Obituary: Karl Lagerfeld and His All-Black Royal Oak “A” Series [Updated]

Custom coated in matte black.

Legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld has just passed away at age 85 after a multi-decade, prolific career. While he was best known for his stints at Chanel and Fendi, Lagerfeld was also the owner of a famous wristwatch – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” with a custom, matte black finish.

Almost uniformly clad in black and white, with sunglasses, high-collar Hilditch & Key shirts, fingerless gloves and white hair tied into a ponytail, Lagerfeld was hard to imagine with any other watch than an all-black Royal Oak.

Karl Lagerfeld Royal Oak

Lagerfeld in the 1970s with the Royal Oak worn over the cuff

Karl Lagerfeld black Royal Oak

Although the watch could have been no more than a few years old then, the black coating already looked slightly worn

Having worn the watch since the 1970s – and still wearing it in the 2007 documentary Lagerfeld Confidential – Lagerfeld reputedly owned several examples of the Royal Oak “Jumbo” with an aftermarket matte black coating on the case and bracelet. A handful of examples have surfaced on the secondary market over the years, though none accompanied by documentation proving Lagerfeld ownership.

Karl Lagerfeld black Royal Oak screen shot

A screen capture from the 2007 documentary with the Royal Oak again, now with much of the coating worn off

Lagerfeld’s fondness for the Royal Oak was known at Audemars Piguet – a senior member of management at the watch brand has a framed thank you note from Lagerfeld hanging in his office.

Karl Lagerfeld Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 1

Many thanks to the Pygmalion Collection for providing the framed note

Karl Lagerfeld Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 2

Lagerfeld penned the note in 2002, after getting back his all-black Royal Oak from a factory service, which was done via the Audemars Piguet retailer in Milan. The hand-written missive reads:

17/7/2002

I bought the famous Royal Oak the year of its launch. She has never left my wrist since. I have started to collect other watches but I’ve always come back to my good old Royal Oak that I adore and that never leaves me anymore.

Amicably,

Karl Lagerfeld

The designer was known as a voracious collector, and if the late designer’s estate is sold (as Yves Saint-Laurent’s was for almost €400m), then the Lagerfeld Royal Oak might just come onto the market.

More on the all-black Royal Oak can be found in this Watchprosite post from 2014, and a detailed obituary can be found on vogue.com.


Update February 20, 2019: Included a copy of the 2002 note from Lagerfeld to Audemars Piguet.

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