The first part of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore to be invented was its name, reflecting the brand’s involvement in offshore motorboat racing, a loud new sport flourishing in the hedonistic atmosphere of the 1980s. This sums up every unconventional feature of this bold, brave timepiece, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and that has never played by the rules.
Audemars Piguet was already planning a new watch range in 1989, so registering the name was natural. However, young designer Emmanuel Gueit suggested boosting the proportions of the very successful Royal Oak and adding the ultimate sports-watch signifier, a chronograph. The construction of the outsized case, with its compressed rubber gasket for water resistance to 100 metres and crown caps for protection, was complex, and it was finally unveiled at the 1993 Baselworld fair.
It was divisive. The Royal Oak averaged 36 millimetres at the time – this was 42 millimetres. Traditional buyers found it flashy and oversized, but the younger generation thought it a highly desirable talking point to suit a modern man’s luxury lifestyle. It was nicknamed “the Beast”, but by adding smaller sizes, including a surprise women’s version, complications and gem setting, Audemars Piguet turned the tide and by 2010 outsize watches became the norm. It was also helped by the introduction of celebrity limited editions, kicked off by Arnold Schwarzenegger, friend of the brand, who helped design a version in 1999. As well as collaborating on further editions, Schwarzenegger started a trend for other celebrities in the worlds of entertainment, music and sport to lend their names to their own special version of the watch, such as Jay-Z, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal, to name but a few.
The Royal Oak represents sleek, sophisticated sports chic while the Royal Oak Offshore takes tough materials into the stratosphere with titanium, ceramic, carbon fibre and many more. This is certainly the case in the three Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronographs released to mark the 30th anniversary of the collection. Masterpieces in demonstrating Audemars Piguet’s command of materials and colours, the trio below are all united by the use of ceramic, which is of increasing interest to watchmakers for its qualities. Lightweight, yet hard and incredibly resistant it is the perfect material for the ultimate sport watch.
The Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 42mm Black Ceramic (Ref. 26238CE.OO.1300CE.01) is the first to have a black ceramic case and bracelet, with titanium clasp, black subdials, a classic black Petite Tapisserie pattern dial, white gold hour markers and hands with luminescence, black ceramic push-pieces and details on the dial in white. There is also the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 43mm Black Ceramic (Hero photo; Ref. 26420CE.OO.A127CR.01) with yellow gold details and a "Méga Tapisserie" dial. Last, there is the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 43mm Black Ceramic (Ref. 26420CE.OO.A005VE.01), a limited edition with yellow details and stitching, recalling Schwarzenegger’s 1999 End of Days model (limited to 500 pieces). All exude restraint, quality and power, in keeping with a more serious age and fit for the most active lives embarking on the next thirty years.
To discover more about the Royal Oak Offshore Collection, visit Swiss Concept at 90 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000.