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WatchBox Reviews

Audemars Piguet vs. Vacheron Constantin: Royal Oak vs Overseas: 26320ST v 5500V

Contact tmosso@thewatchbox.com for pricing and availability; Either I have it, or I can get it! It’s a battle of luxury watches in stainless steel! An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320st.oo.1220st.01 goes head-to-head against the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph 5500V/110BA-148 in a battle of the hottest steel luxury sports watches not named “Rolex Daytona,” “Richard Mille,” or “Patek Philippe Nautilus.” We pit the 2012-2016 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph (black dial) against the 2016-present Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph (blue dial) to see which watch earns the right to challenge Patek and Rolex in a “champions’ round” of a future “Versus” luxury watch comparison. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26320ST is the elder statesman of this pair, but not by much. Although the first Royal Oak 5402 launched in 1972, the Royal Oak Chronograph only bowed in 1997 – one year after the inaugural Vacheron Overseas. Today’s Royal Oak Chronograph is the 41mm model that bowed at SIHH 2012 and concluded with the advent of the Royal Oak Chrono 26331 in 2017. Our subject chronograph offers a 41mm case and reasonably slim profile, but the reality of any Royal Oak is a watch that wears far larger than its nominal size; think of this one as a 42-43mm round watch, and you get the idea. An Audemars Piguet caliber 2385 – basically a Frederic Piguet (no relation) 1185 – does yeoman duty. This 40-hour automatic features a column wheel function selector, vertical clutch engagement, a slim integrated-chronograph profile, and five-position adjustment. But having debuted in the mid-1980s, this chronograph movement is showing its age. A low 21,600 VpH beat rate, non-hacking seconds, and minimal power reserve betray the 1185’s origin in another era of engineering. However, the screw-down crown permits 50-meter water resistance, and AP advises that the Royal Oak Chronograph is suitable for surface swimming. Vacheron Constantin’s first two generations of Overseas Chronograph were conservative volume plays; the third-generation Overseas Chronograph is a moon-shot. Now 42.5mm, the stainless-steel Overseas Chronograph 5500V retails for over $30,000 U.S., and the price of admission is worthwhile. Each steel Overseas ships with a full bracelet, an accessory rubber strap, and an accessory leather strap; the latter two include a strap-specific clasp. Quick-release lugs ensure that the owner of an Overseas can change between his straps and bracelet without tools. Vacheron equips the new Overseas with its first-ever in-house chronograph caliber, first Geneva Hallmark caliber, and first display case back. Despite the latter, Vacheron continues to rate the Overseas at its traditional 150-meter water resistance and 25,000 A/M antimagnetic resistance. Caliber 5200 is Vacheron’s first in-house automatic chronograph movement of any description, and its 52-hour power reserve easily surpasses the Audemars Piguet; vertical clutch and column wheel architecture match blows with the AP. Geneva Hallmark finish is in evidence on the caliber 5200, and the case features a Poincon de Geneve to match; the post 2012 Hallmark applies to the entire white. It’s Audemars Piguet versus Vacheron Constantin today on VERSUS!