. The marketing tag lines then was that it was steel on the outside and gold on the inside, and another was that it was a steel watch that costs more than a gold watch.

Well you may know all this already, but I want to focus your attention now to the possible design influence of the octagon and eventual "story" they chose to market this beautiful watch with. It is known to some that GG was on a trip in Asia at the time, in places where the locals were predominantly Buddhist, and was probably inspired by Buddhist symbols in coming up with the Royal Oak design.

This is a just a wild guess on my part, but could he have been inspired by this you think?
This is actually hanging at my house right now as part of the Chinese New Year decorations which are customary. It is the "Pa Kua" symbol that is commonly used in geomancy or "feng shui" and is a relatively common Buddhist symbol. The pic above has the Chinese character "fu" within, meaning prosperity. The circle in the centre at times has the yin yang symbol like the one below.
Hmm I wonder how well the Audemars Piguet "Pa Kua" would have sold if they hadn't linked it to the Royal Oak :) spoken tongue in cheek of course.

Well whatever his original influence was when submitting the design concept to AP, they took it and developed a story linking the design of it to some part of the HMS Royal Oak battleship, a part which till now I haven't seen any picture of and am beginning to wonder if it really exists, and the ship having got its regal "Royal Oak" name from the tree that King Charles hid in when eluding the Roundheads in 1651.

The wonders of marketing eh. Its really got an interesting and nice story behind all of it other than being a fantastic looking watch.

For those not in the know, the Royal Oak Offshore in its first form was designed by Emmanuel Gueit, launched in 1993. Select models and most of the current range have also been designed by Octavio Garcia and the current AP design team since. Just for your information, GG has commented that he isn't too crazy about some of the Offshore designs, but its not a consideration for me as I personally like a fair bunch of them.

There have been many different Royal Oaks and Offshores through the years, and to end off, I would like to say that AP is fully deserving of their success having taken an extremely well designed watch, Genta's original Jumbo, and adding to it a great name and story, and evolving it through time. It is truly a remarkable line of watches from an amazing watch house.

Before the 15 days of the Chinese New Year are over, I would also like to wish my Chinese readers out there, Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kwai Le, Wan Se Ru Yu. Blessings for the year ahead.

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