Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph: Both Beauty And Beast
by Martin Green
There was a time, not even that long ago, that when Audemars Piguet added the word Offshore to a Royal Oak and you wanted to wear it you were better off upgrading your subscription to the gym.
When the Royal Oak Offshore launched in 1993 its timing was perfect: the bolder, larger, louder sibling of the Royal Oak was one of the trailblazers of the oversized watch trend. Nearly three decades later, this large sizing has mellowed down a bit.
Substantial watches are still en vogue, yet their dimensions have become slightly more compact. Audemars Piguet has already played into this in the recent past with the launch of Royal Oak Offshore Chronographs in both 42 and 43 mm. The millimeters “less” do surprisingly little to the perception of the timepiece unless you have a substantially large wrist.
As Audemars Piguet maintained a certain thickness – or should I call it muscle tissue? – the character of the Royal Oak Offshore isn’t diminished at all while its wearing comfort is increased by these changes.
When it comes to flexing horological muscles, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph is quite easily one of the most imposing biceps in the room.
Not just because it is a Royal Oak Offshore, but also because it combines a flying tourbillon with a chronograph function, which has the added value of substantial bragging rights – not in the least because they look good.
Audemars Piguet splendidly went for the middle ground – for the Offshore collection, that is – and made the case 43 mm in diameter. By using titanium for the case and bezel, the designers reduced the overall weight while further advancing wearing comfort.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph: a visual delight
A high-tech, industrial, slightly imposing look is created by sandblasting the case and bezel, both outlined by polished edges. It even gets something of an aggressive touch with the angular design of the black ceramic pushers residing on each side of the crown.
These elements make the watch very good-looking, much in the same way a high-performance sports car is good looking with its spoilers and air intakes. It also sets the stage for the partially skeletonized dial. Audemars Piguet found a pleasant balance between the legibility of the different functions and showing part of the movement that powers them.
Moreover, it also found a style that differs from its less complex Offshore siblings and is closer to that of the Royal Oak Concept collection. In that sense, it is building bridges. But most of all, it allows this model to hold its own ground.
While the design may be pleasing, the complications are somewhat at odds with each other. It is almost like they fight over which is the most important, with the flying tourbillon clearly coming out on top. It dominates the lower part of the dial, forcing the subdials for the chronograph to move upward.
As this Royal Oak Offshore is fitted with rather substantial hands, they cover a significant part of the subdials when they’re in the top half of the dial. As the watch is still 15.5 mm thick, Audemars Piguet has quite a bit of height to play with and uses it well with a cone-shaped chapter ring to mark the minutes and seconds and the deep metal flanges in the dial outlining the openings.
Also, the part of the gear train visible between and through the subdials helps to make looking at this Royal Oak Offshore a very pleasing experience. In my opinion, even more satisfying than its 44 mm sibling with the same complications.
The back looks slightly more conventional but is nonetheless definitely not a disappointment. Here we also best see the resemblance to the other 2021 GPHG-nominated Audemars Piguet with which the Royal Oak Offshore shares a variation of the movement, the Code 11.59 Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph competing in the tourbillon category.
It is quite impressive that Audemars Piguet put so much time and effort into creating such visual differences between the two movements, which are technically identical aside from their winding types. This should be expected, especially at a price point that can buy you a new Porsche 911 Turbo. But I have noticed that some brands don’t live up to this expectation. Audemars Piguet simply doesn’t go by this and maintains its high standards, also by individually numbering each of the 100 pieces that make up this limited edition.
One hundred pieces of such a complex, high-end watch still seems to be a very substantial amount, but I think today’s frothy market can easily absorb them. In fact, I believe that Audemars Piguet will probably have to disappoint a considerable number of its clients wanting one. This is good and bad news as it will likely also condemn this superb timepiece to a life as a safe queen in many cases.
That is a true pity as the brand worked so hard to make it an outstanding watch to enjoy on a daily basis. Not only in terms of looks, size, and materials, but also with a water resistance of 100 meters, which means that you don’t have to worry if it gets wet.
It even comes with Audemars Piguet’s convenient quick-change strap system, which allows you to change between them in a matter of seconds without tools. This Royal Oak Offshore comes with a black rubber strap and a slightly more elegant black alligator example.
While it never comes close to becoming a dress watch, the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph does a mighty fine job of outlining how the complicated future of this line may evolve, and it’s a very pleasing direction in which Audemars Piguet is taking it.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/com/en/watch-collection/royal-oak-offshore.
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph
Case: 43 x 15.5 mm, titanium, water resistant to 100 m
Movement: manual winding Caliber 2967 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 65-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; flyback chronograph
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: 260,000 Swiss francs
Remark: quick-change strap system