Side by Side: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak "City of Sails" Alinghi Limited Edition and the Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26300ST

Two classic references within an iconic collection. Both palatable for the wrist at 39mm, these watches pack a heavy punch for their slimmed-down frames - but which model will reign supreme as we delve into their nuances and explore what makes them tick?
By Aaron Voyles

 

An icon if ever there was one, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has ascended to ephemeral immorality as one of the most important designs within watchmaking. While other brands that carry hero products might be hesitant in exploring the design potential of their most beloved offerings, AP are only happy to see what their design team can create. 

Standing as the perfect embodiment of that tenacious desire to outdo themselves, the Royal Oak Chronograph exists today as a wonderfully versatile timepiece that slips into new skin like a chameleon. Today, I want to explore the AP Royal Oak Chronograph City of Sails Alinghi Limited Edition and the ref. 26300ST as two examples of that inherent versatility. 

 

Wristcheck
Left to right: City of Sails and the ref. 26300ST


Design Inspiration Impact

Released in 1998, the Royal Oak Chronograph was not the first introduction of the iconic chronograph complication to the Royal Oak family. That was five years prior when it had made its way in via the new (at the time) Royal Oak Offshore. A more significant and more vivacious design, the Offshore expanded the Royal Oak's design language into new territory altogether. What the new Royal Oak Chronograph did differently to the Offshore was that it was unwavering in its design rigidity, thus introducing the chronograph to the collection while retaining the Royal Oak's DNA, which the Offshore had purposefully altered in lieu of a fun and fresh aesthetic. 

 

Wristcheck
The City of Sails
Wristcheck
The ref. 26300ST

 

Key to the difference between the two timepieces we are speaking about here is their rigidity to that very design ethos as Royal Oak Chronograph models. Starting with the general production piece, the ref. 26300ST builds upon where its predecessor (the ref. 25860) had left off, and continues with small incremental changes that have enabled the Royal Oak's design to remain so stalwart and consistent.

 

Wristcheck
The City of Sails
Wristcheck
The ref. 26300ST

 

On the other hand, the City of Sails, released in 2003, forgoes that same design criterion and pushes the boat out (pun intended) thanks to its position as a limited release of 1250 examples in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak, and exists also as a dedication to the Geneva-based Alinghi sailing team, winner of the 2003 America's Cup. The very idea of a celebration usually draws mental imagery of striking décor, fun exuberance and a not-too-serious outlook on our goings-on. The City of Sails reflects that and is indeed a playful watch that introduces some aspects of the Royal Oak Offshore into the Royal Oak Chronograph collection, thus straddling the fence between the two models and highlighting the impact of design inspiration on the aesthetic of the two.


The Window to the Soul

Like any watch, the first thing we notice on both of our watches are their dials. The window to any timepiece's soul — the dial — will tell us what a watch is supposed to achieve through its design. The City of Sails does indeed push that nonchalant fun exuberance that it ought to — given its role as a celebratory release.

 

Wristcheck

 

While the 26300ST’s dial has been given AP’s prototypical Tapisserie treatment, the City of Sail’s slate grey Tapisserie dial is interrupted by a black outer ring housing luminescent Arabic numerals.

 

Wristcheck

 

Its two-tone aesthetic is accentuated with pops of colour in the form of a red and black Alinghi logo inside the 12-hour counter, red minute track numerals and a red-tipped chronograph hand. Although somewhat more subdued in colour, one could argue, the City of Sails remains a lively design that flies in the face of the Royal Oak's typically restrained dial layout at the time. 

 

Wristcheck

Wristcheck

Wristcheck

 

Juxtaposing that dial, we have the ref. 26300ST's electric blue dial with hints of colour in the form of orange hands and chapter ring inscriptions. Just like that, the ref. 26300ST's aesthetic is fun yet slightly toned down and in keeping with the Royal Oak Chronograph's DNA as an ever-sophisticated variant of the Royal Oak. 

 

Wristcheck


Subtlety in Materials

There lies an unspoken material hierarchy within watchmaking that evolves through time as various materials pop in and out of fashion or become more accessible. In this case, both the City of Sails and Royal Oak Chronograph ref. 26300ST share the same construction material: stainless steel. 

 

Wristcheck
The ref. 26300ST
Wristcheck
The ref. 26300ST

 

Luxury steel sports watches are arguably the most popular segment in the watch market today. We can thank Audemars Piguet for that, as the brand forever changed the landscape of the industry by releasing the Royal Oak in 1972, a slim watch in stainless steel priced much higher than watches in precious metal -- and today, everyone wants a piece of that segment.

 

Wristcheck
The City of Sails
Wristcheck
The City of Sails
Wristcheck
The City of Sails

 

In itself, a luxury steel sports watch is usually quite simple in design, but packs a clear visual impact. Although not typically worn during sporting activities, they need to exhibit robustness and sportiness, and should also convey a sense of refined elegance. The reason why the Royal Oak has become so popular to this day is that the Maison has managed to finish steel to such a high standard that the metal shines as if it was precious metal.

All these attributes have made steel sports watches the perfect wrist companion for anyone looking to wear a watch casually with shorts and t-shirt, or formally with a suit, while retaining the maximum level of style. Naturally, this steel configuration works for both Chronographs here, with both maintaining great wearability.

 

Wristcheck
The ref. 26300ST

 

With their identical movements, the AP cal. 2385, an automatic chronograph movement based on the legendary Frederic Piguet cal. 1185, the City of Sails and ref. 26300ST offer fittingly identical performance and so find themselves separated by their visuals. 

 

Wristcheck
The City of Sails' engraved caseback

 

While both casebacks are closed, the City of Sails’ features an engraved scene depicting two racing sailing boats, with a caseback engraved with “Limited Edition · Royal Oak 30th Anniversary · City of Sails”, that truly hammers home its historical significance. 


Quick Take

While the City of Sails is indeed an objectively rarer watch given its 1250-piece limited run, the ref. 26300ST maintains an understated aesthetic that still manages to squeeze some fun into its design that perhaps opens it up as a more wearable watch, granted that is more so for you to decide as the wearer, and not me or anyone else. Either way, these two timepieces are both stunning and full of character; there is certainly no denying that.

Wristcheck


Specifications:

Royal Oak Chronograph

Reference number: 26300ST.OO.1110ST.07
Case size: 39mm
Thickness: 14.2mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire Crystal
Water-resistance: 50m
Movement: AP cal. 2385
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 bph
Power reserve: 40 hours
Strap: Stainless steel

This watch is available on Wristcheck.


Royal Oak City Of Sails Alinghi Limited Edition

Reference number: 25979ST.O.0002CA.01
Case size: 39mm
Thickness: 11.15mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire crystal
Water-resistance: 10 ATM
Movement: AP cal. 2385
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 bph
Power reserve: 40 hours
Strap: Black rubber
Availability: Limited edition of 1250 pieces

This watch is available on Wristcheck. Email for enquiries.

RELATED WATCHES
0 COMMENTS
Log in or sign up to leave a comment
WHAT TO READ NEXT