Among the myriad releases we expect to see from Audemars Piguet this year, few are as anticipated as watches made to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore. The Offshore has always stood on its own as the unapologetically burly, often weird, and even sometimes unwieldy sibling of the Royal Oak family. That is until today. With the announcement of the newest Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph in black ceramic alongside a brand-new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT, two very wild and intense watches.
The newest Royal Oak Concept (ROC) is, as all the concepts are, a particular beast representing the brand’s most futuristic watchmaking. Despite the “RD” name of the Research and Development watches from recent years, the Concept line has long been the main platform for Audemars Piguet’s R&D experimentation, and the new cutting-edge movement, the selfwinding Calibre 4407, is yet another example. Based on the integrated flyback chronograph movement calibre 4401, launched in a Code 11.59 in 2019, the new movement was modified to combine a flyback chronograph, split seconds, GMT function, and large date at 12 on the dial. The dial itself is quintessential ROC, with depth and sportiness from the rounded openings cut out from a single German silver plate, finished with sandblasted black PVD and polished rhodium-toned bevels. The hands and hour markers are white gold and the hour-markers, hands, counters, large date, and GMT day/night disc have a luminescent coating. The whole package is finished with red and yellow accents, respectively marking the chronograph and GMT functions for a pop of color.
All this comes in a new 43mm sandblasted titanium case with the Concepts collection’s first interchangeable strap system. And while it’s a massive 17.4mm size, you still have the ergonomics that make the Concept both visually compelling and what AP calls “surprisingly wearable,” albeit obviously very much a statement piece with a statement price of CHF 150,000. Only 150 pieces will be made each year. The other release isn’t the first Tourbi-Chrono Offshore of its kind, but it comes with a bunch of design decisions that makes it feel more like the quintessential bright and colorful Offshore than previous iterations.
The new release cues from a 2021 Limited Edition offshore – including the caliber 2952 flying tourbillon flyback chronograph movement used in the Code 11.59 in 2020 – and cranks it up a notch. Instead of the previous relatively low-key design and color palette, Audemars Piguet has gone with a brand new, state-of-the-art ceramic case with anodized green inner bezel and green anodized inner bevels on the bridges supporting the dial and movement architecture on the front. At the rear is a black ceramic caseback, a first for the 43mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore lineup, and glare-proofed sapphire on the back to admire the blackened 22-carat pink gold oscillating weight.
The case is fully hand-finished with satin brushing and hand-polished chamfers. In addition to the flying tourbillon, you have two translucent chronograph counters punctuated by a black ring around each to read your timing measurements while not obstructing too much of the finishing on the movement underneath. Finally, the watch comes on a green rubber strap that matches the dial accents, with a super-slick quick-release system integrated into the case that allows you to switch to a black rubber strap that’s provided with the watch.
Still limited to 100 pieces, the newest Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph is a whopping CHF 285,000 and is limited to 100 pieces.
Putting aside the new Royal Oak Concept for a moment, I can’t help but think that Audemars Piguet might have just released the watch that will make me finally fall in love with the Offshore, three decades after its initial release.
As a lover of historical Audemars Piguet designs, it’s taken me a long time to come around to the idea of the Offshore. The line of watches had its moment in the sun with a ton of hype in the early-aughts long before the “Jumbo” came back in vogue, but I never really understood why. Meanwhile the Concept, for whatever reason, was something that I could easily put in its own space. It’s a watch for experimentation – a cool and dramatic-looking hypercar that you might see in pictures only.
I could talk all day about AP’s vintage ultra-thin dress watches, the 13 ligne movements, or their ultra-thin perpetual calendars – not to mention the iconic design of the Royal Oak. All of these designs were about balance and harmony. But – and maybe I’m stretching to hope I have anything in common with the late, great Gérald Genta who famously accused the Offshore’s designer Emmanuel Gueit of ruining Genta’s work on the Royal Oak– the “Méga Tapisserie” dials and bulbous numerals make me feel like someone selected the dial in Microsoft Word and then changed the font to Comic Sans. Sure, the watch was made to stand out for the sake of standing out, but is that all it could be?
There have been flashes of brilliance – 2021’s Offshore Diver Khaki was a personal favorite, as is the audacity to make a Grande Complication skeleton Offshore with a hilarious “don’t you dare take me into heavy rain” 20m water resistance for an Offshore – but nothing ever struck home for me. But it was a winning formula for AP, a blessing and a curse that has proven hard to break over the years.