Talking about the Royal Oak reference 5402SA is an interesting experience, for what it represents, and what it doesn’t. Two-tone goes pretty strongly against the basic spirit of the Royal Oak, which was designed to be the most expensive steel watch ever made back in 1972. Yet, this did not stop Audemars Piguet from offering, a few years later, a full gold AP and a blend of both steel and gold: the two-tone phenomenon that we will cover here.Â
As with the stainless steel 5402, the very first examples of ref. 5402SA exhibit the applied AP logo at 6 o’clock, which would later move to the 12 o’clock position. It is widely known that the coveted steel A series (2,000 examples) display such characteristics, but a similar classification is impossible for the two-tone. The reason is simple, there were not enough two-tone Royal Oaks made to to justify an A, B, C and D series. The two-tone never got a series letter, just a serial number.
Those digits actually form an interesting mystery, as it is not fully known how many 5402SA were ever produced. An online articleÂ mentions 951 pieces, which would make sense in theory, being close to the 1,000-piece run of the stainless steel 5402. Yet, it is possible that this number could even be lower, as it seems very challenging to find a caseback belonging to the last hundred watches supposedly made.
They are rare to come across, and not only because they were not made in big quantities. Some were probably harvested to turn them into the more valuable steel version, although we know now that any steel 5402 without a letter prior to its serial number is not kosher.Â
This unique run also proves hard to date, with sources referencing anywhere from 1976 to 1978. I strongly believe in the latter, as all the 5402SA I’ve across were from that year (based on the movement serial number).
The 5402SA remains the only two-tone Royal Oak ever made, at least in its Jumbo form. Two-tone was indeed reintroduced into the Royal Oak family last year, but in the much thicker reference 15400. It is almost a value proposition, offering the exact same enchanting design and wrist comfort as the 5402, but for a fraction of the price, while at the same time actually being much rarer. And while it has a more niche appeal than the 5402, the 5402SA has a suave style all its own; just ask Sir Michael of Kent.
For a lot of people, two-tone is a deal-breaker. If you hate it, you hate it â but I think this particular model could be a “gateway” two-tone watch even for haters, thanks to the warm patina of the yellow gold and the lovely contrast it makes with the steel. If you need more convincing, look into the personal watch of Gerald Genta, the spiritual father of the Royal Oak … a stainless steel Royal Oak, yes, but fitted with a yellow gold bezel.Â