The entire modern genre of luxury lifestyle sport watches has origins in a single groundbreaking timepiece by design luminary Gerald Genta that was introduced in 1972. Yes, you can thank the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for pioneering the concept of a steel sport watch as a status symbol, and many decades later its prestige is stronger than ever. With prices starting well into five-figures, however, you wouldn't be alone in wondering how to get a similar wearing experience for less money than a college education.
Where does the Royal Oak's magic come from? It's somewhere between its octagonal bezel, exposed screws, textured "tapisserie" dial, and a thin case architecture that's integrated into its unique steel bracelet. It's hard to replicate the Royal Oak's mojo, but watches with comparable traits exist at every price level, from the G-Shock "Casioak" to the Genta-designed Patek Philippe Nautilus. In between, there's the Girard Perregaux Laureato, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, the Piaget Polo, the Chopard Alpine Eagle, the Bell & Ross BR05, the Pelton Perseus the entire Hublot brand... arguably, even the H. Moser & Cie Streamliner and the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus. And the list can go on.
Offering similar features to the Royal Oak without plagiarizing is a fine line to walk, but the below watches accomplish this at relatively affordable price points.
Maurice Lacroix Aikon
The Royal Oak's influence is evident in the Maurice Lacroix Aikon, but the Aikon is different enough to not feel too much like a direct homage. The integrated bracelet and waffle-textured "tapiserie" dial are clear references, but the bezel seems inspired by that of another Genta design: the Omega Constellation. Outfitted with a Swiss automatic movement, the Aikon can offer a similar wearing experience and visual qualities to the "APRO."
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 Automatic
Water Resistance: 200m
Tutima M2 Coastline
The Tutima M2 Coastline is a sporty yet functional watch with an integrated steel bracelet, so it can offer a comparable wearing experience as the Royal Oak in that sense — but it doesn't look like it fell from the same tree. Rather, it descends from the chronographs with which the brand outfitted German pilots beginning in the 1980s, which later evolved into the M2 chronograph line. A true sport watch with a 300m water resistance, a military vibe and a bold presence, it measures 43mm wide in titanium.
Movement: ETA 2836 Automatic
Water Resistance: 300m
Dietrich Time Companion
The integrated bracelet, exposed screws, the polygonal bezel...it's all there, but it seems that every aspect that's reminiscent of the Royal Oak has been creatively tweaked. The Time Companion is more evocative of another Gerald Genta design, in fact, but a rather obscure one: the Seiko Credor Locomotive. Independent brand Dietrich seems to be riffing liberally on the concept, and the result offers a strikingly unique wrist statement.
Movement: ETA 2824-2 Automatic
Water Resistance: 50m