The case of “go big, or go home” has not always proved successful in the horology world — that is until Audemars Piguet jolted a conservative industry that had gradually slumped into the design doldrums. Although oversized watches struck many people as inappropriate after a global economic downturn in the late 2000s, the Royal Oak Offshore turned things around and remained a bestseller, partly because the Manufacture had begun using it for limited editions featuring pop culture figures including LeBron James, Tom Brady and Jay-Z.
Released in 1993, the first generation of Royal Oak Offshore was given the moniker “The Beast” for its impressive 42mm proportions, especially at that time. It was conceived by the watchmaker's in-house designer Emmanuel Gueit to commemorate the brand's 20th anniversary.
Audemars Piguet has always maintained a 42mm of the chronograph, which was re-introduced in 2014, but a new launch has been released in a case size of 43mm. The latest line-up — consisting of five models honed from titanium, 18-carat pink gold and stainless steel — not only represents the first redesign of the Royal Oak Offshore since the evolution of the 44mm collection in the early 2000s, but it also showcases an evolved case and dial for optimum aesthetics and ergonomics. Housed within is the Manufacture’s updated integrated flyback chronograph, Calibre 4401. Last but not least, a new interchangeable strap system adds to the convenience of changing straps easily.
At first glance, the new model may bear a close resemblance to the original Gueit design but an up-close inspection will reveal key changes: The case presents larger polished chamfers on the edge, while the bezel as well as the screw-locked crown and chronograph push-pieces follow a slight curvature for more visual appeal. A satin-brushed finishing adorns the bezel, which is fitted seamlessly with a glare-proof sapphire crystal curved from 6 to 12 o’clock.
Audemars Piguet has also extended its design acumen to improve the dial. Available in black, grey, taupe and blue, it features a newly styled Méga Tapisserie pattern with the release of the 43mm size. The pyramids composing the Tapisserie have been further enhanced and are now connected to one another with a raised cross pattern to add depth to the dial. Topping them off are the squares that have been finished with satin-brushing to match with the case’s bold aesthetics. In contrast to the Petite Tapisserie, which is done by a computer controlled guilloché machine, the Méga Tapisserie is stamped on the dial.
This trademark dial design may have evolved in parallel with the popular 42mm line but it is the current evolution of the Méga Tapisserie in the 43mm that stuns. The criss-cross Tapisserie pattern on the newly designed case is one of the most powerful and sophisticated aesthetic yet.
Having said that, the most prominent change on the dial is the rearrangement of the chronograph counters to improve legibility. Made possible by the new chronograph movement, the minute counter now appears at 9 o’clock while the hour counter is positioned at 3 o’clock. On the other hand, the date window has been shifted nearer to the inner bezel between 4 and 5 o’clock. The hands have been retouched slightly to look bolder and assertive, as is the logo, now in applied gold AP initials instead of the brand signature in full.
While Audemars Piguet took great effort to design these 43mm models, it took even greater precision and attention to develop a highly complex integrated chronograph movement. The aforementioned Calibre 4401, which first appeared in the brand’s Code 11.59 chronograph, is equipped with a column wheel and the flyback function that enables it to restart the chronograph without stopping or resetting it. This self-winding chronograph — which has 70 hours of power reserve and water resistance up to 100m — also features a vertical clutch system that prevents hands from jumping when the chronograph is started or stopped. The timepiece’s beating heart can be equally admired through the sapphire caseback, revealing a blackened 22-carat pink gold oscillating weight and refined decorations, including “Côtes de Genève”, “traits tirés” and circular graining.
Watch aficionados who prefer variety will revel in the Manufacture’s new interchangeable strap feature, with a quick-release system that allows wearers to switch up their style. One only needs to press the two pushers on the underside of the strap to detach it from the case.
The new collection presents two models combining a stainless steel case with a bezel, push-pieces and a screw-locked crown, all crafted in black ceramics. The first model tinkers with the case’s two-tone contrast, adorned with a black Méga Tapisserie dial enriched with rhodium-toned counters and comes with a black interchangeable rubber strap, as well as a second brown interchangeable calfskin strap. In the second stainless steel model, a smoked light brown “Méga Tapisserie” dial, with black chronograph counters and inner bezel, is paired with a light brown interchangeable rubber strap. A second black interchangeable rubber strap is also available.
On the lighter side of things, the Manufacture has also introduced two titanium models hand-finished with satin-brushing and polished chamfered. An all-titanium case with black ceramic push-pieces and screw-locked crown graces the first model, juxtaposed against a blue Méga Tapisserie dial. Illuminating the inner bezel is the rhodium-toned chronograph counters. The timepiece is matched with a blue interchangeable rubber strap, or an additional black rubber strap option.
A grey version makes up the second titanium variant, in which the Méga Tapisserie dial has been enhanced by blue chronograph counters and a blue inner bezel. A grey interchangeable rubber strap and a second blue interchangeable rubber strap complement the watch.
The collection culminates with an 18-carat pink gold case with a black ceramic bezel, both decorated with satin-brushing and polished chamfers. Audemars Piguet are pulling out all the stops in this last model: If you thought the push-piece guards in sandblasted 18-carat pink gold were stunning, wait until you take a gander at the bezel matched with a black “Méga Tapisserie” dial adorned with rhodium-toned chronograph counters that create a sporty elegance. The AP logo, hours, minutes, central chronograph seconds hand, and applied hour markers are all fashioned from pink gold as well. A black interchangeable rubber strap, as well as a black interchangeable alligator strap alternative, add to the finishing touch.
With this Royal Oak Offshore 43mm collection, Audemars Piguet has proven once again that its longstanding heritage and watchmaking spirit are inextricably linked, even if it does not play by the horology industry rulebook. Befitting its ancestral savoir-faire and forward-thinking philosophy, the watchmaker is truly a wrist-taker, through and through.
The Audemars Piguet boutique will reopen at Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur from November, 2021. See more here.