In September 2021, Audemars Piguet introduced two new models to its Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph line-up. Decked out in light blue or khaki, there are plenty of novelties on the dial and in the strap department, but above all, the big news is the incorporation of Audemars Piguet’s latest automatic flyback chronograph movement, calibre 4404. As always, it’s the characteristic mix of sporty toughness with refined details that has made the Royal Oak Offshore one of the most coveted watches in the luxury sports watch market.
With sizes ranging from 37mm all the way up to a whopping 45mm for the impressive ROO Tourbillon Chronograph, the Royal Oak Offshore is a well-represented collection with everything from a Grande Complication to bejewelled chronographs and 300m water-resistant divers.
Regardless of size, the dynamic architecture of the ROO is what lends this watch its sporty, virile presence, a watch that received the nickname “The Beast” when it was unveiled at Baselworld 1993. Like the Royal Oak of 1972, the Royal Oak Offshore of 1993 (ref. 25721ST) was as daring and defiant a proposal as Gérald Genta’s creation, the watch that launched the concept of the luxury sports watch. Measuring a colossal 42mm, the ROO was an oversized, ripped watch bristling with textures and bold combinations of materials. As an offshoot of Genta’s iconic Royal Oak, the ROO paid homage to the legend with hallmark design features like the raised octagonal bezel and exposed screws, the guilloché tapisserie dial, the integrated bracelet and the overall industrial design mood. However, the ROO was beefier and bolder than the RO and rigged with materials not associated with high-end watchmaking. Beyond its enormous proportions, what shocked many conservative watch lovers was the daring “deconstructed” exposure of the black rubber gasket between the case and the bezel and rubber sheathing the chronograph pushers and crown. Revisited in 2018 for its 25th anniversary and again in 2021, “The Beast” no longer provokes such radical reactions and has become a stable member of AP’s portfolio.
hallmark Royal Oak Offshore Case
Available in either stainless steel (blue dial) or ultra-resistant titanium (khaki), the case is hallmark ROO with a black rubber screw-down crown, gasket, and push-pieces. Similar to the original, the diameter is 42mm, the height is 15.2mm, and the pushers are round and flanked by sturdy angular guards. The mighty raised octagonal bezel and case display a sporty satin-brushed finishing contrasting with the eight polished and aligned 18k white gold screws and the polished bevels. Fitted with a glare-proofed sapphire crystal over the dial and caseback, the water-resistance is 100m.
Spot the difference
Where we do begin to notice subtle changes is on the dial. As a brand that does not shy away from colour – see this electric blue ceramic ROO or this frosted gold RO model with a wild purple dial – the choice of khaki for the titanium is not radical, but the light blue model with orange and black sub-dials certainly stands out.
Both dials are decorated with AP’s “Mega Tapisserie”, the larger squared pattern of the Royal Oak Offshore line, differing from the smaller and tighter “Petite Tapisserie” from vintage models and “Grande Tapisserie” that falls between the two. The khaki green Mega Tapisserie background hosts silver-toned counters with black printed markings, while the blue dial hosts black counters with orange and white markings. The white gold Arabic numerals, hour markers and Royal Oak hands are all treated with luminescence. A tachymeter scale, in matching khaki colour with white markings for the khaki model, and black with white and orange markings for the blue model, is displayed on the internal flange. So far, nothing exceptionally different.
Hang on; something has changed with the vertical counter display. Beady-eyed ROO fans will immediately have noticed that the position of the 12-hour chronograph counter and the running seconds have switched places, meaning the 12-hour counter is now at noon and the seconds are at 6 o’clock. A good decision that not only enhances the legibility of the chronograph functions but also relocates the small seconds to its more traditional 6 o’clock position.
But there is more, and it will take a very trained eye to spot this difference. Compared to the previous 42mm Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph, the counters are now equidistant to the centre, adding more balance to the dial. If you’re not convinced, look at how the applied index at 12 o’clock is truncated, matching the size of the index at 6 o’clock. In the Bucherer model, the top index is larger than the bottom index.
Moving to the right side of the dial, you will notice that the applied AP logo is no longer accompanied by the brand name spelt out in full and that the date window has been fitted with a magnifying glass directly integrated into the dial.
However, the biggest and obviously most important novelty is the incorporation of Audemars Piguet’s new automatic integrated chronograph calibre 4404. First introduced in Code 11.59, the calibre 44xx is a modern, technically advanced movement that initially came with a classic 3-6-9 layout. In order to retain the signature 6-9-12 display, it had to be adapted. Other than that, the specifications are familiar. We’re looking at a self-winding chronograph movement with a column wheel and vertical clutch, as well as a flyback function that lets you stop, reset and start the chronograph in one simple action. The activation of the pushers is smooth, and a patented zero resetting mechanism ensures that the hands of the chronograph counters instantaneously reset to zero.
This large 32mm diameter 433-part movement is visible through the caseback, including the reset mechanism with three aligned hammers. The decoration features straight and circular satin brushing, Geneva stripes, perlage on both sides and large polished chamfers. Running at a 4Hz frequency, it packs 70 hours of power reserve and is wound by a 22k pink gold oscillating weight.
Both models are fitted with Audemars Piguet’s new interchangeable strap system. By simply clicking the pushers on the reverse side of the case, the strap is released. The light blue and khaki models come with a textured rubber strap to match the dial colour and are delivered with an additional black calfskin leather strap. It’s clever how design touches like the indented channels on the rubber strap that taper from the lugs produce an ‘integrated’ effect that is even more marked with the bracelet option that seems to flow seamlessly from the two lug attachments. The website has a configurator to view the watch with different strap options, including the titanium or steel bracelet with a folding clasp.
The two references of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 42mm (26238TI.OO.A056CA.01 khaki and 26238ST.OO.A340CA.01 blue) retail for EUR 33,000.
For more information, please visit Audemars Piguet’sofficial website.