When Audemars Piguet launched several 44 millimeter versions of the illustrious Royal Oak Offshore that was originally designed by the talented Emmanuel 'Manu' Gueit in 1989, I thought the original case diameter of this sporty watch would soon be a thing of the past. Thankfully, Audemars Piguet has decided not only to keep this size in the collection, but even introduce six new styles for 2014 – oddly enough one year after the 30th anniversary of the original launch.
The new Royal Oak Offshore models use the sturdy yet lightweight composite ceramics that is not only nine times harder than steel, but is furthermore almost scratch proof since it can be scratched only by a diamond. This is however nothing new for Audemars Piguet, as this material, inspired by the Formula 1 world, was already used for the iconic bezel, pushers and winding crown of the spectacular Royal Oak Offshore Rubens Barrichello II launched in 2007.
This year Audemars Piguet uses ceramics once again, although only for the chronograph pushers and winding crown and hence replacing the vulcanized rubber that has been used for the “rubber-clad” Royal Oak Offshores for almost a decade. The bezels of the new steel models are however in steel, not ceramics.
I sat down with Audemars Piguet‘s Head of Design, Octavio Garcia, to talk about the revamped Royal Oak Offshore.
K.H: Can you explain why you are concentrating on the original size of the Royal Oak Offshore?
O.C: “The 44 millimeter Royal Oak Offshore is established by now. Instead it was time to work on the 42 millimeter version. The Royal Oak Offshore is such an iconic piece. Many thought this size would be on its way out when the 44 millimeter was introduced, but we never even talked about this. However the launch of the 44 millimeter version of the Royal Oak Offshore pushed us to start rethinking the 42 millimeter version.”
You have gone for ceramic pushers and crowns, but a steel bezel. Can you explain this choice?
“Audemars Piguet is predominantly a manufacturer who prefers steel. Also, the original Royal Oak Offshore had a steel bezel and we wanted to keep this feature. We did not opt for a ceramic bezel, as the Safari and Navy models have become iconic for the Royal Oak Offshore collection, and we didn't want to change too much in the overall look of these two models. We were however tempted to add a ceramic bezel on the gold version”.
But why not opt for a cermet bezel instead of steel?
Cermet is a sensitive subject. It actually contains nickel, so we have decided not to use this material any longer.
The Royal Oak Offshore is still fitted with a non-integrated chronograph movement. When will we see an all inhouse chronograph movement from Audemars Piguet?
We have been specifically working for a number of years on a chronograph. It is in the pipeline, but we want it to be perfect, so we are tough on ourselves. Until it passes that bar it won't hit the streets. And I cannot at this point tell you when it will be ready. And believe me, it is not because we are lazy or a sleepy brand. But the central pillar for Audemars Piguet is also creativity and I work with Guilio Papi (editor’s note: of avant-garde movement maker company Renaud & Papi) and his team every day on very exciting projects. We're keeping it sharp, while also demanding high quality throughout.
I see you have introduced a transparent exhibition back as standard for the Royal Oak Offshore as well as pin buckles instead of folding clasps this year?
“Ahh, the exhibition back. Yes, I have been waiting for this one to be a standard feature of the Royal Oak Offshore and in terms of the pin buckle I see this as a better solution for a sporty watch. It gives you a better fit and is just in tune with the product. We have also radically changed the dial, since the numbers are smaller, the Audemars Piguet-logo is applied and the new dials are actually galvanic treated rather than just painted, thus making the pattern stand out much better.
No titanium Royal Oak Offshore yet?
“From my side it would have been logical, but we decided to to keep it all steel for this year. I see a titanium version becoming part of the core collection, but probably not until 2015.”
Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon
Audemars Piguet did however use ceramics for more that just pushers on two new models: the first is the 44 millimeter Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon that features a bold titanium case and a white ceramic bezel. The model is not new per se, as the first Royal Oak Concept design was launched in 2002 as a 30th-anniversary tribute to Audemars Piguet’s legendary octagonal Royal Oak.
The black version of the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon from 2011 is the older brother of this year's launch which makes a strong contrast with its bright white ceramic bezel, pushers and winding crown. Movement-wise, however, the Manufacture has now gone one step further and incorporated ceramics into the movement itself, replacing the blackened aluminum upper bridge of the manual wound Calibre 2913 driving the black 2011 version with hand satin-bruhsed and polished white ceramics. As a result, the new Calibre 2930 with its ten-day power reserve is visually transformed, with its hourglass-shaped bridge further enlivened by the double symmetry of the tourbillon bridges and GMT display.
The Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon features a white rubber strap with titanium Audemars Piguet folding clasp.
Royal Oak Offshore Diver
Since the Royal Oak Offshore Diver was released not only as a limited edition, but as a part of the normal annual production in 2011, the Manufacturer has used ceramics for both case and bezel. So it is no surprise that 2014 sees an all-white version of this sporty diver's watch using white ceramics not only for the bezel, but also for the case, the winding crown and the dedicated crown on the upper left side of the case for turning the inner bezel.
The studs connecting the strap to the case are made of titanium. “We initially wanted to use white ceramics, but it becomes too bland. Too much white on white. Instead we went for a contrast,” Garcia explains.
The Royal Oak Offshore Diver has a diameter of 42 millimeters and is offered with a matching white rubber strap secured by a titanium C-buckle. This model is reserved for the boutiques.
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