Everything that can be said has been said about the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – its introduction in 1972, as a watch more expensive than any gold dress watches from the same era, an exquisite mix of luxury and sportiness, elegantly designed by Gerald Genta and a product that is now an icon. At the time of its launch, who could have thought about such a long life for the AP RO? However, the story still goes on and Audemars Piguet keeps impressing us with some editions like the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher – or with the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph, a mix between two different faces of the brand: the robust sports watches and the Haute Horlogerie movements.
What is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph about? This watch was revealed during the 2014 Edition of Watches & Wonders (a growing watch fair, a.k.a the little SIHH from Hong-Kong) as an evolution of an existing model. Not only the watch evolved visually but it also came with a brand new movement, mixing a tourbillon regulator, a superb chronograph and an innovative winding mechanism, all together in the rugged and masculine case of the Royal Oak Offshore.
Like you can guess from its name, the Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph by AP is an evolution of the Royal Oak Offshore. The ROO (as nicknamed by the watch-nerds) is an even more sporty edition of AP’s emblematic watch, launched in 1993, with a 42mm case, a more robust design and the addition in (almost) all edition of a chronograph (except for the Diver edition). This watch has seen its design slightly evolve in 2014, with six new editions. Audemars-Piguet does not only bring simple movements to this watch but also implements serious watchmaking, with for instance a Grand Complication edition (Perpetual Calendar + Split-Seconds Chronograph + Minute Repeater). Well, this one is not in the catalog anymore but there’s another one that can compete for the title of the Ultimate sports watch: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph you have in front of you.
Design-wise, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph is not very different from the 2011 edition – you can see a comparison between the old and new editions here. The overall shape and finish of the case remain similar, with a main part made of forged carbon and measuring 44mm x 14mm. The octagonal bezel with 8 white gold screws is here made of brushed black ceramic, a material also used for the crown and the pushers surrounded by a large and protruding protection piece made of titanium. A black rubber strap (with the usual RO design) complements this massive, robust but not so indelicate design. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph is clearly a very masculine and sporty watch but it’s not entirely denied of a certain elegance and modernity, coming from the use of highly technical materials and a mix of grey and black colours.
Considering the 44mm announced on paper, the watch wears surprisingly well, the extra 2mm in diameter coming from the protection piece on the right side – the height of this Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph remaining the same as a normal 42mm Offshore Chronograph. It’s impressive and massive but far from being uncomfortable and unwearable too. The dial has also been upgraded on this 2014 edition, compared to the 2011 one. The “mega tapisserie” pattern remains but the two sub-counters are now black and not white anymore. Something else that seems quite strange at first sight: their very small diameter (much smaller than before), as well as the odd location of the AP logo. This is all due to the new movement and its visible and innovative winding mechanism.
The dial, that sports a one-minute tourbillon at 6, is surrounded by a peripheral rotor (a rotor that isn’t fixed in the middle of the movement like any other classical watches). This rotor occupies 180 degrees and rotates on 360 degrees is made of platinum (for a better size / weight ratio). It can be seen moving around the dial through a sapphire ring (that is printed with the minute track) and it is linked to a wheel (at 1 on the dial) connected to the barrel, thus winding the movement. This technical solution has one main advantage: offering a complete view on the movement, like if it was manually-wound.
Without any rotor hiding the view (but with the comfort of an automatic watch), you can have this view… and admittedly, it would have been a shame not to enjoy the beauty of these bridges, levers and wheels. The look of the movement of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph is highly technical and modern, mainly because of the finish applied on the flat surfaces. No Geneva stripes of perlages here but rather some sandblasted and grained plates – something that actually fits well the overall concept of the watch. This modern treatment doesn’t prevent the Calibre 2897 to be perfectly executed, with Haute Horlogerie standards. The bridges are chamfered with sharp angles, the levers and the wheels feature polished beveled angles, the screws are finished by hand as well as the column wheel. Furthermore, the layout is both traditional and modern. Definitely a very nice movement.
The Calibre 2897 of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph comprises 335 individual components (including 34 jewels), offers 65 hours of power reserve and comes with a column-wheel. Together with the finish, the functions (a tourbillon is always something highly desirable) and the innovative winding mechanism, it’s quite a movement we have here. As usual, this engine comes from the mind of Mister Papi, APRP (Audemars Piguet Renaud Papi).
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph is a limited edition of only 50 pieces. It’s an impressive piece, bold and masculine without being too rugged and large. It’s movement with a modern execution as well as the materials used for the case creates a very technical and yet traditional package. Price: 273,000 USD.