Sweet Valley Highs

In every walk of life there are people whose work transcends the narrow circumstances of time and place. For modern watchmaking, Georges Golay, the disrupter behind the Royal Oak, was one such figure. The Rake remembers the man from the Vallée.
Golay played a crucial role in the development of the thinnest perpetual calendar wristwatch of its time, model 5548, released in 1978. Calibre 2120/2800 came to power numerous perpetual calendars later, including this 1987 version.

In recent times, watchmaking bosses have become like rock stars, their auras and magnetism burning as brightly as their brands. Cue hotshots such as Richard Mille or MB&F’s Maximilian Büsser, or the maverick Chief Executive François-Henry Bennahmias, who in 10 years has helped turn Audemars Piguet (AP) into a business worth more than one and a half billion Swiss francs. Indeed, the family-owned watchmakers have a reputation, like their designs, for rakish leaders. Among the most notable is the late Georges Golay, AP’s charismatic Managing Director who helped mastermind the 1972 Royal Oak, the groundbreaking, octagonal-bezelled, hand-finished steel watch that spawned the luxury sports watch genre as we know it today. Golay’s visionary entrepreneurialism, entwined with his passion for Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux, watchmaking, and all who worked in it, made him an industry star.


Ming Liu


October 2022


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