I have come across many instances where people have thought that the screws on the bezel are there purely for design purposes. This 'misconception' generally is sparked because the hexagonal holes on the bezel would not allow the screws to rotate - so quite naturally, it may lead one to think that they're just fixed there with no mechanical functionality. On top of that, what makes this 'mystery' even more convincing is that, yes, the screws are polished 18 carat white gold, which do add to the Royal Oak's beauty by displaying contrasting finish and shine with the brushed bezel - but I am about to tell you that in fact, those eight hexagonal screws serve more than cosmetic duties.
Besides adding the looks, the screws play a key role in the architecture of the Royal Oak, such that the whole design is in fact patented.
The screws on the bezel does actually sit in fixed positions and here comes the genious part - the screws on the back of the case are in fact nuts (shown on the top part of the image right below).
|image source: timezone.com|
Once the bezel screws (#11 in the diagram) are placed in fixed positions where #5 represents the bezel, the nuts (#9) that are placed on the back are screwed down the thread (#10). This 'screw & nut' system is in fact also employed for holding straps and bracelets on Royal Oaks.
So the screw & nut mechanism not only holds the bezel and the back but also holds the metal support ring, the rubber seal ring, the gaskets and the sapphire crystal in place.
This mechanism as illustrated, play a critical role in keeping this extraordinarily intelligent design intact and thus, almost perfectly isolating the movement from its archenemy - moisture.
The iconic hexagonal screws on the bezel can arguably be regarded as the key that led to the birth and the success of Royal Oak. What's more certain is that Mr. Genta, the genius behind this double-tap solution to design and practicality well deserves a place in the history of industrial design and watchmaking.