Since its scene-stealing arrival in 1993 — now the stuff of watch industry folklore — the Royal Oak Offshore has grown to encompass an entire eponymous collection: ranging from the best-selling 42mm chronograph to purpose-built models like the updated Offshore diver. In the vein of the latter, AP has just 'refreshed' its Offshore collection with a quintet of new 43mm releases — said to retain “the essence of the [original’s] characteristics”, albeit with a renewed focus on comfort and contemporary aesthetics — and we had the chance to get our hands on four of them, save for the grey titanium iteration. We’re going to save the ligne-by-ligne breakdown of everything that’s changed for a future ‘Side by Side’. In the meantime, Iet’s talk about those developments that aren’t blatantly obvious. Ergo, a manufacture-grade chronograph movement that’s new to the Offshore collection; and, the tweaks to the existing Offshore DNA.
A chronograph movement of a higher calibre
In the usual course of events, watch writers tend to dedicate ample page space to the physical attributes of a new release, before (oftentimes begrudgingly) regurgitating a press release that sets out the technical properties of the relevant movement. Today, we’re going to flip the script a little (heresy, yes I know) by tackling what lies beneath first. Namely, the calibre 4401: a huge leap forward, in terms of technical sophistication, for the Offshore collection. I opted to start this particular ‘Watch Drop’ here because, as it turns out, there’s quite a bit to discuss.
For starters: the calibre is a total departure from the F. Piguet-derived movements of the 44mm format, making good on feedback (from more than a few collectors) that chronograph modules really shouldn’t be a thing “in this price category”. Instead, the 4401 is a fully integrated movement with a vertical clutch, and unlike what you’ll find in the larger Offshores, capable of storing up to 70 hours of reserve power with an oscillation rate that’s measurably superior. To top off all that, the calibre features a flyback mechanism that allows for instantaneous reset of the chronograph, a little sweetener that tracks with AP’s decision to aim the new 43mm releases at “active adventurers”.
Aesthetics and ergonomics
Despite the inevitable head-to-toe comparison between this Offshore and its 44mm sibling (kudos to whoever gets to write that up), this being a ‘Watch Drop’ and all, we still need to take a quick inventory of the aesthetic changes being introduced. Most dramatically, almost every external element has been gently curved to make the 43mm architecture more approachable for a range of different wrist sizes.
Looking at the watch side-on, you’ll see that the watch’s bezel and sapphire crystal trace a gentle arc from 6 to 12 — this subtle contour effect being further enhanced through the case’s chamfers and shape of the chronograph pushers. That case has further been outfitted with the same strap-changing system we first glimpsed on the Offshore Diver in March, which makes use of a ‘double-push’ button set into the back of two interstitial lugs so wearers can change straps, without the hassle of a springbar, in a matter of seconds.
It’s probably on the dial where you’ll find the highest concentration of updates to the previous Offshore aesthetic — starting with the méga tapisserie. Given each lozenge’s size (all of which have been decorated with a stripe finish) you hardly need a loupe to make out the X-shaped motifs that connect together the entire pattern. Beyond being a tonne of fun to look at, they also lend the dial an element of increased visual depth and speak to the ever-evolving ways in which AP has harnessed its signature dial finish.
What you may well need a loupe to see are the chronograph registers. Still made up of three segments (an external zone, minute track, and circular-grain inner dial) their look and feel is now more closely aligned with what you’ll find in the standard Royal Oak chrono. No bad thing, especially considering that the handsets used for timing are now also colour-coded. The strength of that contrast isn’t necessarily uniform — the version with the ‘smoked taupe’ dial uses a colour scheme for the seconds hand that is, at a clip, fairly similar — but works more often than it doesn’t.
In addition to the ‘smoked taupe’ iteration, AP has released another of the 43mm Offshores in stainless steel, sporting a black/grey/red colour scheme that’s likely to appeal to motoring enthusiasts. Elsewhere, there are two titanium models kitted with either a grey or blue dial (my pick of the litter) while the proverbial odd duck out is a very swaggery model in pink gold. Between these and the updated Divers, summer 2021 is shaping up to be the summer of the Offshore.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph / 43mm
Reference numbers: Ref. 26420RO.OO.A002CA.01 (black dial in rose gold); ref. 26420TI.OO.A027CA.01 (blue dial in titanium); ref. 26420SO.OO.A002CA.01 (black dial in stainless steel and black ceramic); ref. 26420SO.OO.A600CA.01 (smoked taupe dial); ref. 26420IO.OO.A009CA.01 (grey dial)
Thickness: 14.4 mm
Case material: Stainless steel/titanium cases, with ceramic/matching titanium bezels
Movement: Calibre 4401
Functions: Flyback chronograph, hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Frequency: 4 Hz / 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 70 hours
Strap: Various. Two straps per model.
Price: HKD $271,000 (blue dial in titanium); HKD $280,000 (smoked taupe dial; black dial in stainless steel and black ceramic; grey dial in titanium) HKD $419,000 (black dial in pink gold and black ceramic)
For further information, visit Audemars Piguet online