Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore has had a bountiful year. This collection, when introduced in 1993, ramped up the Royal Oak’s sports factor, adding an edge and elemental wow to an already iconic design. This year, for the collection as a whole, Audemars Piguet introduces a whole new design sensibility for the Royal Oak Offshore with a new 43mm case which falls in-between the collection’s previously entrenched 42mm and 44mm sizes. It is host to a series of subtle changes that update the Royal Oak Offshore’s look without compromising any of its hallmark design elements. The edges have larger polished chamfers, while the bezel and sapphire crystal are vertically curved. The pushers and crown also have a subtle curvature, while the pusher guards are deeply cut to increase the presence of the pushers themselves. The overall look, while not drastically removed from the established Royal Oak Offshore (the iconic octagonal bezel is very much intact), is distinctly more modern by way of a sleek sense of streamlining.
This next generation of Royal Oak Offshore has been solidified with a collection of new Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronographs with the new case diameter. The refreshed case is exhibited in fine fashion, finished in the brand’s trademark style of alternating polished and satin-brushed surfaces to enhance the play of light. It is available in titanium, pink gold or stainless steel with the former available in full titanium or combined with a grey ceramic bezel, and the latter two featuring black ceramic bezels for a two-tone execution. It is also equipped with the Manufacture’s new interchangeable strap system which has since been rolled out across the line-up: integrated directly into the case’s studs and buckle, it allows simple, speedy changes and outfit matching. The double-push system is also reassuringly secure.
Its internals have likewise been updated: Calibre 4401 is the Manufacture’s latest in-house integrated selfwinding chronograph movement, with flyback function. Its architecture boasts a column wheel and vertical clutch which ensures the hands remain stable during starts and stops. It also includes a patented zeroing system that ensures the hands will precisely return to zero. Its action can be observed through the display caseback along with the blackened pink gold rotor.
In terms of dial aesthetics, the iconic ‘Mega Tapisserie’ dial is back, sharpened and tweaked to offer greater contrast and show off its fine finishing. Its hands and markers are redesigned for stronger presence, and the full signature is dropped for the large ‘AP’ logo. The layout of the chronograph is also unconventional, with the minute counter at 9 o’clock, hour counter at 3 o’clock, and small seconds at 6 o’clock.
This new 43mm case was first sighted in June on a limited edition of 100 pieces of the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph. It is the first Royal Oak Offshore to sport this set of complications; Calibre 2967 is an aesthetically reworked version of the movement first seen last year as part of the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet collection. It mates a selfwinding flying tourbillon with a flyback chronograph, and is dressed up with bridges and inserts in black PVD and titanium that serve as a dial.
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These refreshed Royal Oak Offshores join another collection update: in March, the Manufacture released three new stainless steel-cased Royal Oak Offshore Divers. Housing yet another new in-house movement, Calibre 4308, it features a 4Hz beat rate, a 3 o’clock date window and a patented setting mechanism that makes time adjustments more precise and stable.
The dial retains the ‘Mega Tapisserie’ pattern, while the hands and markers have been redesigned with a truncated, broader profile. The hour hand in particular will be a calling card for this watch — its stout surface has three lengthwise stripes of luminescent coating. At 12 o’clock, the full signature bearing ‘Audemars Piguet’ is updated with the larger applied gold ‘AP’ logo. Otherwise, the watch remains 42mm in diameter and of course remains a true diving instrument with a unidirectional internal bezel operated by the ceramic crown at 10 o’clock and a 300m water resistance. Each of the three colours — khaki, grey and blue — comes with a matching rubber strap, with an additional black or blue one also provided, so the interchangeable strap system (which actually debuted with this release) can be tried out immediately.
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Across these three key moments of 2021, watchmaking aficionados would have witnessed this new design language of the Royal Oak Offshore furthering the idea of what it represents. The original 1993 inspiration heralded something new for Audemars Piguet — something bigger, bolder, and more experimental, and it rode the wave of popularity enjoyed by oversized watches that crested in the late 1990s and 2000s. But now, even if the demand for such statement pieces remains high — and the Royal Oak Offshore in particular continues to thrive for the Manufacture — designs from that era are showing their age. This year’s redesign smooths these rough edges over, preparing the Royal Oak Offshore for another few decades as a platform for audacity and innovation.