Buyer’s Guide: Three ‘neo-vintage’ sleepers from the Royal Oak Offshore collection, according to Wristcheck’s Austen Chu

Three limited editions. Each armed to the teeth with personality. Each underrated in its own special way.
By Randy Lai

Welcome back to ‘Buyer’s Guide’: a regular round-up of watches we love, as selected by our editors, friends and the broader Wristcheck family. In this instalment, we answer the call to adventure with the Royal Oak Offshore. Since its launch in 1993, this beastly collection has shattered numerous conventions: heralding the age of big cases; sportif design codes; and an eclectic array of limited editions, armed to the teeth with personality. Below, our founder Austen Chu fires off three of his favourites, and explains why each should no longer be slept on. 

 

Royal Oak Offshore ‘Jarno Trulli’ chronograph 

Royal Oak Offshore ‘Jarno Trulli’ chronograph
Royal Oak Offshore ‘Jarno Trulli’ Chronograph

“First released in 2010, this ‘Jarno Trulli’ is personally my favourite rendition of the Offshore that AP has come out with. It’s as close as you can get to a totemic representation of the Offshore, without losing the sense of distinction that’s essential for a limited edition. 

“Jarno” signature appearing in red on the crystal
“Jarno” signature appearing in red on the crystal

Right out the gate, the watch is materially innovative: dressed in forged carbon (the mottled, geode-like pattern looks superbly cool) with a dial made using the composite material known as Cermet. As a result, all of the watch’s surfaces are highly scratch-resistant -- but with a smoky finish that’s more aesthetically varied than traditional ceramic. 

Forged carbon case, cermet bezel, sand-blasted titanium crown and pushpieces
Forged carbon case, cermet bezel, sand-blasted titanium crown and pushpieces

As you can see, the base of the dial is still guilloché -- decorated using the square lozenge ‘Grande Tapisserie’ motif that is a signature element in many Offshores. The use of red here, restricted to the hour markers and the handset, is what really sells the design -- which is both unusual and stunning. All in, AP produced only 500 of these, making them a desirable buy for collectors who’d love an Offshore with a Formula One twist.”

 

Royal Oak Offshore titanium perpetual calendar chronograph (Ref. 25854)

Royal Oak Offshore Titanium Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 25854
Royal Oak Offshore Titanium Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 25854

“Where do I even start with this one? Well firstly, it’s rare. To date, the reference 25854 is quite possibly the only perpetual calendar-slash-chronograph that AP has made; and the fact that the brand decided to produce it as an Offshore only makes its backstory more intriguing. If memory serves, AP made less than 300 examples of these -- all of them in 45mm titanium cases.

Case back of Royal Oak Offshore Titanium Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Case back of Royal Oak Offshore Titanium Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

There’s no denying that this is a ‘big’ watch (in every sense of the word). But in spite of its size, it’s extremely comfortable on the wrist. Even though these models were all made in the early 2000s, the lume is unusually powerful -- even by the standards of most other Offshores in the broader collection. The hour markers give off this sort of distinctive green hue -- possibly a combination of the lume and each marker’s colour itself -- so much so that they look as if they’re ‘lit’ even in broad daylight. 

Perpetual calendar, moon phase and chronograph
Perpetual calendar, moon phase and chronograph

Considering what this watch represents technically, I’d go so far as to call it a ‘bargain’ at current prices. When these come up at auction, they tend to fetch between HK$162,000-$240,000 (this October, an example sold at Sotheby’s for HK$239,400). For a titanium sports watch combining a perpetual calendar with chronograph functionality, that’s some serious value for money.“

 

Royal Oak Offshore ‘Survivor’ chronograph

Royal Oak Offshore ‘Survivor’ chronograph
Royal Oak Offshore ‘Survivor’ Chronograph

“The ‘Survivor’ made it into this guide for a pretty simple reason: in my opinion, it’s clearly the boldest incarnation of the Offshore DNA since the collection’ debuted in 1993. Offered in a limited run back in 2008, all 1,000 pieces sold out almost immediately: a testament to the overarching design’s broad appeal. Despite that, AP opted not to recreate or make a spin-off of the Survivor, adding to its desirability among Offshore collectors. 

Case back of Royal Oak Offshore ‘Survivor’ Chronograph
Case back of Royal Oak Offshore ‘Survivor’ Chronograph

When describing the Survivor’s design, the first word which comes to mind is “radical”. This is a watch that is absolutely uncompromising in build quality, with many of the elements being difficult to produce. There are the extremely large (some might even say imposing) pusher protectors in titanium; the perforated case; and the ceramic bezel that has been decorated with an unusual, grooved finish. Bear in mind: more so than even today, when the ‘Survivor’ was first released there was absolutely nothing on the market that looked like it. And trust me, despite it’s deceiving appearance in photos, it cleaves quite close to its 42mm dimensions on the wrist. 

A bold incarnation of the Offshore DNA
A bold incarnation of the Offshore DNA

Again, this is one of those Offshores that I consider to offer tremendous value. At launch, it retailed for US$50,000. Now, on the secondary market the median price has reduced by about 20 percent. A surefire ‘sleeper’ piece and, to my thinking, one of the most memorable Offshore limited editions ever made.”

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