As someone that writes about (and is somewhat obsessed with) watches, I often find myself looking at releases from brands within the upper echelons of watchmaking with a bit more scepticism than most. I try to see how the watch fits into their portfolio, how it expands upon their offerings and if it is hinting at where the collection will go in the future. Ultimately, I'm trying to figure out if a release is coming from a place of strategy or is it a cacophony of design that exists solely to extract money from collector's wallets.
At least, in my opinion, the upper echelons of watchmaking should be focused on their watches first, finances second. With that in mind, I would like to discuss the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph. Sure, its name is an untidy mouthful, but it is a symphony of design. I just cannot get enough of this watch. It nearly makes me emotional just by looking at it.
The Royal Oak Offshore's Place within Audemars Piguet
Released in 1993, the Royal Oak Offshore was designed to expand upon the iconic Royal Oak collection as a sports-focused timepiece that could take a beating and perform at the highest standards possible. Featuring AP's artisanal craftsmanship, impeccable design and avant-garde taste for the horological, the Royal Oak Offshore was a true maverick, just like most of what AP releases. This latest release builds upon that heritage and sets the entire collection up to become a truly spectacular offering.
The Offshore has always played second-fiddle to the Royal Oak, but the new Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph seems to be a declaration of intent from the Offshore itself that it is no longer content being the bridesmaid. It feels as though this is the final boss level that concludes the game, but we know that isn't the case. It's never the case with AP. They're only getting started with this new Offshore generation, and to be frank, that gets me very excited. If this watch is anything to go by, the latest generation of Royal Oak Offshore is going to be incredible. So, let's explore it.
Design and Aesthetics
As with every watch stemming from any of the Royal Oak families, the new Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph pays a respectful homage to its heritage with a raised octagonal bezel secured with exposed screws and an aggressive case design packed to the rafters with a flurry of surface finishes and textures.
Crafted from titanium with a sandblasted finish, the new 43mm case design is ergonomic and slightly modernised as the trend for large watches gets toned down a bit. Sitting atop the case is a titanium bezel with the same sandblasted texture that gives the entire design a sense of cohesiveness. Building on that, the design includes wide hand-polished chamfers on the case and bezel alike to solidify their sense of visual continuity even further. AP opted for a satin finish with the ceramic crown and push-pieces that aesthetically separates them from the case and builds upon the design with an excellent sense of three-dimensionality, which the dial and movement feed off too, but more on them later.
Looking at the entire crown and push-piece assembly, the titanium crown guards are angular and lack the same chamfers found on the rest of the case. Almost like a guitar solo that seems out of place at first, that visual dissonance works perfectly as the physical construction appears to be in perfect harmony with the synchronised madness that is its skeletonised dial, which just so happens to be my favourite aspect of this spectacular watch.
Featuring a wonderfully openworked dial, the timepiece's physical construction translates through to its core. We are afforded a view of a black inscribed rehaut with minute markings that frame beautifully openworked bridges suspended over the immaculately designed movement below. The monochromatic blacks and greys work wonderfully with the white gold luminescent hands and red chronograph indicators to create a legible and aggressive appearance.
With transparent chronograph subdials at 3 and 9 o'clock and a flying tourbillon at 6 o'clock, the whole dial is an asymmetrical marvel. Before we get into the tourbillon and the movement, I can't help but notice the apertures sandwiching the tourbillon. Their shape seems deliberately reminiscent of minute repeater gongs. Could it be? The Royal Oak Offshore might add a minute repeater complication to its ranks down the line? I might be wrong, but it's great to let your mind wander. Either way, the apertures are angular, textured below and tie into the aesthetic perfectly.
New Old Movement
Finally, we can explore the reason I have to type such a long name: AP's cal. 2967 movement. While it was first introduced in the Code 11.59 collection in 2020 as the cal. 2952, this latest version is adapted for the 43mm Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph's new case design and features some sportier aesthetics which feed into the Offshore's raison d’être - sports, functionality and utility.
Partially viewable within and around the openworked chronograph subdials, the cal. 2967 reveals its labyrinthine architecture in its totality as we turn the watch over and peer through its sapphire crystal exhibition caseback. As fantastically finished as we expect, the cal. 2967 features the same grey-scale monochromatic aesthetic as the rest of the timepiece's construction. A PVD-coating has been added to the titanium bridges with polished bevels lacking PVD-coating, which creates a two-tone contrast - completed with a partially openworked 22ct gold PVD-coated winding rotor the cal. 2967 fits the watch perfectly.
A new generation of Offshore that could not be more aesthetically impressive, it would be remiss of AP to give the cal. 2967 middle-of-the-road specs, which I'm glad to report they certainly did not do. The cal. 2967 features a column-wheel actuated flyback chronograph, as its name so proudly suggests, alongside a flying tourbillon and a 65-hour power reserve. So, thankfully you'll be safe to take this watch off for a few days at a time and return to its flying tourbillon methodically spinning to its heart's content. Albeit, I must admit if you can take this watch off for a second, I will need to see what other watches you have in your collection.
For any brand that is lucky enough (and unlucky in a sense) to have an icon as powerful as the Royal Oak Offshore amongst their ranks, introducing a new generation will always be a trying exercise. Still, I think AP has nailed this watch. From its case design to its movement and even its quick-change strap system, which is quickly making its way into the collection, the Royal Oak Offshore is clearly undergoing a stage of metamorphosis, and I think it's only getting started. Limited to 100 pieces, the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph is only a letter of intent, and I am beside myself with excitement to see what they release down the line. This will be a fantastic vehicle for AP to demonstrate their watchmaking might, and I think some other brands might have to pull up their socks if they want to compete.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph
Case size: 43 mm
Material: Sandblasted titanium case and bezel with ceramic pushers and crown
Crystal: Glareproofed sapphire crystal
Movement: In-house AP manufacture cal. 2967 (based on the cal. 2952)
Functions: Hours, minutes, flyback chronograph, flying tourbillon,
Frequency: 3 Hz (21,600 vibrations/hours)
Power reserve: 65 hours
Bracelet: Interchangeable black rubber strap with additional interchangeable black hand-stitched “large square-scale” alligator strap and sandblasted titanium AP folding clasp
Availability: Limited to 100 pieces
Price: CHF 242,100 / USD 258,000