The 12 Best Affordable Alternatives to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Photo: Maurice Lacroix AIKON

Among watch enthusiasts, the draw of the “grail watch” is hard to resist. This is that one unobtainable timepiece for which you would sacrifice your entire collection for the opportunity of strapping it onto your wrist. And when it comes to grail watches, few, if any, hold the allure of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Iconic beyond belief, achingly beautiful, and timeless in its design, the Royal Oak has a lot going for it. Unfortunately for many, it’s also outrageously expensive, with the cost of entry typically exceeding $30,000. That’s why we’ve come up with this guide to the best affordable alternatives to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

If you find yourself dreaming about a certain octagonal-bezeled luxury watch on an integrated bracelet but know you can never afford one, then you’re in luck. We’ve had a look at the watch industry of today, from budget brands to micros to even some entry-level luxury players, to come up with a crop of watches that will scratch your Royal Oak itch for less than a tenth of the price. Are these watches equal to AP’s icon in any way? Of course not, but they all offer similar styling (but not too similar — no replicas or homages here) that just might help you forget about the real thing… at least for a while.

What’s Special About The Royal Oak?

Inventing A Genre

This year, the Royal Oak is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and AP has already rolled out a slew of new references to mark the occasion. But what is it about this rather quirky-looking watch that got everyone so hot and bothered to begin with? Simply put, the Royal Oak completely changed the watch game forever. These days, the hottest and most sought-after luxury watches are all steel sports watches: the Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, virtually any sport model from Rolex, etc. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, luxury watches were exclusively made of precious metals like gold, and they were dress watches. The Royal Oak changed all that.

Designed by the legendary Gérald Genta (who would go on to design the Nautilus a few years later) and first released in 1972, the Royal Oak broke ground as the first-ever luxury steel sports watch. Initially, consumers had a hard time understanding why a watch made of steel should cost so much, but the Royal Oak’s original design and extraordinary level of finishing — which, for the first time in a watch, fully showcased the beauty of stainless steel — eventually won them over. All of the watch’s hallmarks were there right from the start: the octagonal bezel with its eight exposed screws, the waffled “tapisserie” dial, and the integrated tapering bracelet. Everything about it was new, different, and exciting, and it’s why it’s remained such an in-demand icon half a century later.

The Real Deal

For When There’s No Substitute

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

The legend itself has just been refreshed for its big anniversary. While an almost endless number of Royal Oak references exist, the most iconic and sought after is the “Jumbo” — the 39mm automatic that hews closest to Genta’s original design. For 2022, the model has gotten a very slight makeover with the new ref. 16202 that includes a 50th anniversary-branded rotor and the new Calibre 7121 movement that features a higher power reserve and a faster beat rate without adding any thickness to the case. In other words, they’ve managed to make the watch even better.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $33,200+

The Alternatives

Get The Look For Less

Timex Q Timex Reissue Falcon Eye

Kicking things off is the green-dialed version of Timex’s ‘70s reissue that eschews the two-tone styling of its blue-dialed sibling. While it’s less of a dead-ringer for the Royal Oak than many of the other options in this guide, the budget-conscious piece still boasts an authentic 1970s design, a tapering integrated-style bracelet, and some nice sharp contouring on the case. Not bad for under 200 bucks.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $179

G-Shock GM2100-1A “CasiOak”

One of the rugged Casio sub-brand’s most successful launches in recent years was the GA-2100 Octagon Series, an ultra-affordable G-SHOCK that looked akin to a resin-bodied Royal Oak thanks to its eight-sided bezel. And after seeing the enthusiast community gobble up these “CasiOaks” only to modify them with metal aftermarket parts from third parties, G-SHOCK decided to get in on the action by releasing this stainless steel version of the watch.

Case Size: 49.3mm×44.4mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $200

D1 Milano Ultra Thin

Industry newcomer D1 Milano may not have the most original watches in the world — its designs are very clearly inspired by both the Royal Oak and the Nautilus — but the brand does put enough of a unique spin on its pieces to avoid getting into controversial homage territory. With a brand identity that’s based on updating ‘70s watch designs for a modern audience, D1 Milano succeeds in its mission thanks to the surprisingly high level of finishing it provides on its decidedly affordable watches.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Quartz

Purchase: $395

Tissot PRX Powermatic 80

For a great number of watch enthusiasts over the past year, this has been the affordable Royal Oak alternative to get, and it’s exceedingly easy to see why. A red-hot automatic version of the ‘80s reissue released by Tissot earlier in 2021, the PRX Powermatic 80 combines its titular 80-hour caliber with an attractive AP-like waffle dial, an outstanding integrated bracelet with unbeatable finishing for the price, and all of the history and prestige that comes from being the product of a legitimate Swiss heritage brand.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $650+

Bulova Precisionist

Luxury watch companies like Audemars Piguet gave up their pursuit of accuracy decades ago, instead choosing to focus on the heritage and craftsmanship of mechanical movements rather than try and win an unwinnable battle against inexpensive quartz technology. But more affordable brands have soldiered on, Bulova being among them. The American brand’s Precisionist quartz chronograph is one of the most accurate in the world, with a smooth-sweeping seconds hand and the ability to time down to 1/1000th of a second. On top of that, you’re getting some AP-esque looks with a screwed-down octagonal bezel and stylish integrated strap.

Case Size: 44.5mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Quartz Chronograph

Purchase: $780

Yema Wristmaster Traveller

One of the newest models on our list is this Yema that was designed from the ground up as a retro-modern steel sports watch. Housing the French brand’s in-house Caliber Yema2000 automatic movement, the Wristmaster features an octagonal case rather than bezel, while the tri-finished round bezel features unique cutouts and was inspired by a quartz Yema from the ‘80s. Finishing off the watch is a tapering integrated bracelet and hands derived from a 1970s Yema Superman dive watch.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $790

Victorinox I.N.O.X. Mechanical

If you’re looking to combine luxury-adjacent looks with something that can really take a beating, then you ought to have a look at Victorinox’s legendary I.N.O.X. A notoriously rugged watch, the I.N.O.X. is glammed up here with a stainless steel bracelet and Swiss-made Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement that’s visible through an exhibition case back. Joining the party are the I.N.O.X.’s usual waffle-style dial and intricately finished bezel that’s treated with an anti-scratch coating.

Case Size: 43mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $925

Autodromo Group B Series 2

Perhaps the most original entrant on this list is Autodromo’s ever-popular Group B. Inspired by the dangerous ‘80s rally racing series of the same name, the Group B clearly isn’t trying to be a Royal Oak, but it still brings a ton of retro style by way of its clever faux-integrated bracelet and thin AP-like profile. A unique bimetallic case of stainless steel and titanium and a one-of-a-kind dial inspired by the gauges of Group B cars inject even more personality into this microbrand showstopper.

Case Size: 39mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $975

Formex Essence

Independent Swiss brand Formex flew under the radar for two decades, but now word has gotten out about its dynamite Essence. The watch’s dual patents — for its case suspension and micro-adjustment systems, respectively — have given the young brand a strong identity as an innovator in the industry. The watch’s chronometer-certified movement, striated smoked dial, outstanding finishing, and hex-screwed bezel combine to add even more value to this rising star of a watch.

Case Size: 39mm, 43mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $1,390+

Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic

Maurice Lacroix’s AIKON is arguably the closest bang-per-buck Royal Oak alt you’re going to find when accounting for its overall package of finishing, quality, and styling. The most Royal Oak-like bracelet on this guide and a tapisserie-esque dial will have even seasoned watch aficionados thinking this is an AP at first glance, while the round bezel with its sextet of Omega Constellation-inspired claws keep the watch from being an homage. Easily the most popular watch in ML’s lineup, the AIKON is available in a number of sizes, colors, and variants, including chronograph, dive watch, and GMT versions.

Case Size: 39mm, 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $2,000+

Tudor Royal

Released near the tail-end of 2020, Tudor’s Royal didn’t exactly set the enthusiast community on fire when it first dropped. But mark our words, consumers are going to warm up to Tudor’s bizarre Royal Oak/Rolex Datejust mashup sooner rather than later. A very ‘80s design executed via the type of expert finishing that only a major luxury brand can provide, the Royal (no Oak) is a watch that is quite unlike anything else on the market, and that originality is eventually going to win Tudor legions of retro sports watch-hungry fans.

Case Size: 34mm, 38mm, and 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $2,375+

Baume & Mercier Riviera

Rounding out our list is a model that has some real history behind it. Following the initial release of the Royal Oak in 1972, many Swiss luxury brands followed suit with integrated bracelet steel sports watches of their own. One of the first to do so was B&M, which released the Riviera just a year later in 1973. For 2021, the two-century-old brand resurrected the Riviera in a modernized form that maintains several design features of the iconic original, including the dodecagonal bezel and integrated steel bracelet, while adding new touches like exposed screws in the bezel and a uniquely-patterned dial. We say now is the perfect time to visit the Riviera.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $2,600

The 15 Best Affordable Integrated Bracelet Watches


Still on the hunt for a more affordable alternative to the Royal Oak but have a bit more money to play with than $3K? Then have a look at our guide to the 15 best affordable integrated bracelet watches where we work with a budget of up to $10,000.