Sometimes, a watch is so far ahead of its time that years (or even decades) pass before the world can look back and fully appreciate its impact. Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore is an example of just such a watch. With its 1993 release coming in the wake of the Royal Oak’s 20th anniversary, the Offshore went on to cause quite a storm. Derided by many at the time—including the original Royal Oak’s designer, Gérald Genta—it was nonetheless embraced by younger watch-lovers who responded to its bold aesthetic and is now rightfully heralded as a horology icon.
With its oversized proportions, large rubber gasket and virile aesthetic—earning it the nickname “The Beast” at the time of release—the Royal Oak Offshore took the industry-shaking innovations of the original Royal Oak and made them appear downright subtle by comparison. Embodying all things outrageous and youthful, the Offshore was designed to shake things up and was so successful in doing so that the tremors of its impact can still be felt to this day.
Now, 30 years later, Audemars Piguet is celebrating the anniversary of this landmark release with a range of three new references that highlight the visionary nature of the original Offshore.
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 43mm Black Ceramic
With its black ceramic case and contrasting yellow gold elements across the dial, push-piece guards, studs and buckle, the new 43 mm Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph is a tribute to the past that feels like it’s opening a door to the future.
The case is certainly a marvel of modern watchmaking. With ceramic being a notoriously unwieldy material, each of this watch’s components necessitated a complex manufacturing process and a number of refined hand-finishing techniques. From its unique composition to the juxtaposition of polished chamfers with satin-brushed surfaces, this is a reference that balances the masculine and the elegant through peerless attention to detail—an example of this is the case back, where yellow gold frames a pane of sapphire crystal, revealing the watch’s ticking movement (more on that in a moment).
The case also boasts the Royal Oak Offshore collection’s latest ergonomic case design with large, polished chamfers on the edges, and a slight curve to the bezel, screw-locked crown and the chronograph push-pieces. Speaking of the bezel, it gently arcs from 6 to 12 o’clock, matching the profile of the sapphire crystal, and is punctuated with the Royal Oak’s signature eight screws.
Turning to the dial, we find multiple textures, depths and lines at play. The black tones provide a foundation on which the gold elements can dance, catching the eye from the AP monogram to the hands and hour-markers, which are crafted from gold before a decorative black lacquer is applied. Plus, a black minute track sits strikingly upon a yellow gold-toned background, encircled by a white tachymeter scale situated on the black inner bezel.
At the heart of all this sits Audemars Piguet’s latest chronograph movement, the selfwinding Calibre 4401. Fully integrated and featuring a column wheel and a flyback function, unlike regular chronographs it enables the wearer to start, stop and reset the chronograph in one simple action. As the column wheel works in collaboration with a vertical clutch system, when starting or stopping the chronograph, the hands respond accordingly without any hint of jumping. Plus, a patented zero resetting mechanism ensures that each of the counter hands instantaneously resets to zero. Decorated with Côtes de Genève, circular graining, circular satin finishing and polished bezels, this beautiful movement can be admired via the aforementioned sapphire case back.
To complete the picture, this reference boasts a black alligator strap, with dial-echoing gold accents in the form of the strap’s stitching and the 18-carat yellow gold pin buckle, along with an additional black rubber strap.
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 42mm Black Ceramic
With its strikingly monochromatic take on the Royal Oak Offshore, achieved via a case and bracelet made entirely from ceramic (as well as the push-pieces at 2 and 4 o’clock and the screw-locked crown at 3 o’clock), this slightly smaller reference provides a striking counterpoint to its black and gold sibling.
Focusing on legibility, two large luminescent hour and minute hands sit centre stage, while each of this watch’s counters boast a white hand and white Arabic numerals. The dial features a circular date window (3 o’clock), small seconds (6 o’clock), chronograph minutes (9 o’clock), and chronograph hours (12 o’clock), sticking to the collection’s famous vertical arrangement. Plus it maintains the switching of the hour and small seconds counters introduced in 2021 to enable top-to-bottom reading of elapsed hours and minutes.
Powered by Audemars Piguet’s Calibre 4404, which features a column wheel and flyback function that allows it to be restarted without having to first stop and reset it, this monochromatic watch will challenge you to look at Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore offering in a new way.
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 43mm Black Ceramic
(Ref. 26420CE.OO.A005VE.01) Limited Edition of 500
Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is back on top thanks to his new Netflix show Fubar, it only seems fitting for Audemars Piguet to introduce a watch that pays homage to its 1999 “End of Days” collaboration with the Hollywood superstar. An enormous success at the time, it launched an ongoing tradition of special editions within the Royal Oak Offshore range.
Limited to just 500 pieces, this reference offers a sleek black aesthetic with yellow punctuation and adopts the 43 mm case introduced in 2020. Constructed from the same (hard-wearing but even harder to work with) ceramic as the other two models in this collection, it’s powered by the selfwinding Calibre 4401, again boasting a column wheel and flyback function.
The movement’s oscillating weight is visible through the sapphire crystal case back and has been crafted in 22-carat pink gold, although it’s been given an anthracite grey hue here via the NAC process. As with the rest of the collection, this reference’s case back reveals the movement’s refined decorations, which again include Côtes de Genève, circular graining, sunray finishing, circular satin finishing and polished bevels.
What sets this reference apart from its aforementioned brethren is the limited number that will be produced, as noted by the engraving of “Limited Edition of 500 Pieces” on its titanium case back.
Royal Oak Offshore 30th Anniversary Collection
Each of this trio is a welcome reminder of just what an extraordinary watch the Royal Oak Offshore was when it launched three decades ago and remains to this very day. By taking the deeply masculine aesthetic and detailed construction of the original Offshore design and enhancing it via modern watchmaking techniques, Audemars Piguet has produced another collection of watch that will make their own immutable mark in the horology history books. We just can’t wait to see what the 40th anniversary has in store.