Audemars Piguet’s Haute Couture-inspired Royal Oak Concept is ready for red carpet season

By Milena Lazazzera

“By juxtaposing the frosted gold finish with the metallic elements and the diamonds, I recreated in the watch the same elegance informing my clothes,” designer Tamara Ralph says of her red carpet-ready collaboration with Audemars Piguet

Attention red carpet stylists! Tamara Ralph’s latest Haute Couture creations can now be paired with a never-before-seen version of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak.

Initially conceived by the renowned Swiss watchmaker Gérald Genta – who was often hailed as the Picasso of watchmaking – the Royal Oak has garnered a cult following in recent years, with custom iterations developed by everyone from Marvel Entertainment to Travis Scott. Although watches co-designed with talent from other creative fields are now commonplace in the horological world, they were unheard of before Audemars Piguet launched its pioneering collaboration with Jay-Z in the early ’00s.

Couturier Tamara Ralph wearing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak she has designed.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon Tamara Ralph Limited Edition.

“I have been a fan of the brand for a long time and a loyal customer, and I often chose Audemars Piguet watches to complete the looks I showed on the catwalk,” says Ralph. Her haute couture gowns stand out for their sumptuous, textured fabrics and contouring silhouettes. Ralph returned to the Paris schedule in July 2023 with her namesake haute couture label after her label Ralph & Russo closed in 2021, and her hit red-carpet pieces have been worn by A-listers including Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez. Megan Markle also chose an embroidered Ralph & Russo gown for her official engagement portrait to Prince Harry.

Under Ralph’s creative vision, the Royal Oak’s signature octagonal bezel is dressed up in frosted gold – a technique first seen in collaborations with jeweller Carolina Bucci – lending it a matte, textured shimmer. Inside, concentric layers of bronze-hued discs create the sense of a vortex, while the watch’s beating heart is sprinkled with tiny diamond spheres. Function fuses with fashion in the watch’s 18-carat pink-gold hour and minute hands, luminescent in darkness, sweeping over a coffee-coloured backdrop.

Initially, Ralph was perplexed by the creative constraints of designing a timepiece, but once she started sketching, she couldn’t stop. “I loved mixing textures and colours, and by juxtaposing the frosted gold finish with the metallic elements and the diamonds, I recreated in the watch the same elegance informing my clothes.” Her approach encouraged Audemars Piguet to experiment with new finishing techniques and push its own boundaries, one of the reasons the house seeks out such creative collaborations.

“I recreated in the watch the same elegance informing my clothes,” Ralph tells Vogue.

The watch’s 18-carat pink-gold hour and minute hands are luminescent in darkness.

“For generations, we have developed strong links with personalities and brands from different worlds, such as entertainment, fashion, music, sport and art... Tamara brought her incredible talent and inspired us to explore new creative ideas designing a new Royal Oak concept that embodies a fresh vision of bold femininity,” says Olivia Crouan, chief brand officer at Audemars Piguet.

The collaboration is also the first project under the leadership of the newly appointed CEO Ilaria Resta, who is enthusiastic about Ralph’s feminine take on a classic timepiece. “Tamara’s endless quest for perfection echoes our watchmakers’ dedication to pushing their craft to the limit. We are delighted to start 2024 in collaboration with such an inspiring woman,” Resta says.

Originally published in British Vogue.