It's hard to become the best, but it's even harder to stay the best.
By now, it is certainly no secret that Audemars Piguet are feverishly determined to continue defending their position on the throne at the apex of the luxury sports watch market. Having created the market in 1972 with the legendary AP Royal Oak, I think it is pretty fair that they continue to corner the market. After all, if someone is going to be the king of the realm, isn't it only fitting that it would be the holy trinity watchmaker that conjured it from the Quartz Crisis' ashes? With the Royal Oak collection, the Royal Oak Offshore, and the Royal Oak Concept collection, I think it is safe to say AP has the sector on lock.
But that aside, while getting to the top of any market is always challenging, staying there is often the most difficult part, and AP certainly understands that. This latest release proves it, in fact, at least in my opinion. With updated mechanics, a new case design, and some stylistic throwback to old designs, I think the latest duo of Royal Oak Offshore models proves that AP will not rest on their laurels anytime soon. It's their seat at the top, and they won't let anyone take it without a fight, clearly.
So, what's new?
A mainstay in Audemars Piguet's lineup for almost 30 years, it is no surprise that the Royal Oak Offshore has undergone some pretty serious evolutions in its time. From different movements to materials to dial layouts and colourways, just about everything a brand could do to a watch has been done to the Royal Oak Offshore collection. So, why the big fuss this time?
While the Royal Oak Offshore collection has been evolving quite drastically with new case shapes, different pushers and so on, the latest duo brings it back a touch and retains more of the original collection's soul. Ultimately, this latest release marries modern mechanics and aesthetics with some splashes from the original. Keeping one foot firmly rooted in Emmanuel Gueit's original designs, the Royal Oak Offshore reminds the industry who it is, why it came about and that AP are not interested in change for the sake of it. Honestly, I love these two new watches, so let's get into them.
Design Design Design
I really do think watch designers that work for iconic Maisons like the Audemars Piguet's of the world have an incredibly difficult job. How do you design a watch that purists can be happy with that features new design choices? It's an arduous task, but this is how you do it.
Retaining the original's muscular 42mm diameter case, the latest duo of Royal Oak Offshores pay homage to their predecessor by keeping its rubberised pump pushers and screw-locked crown. Available in stainless steel with the light blue dial variant and titanium for the khaki green, this duo simultaneously keeps its fingers on the pulse of what the contemporary watch community likes while still looking after its own style. By exploring two different material options, AP acknowledges the demand for new materials while also remaining rooted in the Offshore's stainless steel lineage. A nod to the present while showcasing an appreciation for the old.
The duo is fitted to dial-matching textured rubber straps, which include the brand new interchangeable strap system that enables quick and easy swapping of straps between watches and even buckles. Our very own founder, Austen Chu, changed between straps without tools in just 15 seconds. Anyone who has had to fumble with screwdrivers, screws, spring bars or other watchmakers tools to change a watch strap can appreciate how fast that is. Clearly, this is the way AP want to continue pushing. They are determined to remain at the forefront of watch enthusiast's desires and appeal to conveniences. It's the small things that make any luxury item luxurious, and AP are nailing it. The very same thing can be seen in their dials.
Perfectly blending modern nuance and throwback styling, the latest Royal Oak dials see the return of the original's vertical chronograph register layout with the date placed at 3 o'clock as opposed to the very love/hate 4:30 on the horizontal layout Offshores. While featuring that heritage-inspired design cue, the dials also use AP's Méga Tapisserie texture. While the collection was born with the original Royal Oak's Petite Tapisserie, AP released the Méga Tapisserie in 2001 as a more aggressive take on the subtle Petite Tapisserie, in keeping with the Royal Oak Offshore's aesthetic.
Subtly modernising the dial layout, AP have also rearranged the subdials to improve legibility – a slight improvement for convenience's sake; it does make a difference. The hour counter has swapped places with the small seconds counter, so the former is now at 12 o'clock, while the small seconds counter now appears at 6 o'clock, with the minute counter remaining at 9 o'clock. In one final stylistic piece of luxury detailing, the counters are now equidistant from the centre of the dial for more visual appeal. If I remember correctly, the subdial at 9 o'clock was further out on the vertical layouts that have come before this latest generation, but I could be wrong on that one.
Moving from the outside to inside, the true magic of the Royal Oak Offshore has been unlocked with a rather impressive movement upgrade. Powered by the new in-house cal. 4404, these beauties feature flyback vertical clutch column-wheel chronographs with a rather beefy 70 hours of power reserve. That's a near 20-hour upgrade compared to most of the previous generation of Royal Oak Chronographs, and, to top it off, these movements are entirely integrated. That is to say; they don't include chronograph modules; they are chronographs movements built from the ground up to be chronographs. It might sound like a throwaway concept, but integrated chronographs are incredibly complex, and the cal. 4404, which is a slightly modified version of the recently released cal. 4401 (vertical subdials versus horizontal) is a monster.
Featuring a sapphire exhibition caseback, we even have the opportunity to view the movement's incredible finishing and its beautiful 22ct pink gold winding rotor. Complete with its own embossed AP initials, it is fitting for the movement, which contains the impeccable level of finishing we would expect from a watchmaker like Audemars Piguet.
Unapologetically modern in their styling, I must say I do really like these two watches. With the green reserved for the titanium case and blue for the steel, the choice is ultimately a tough one to make. On the one hand, the blue is stunning, but on the other, the green is entirely transformative and on-trend. With its dark hues, it can range from a near-black colour to vibrant emerald. In addition, titanium is a relatively novel material that is super light and provides an unfamiliar experience on the wrist compared to the ubiquity of stainless steel. Then again, the stainless steel variant's blue dial is stunning, so I wouldn't begrudge anyone for opting for it.
With the timely movement upgrade, incredible strap changing system, updated dials and iconic heritage, these watches and any additions AP make to the collection down the line are going to prove incredibly popular. We all know the story with AP and their crazy levels of demand, their watches are hard to buy, and with their latest releases being as on point as they have been over the last 12 months, I really can't imagine that not being the case. So bravo, AP, now let me have one please!
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph / 42 mm
Reference numbers: 26238TI.OO.A056CA.01 (Green); 26238ST.OO.A340CA.01 (Blue)
Case material: Titanium case and bezel, black rubber push-pieces and screw-locked crown, titanium push-piece guards (Green); Stainless steel case and bezel, black rubber pushpieces and screw-locked crown, stainless steel push-piece guards (Blue)
Crystal: Glare-proofed Sapphire
Movement: Calibre 4404
Functions: Flyback chronograph, hours, minutes, small seconds and date
Frequency: 4 Hz/ 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 70 hours
Strap: Khaki textured rubber strap with titanium AP pin buckle and interchangeable strap system. Additional black interchangeable calfskin strap (Green); Blue textured rubber strap with stainless steel AP pin buckle and interchangeable strap system. Additional black interchangeable calfskin strap (Blue)
Price: HKD $262,000
For further information, visit Audemars Piguet online.