30th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore: Pride of the Nation?
In this seventh installment marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore collection, of all the episodes (listed at the bottom of this article), this subject touches me the least positively. Why didn’t I just give up on this topic?
Firstly, as a trained scientist, I can’t simply refuse to describe a phenomenon that I don’t like for one reason or another.
Secondly, another question that attracts me to all this work is: how diverse and interesting is ROO? It seems to me that the name “Pride of [Nation],” even if it doesn’t seem very relevant to me, adds another facet to the image of ROO.
One could come up with another generic name for these limited editions, but I have a theory that François-Henry Bennahmias, who invented this series or at least approved its appearance, opted for a simple trick.
It’s usually a pretty transparent ploy when a good salesman says: if you buy this product, you’re a cool guy.
Or some other similar statement. For example: “you have good taste”, “you look great with it”, “your friends will certainly appreciate it”, “it raises your status, just show yourself off with a watch like this.” The trick obviously works well: a total of six limited editions of the “Pride of” were produced (well, seven if we count the RO “Pride of China’ edition), and the last one in 2019, when the series seemed to finally closed.
So this time we’re taking a closer look at the watches from the “Pride of” series, which means we’re talking about the embodiment of symbols of national pride in luxury sports watches.
It is to Audemars Piguet’s credit that this watch brand wisely and tactfully proposes to consider national pride as a feature of one’s inner worldview, to show one’s feelings with restraint and not to put national symbols in the foreground. On the dial, that is.
Let’s go back to 2005 when it all began. It is interesting that in the same year, a series of diving ROOs was introduced, and just a year earlier ROOs were dedicated to Formula 1.
It is also interesting to note that the “Pride of” series began with an edition in honor of Russia. The initiator of the release of the first two Royal Oak Offshore ‘Pride of Russia’ models was the then head of Audemars Piguet’s American division, François-Henry Bennahmias, who is the current (as announced, until the end of December this year) CEO of the company.
Since Bennahmias has become the focus of our attention, let’s look at the results of his leadership in the context of the topic under discussion.
Since he has been at the helm of Audemars Piguet, he has purposefully reduced the number of limited editions produced for each occasion – not only for ROO, but also for all other collections – in favor of special boutique models distributed exclusively through the brand’s own or affiliated retail network.
However, it was Bennahmias’s idea that led to the introduction of the “Pride of” limited editions. The Russian theme was realized in two models: rose gold with a silver-plated dial (200 pieces) and white gold with a blue dial (50 pieces).
The caseback is decorated with a medallion with a relief of a double-headed eagle and the inscription ‘Royal Oak Offshore Pride of Russia Limited Edition’, but that was all, there were no obvious signs of patriotism on the front of the watch.
The national emblem is noteworthy, as a special version of the 18th-century image of the Russian eagle drawn by an unknown Swiss artist was found for this watch.
A new dial was specially designed for this watch, with a skeletonized version of the original Royal Oak Offshore hour and minute hands and a wide brushed chapter ring below the Arabic numerals surrounding the central zone, which is decorated with the signature petite tapisserie relief.
The skeletonized hands of the Royal Oak Offshore are an extremely rare design element in the collection; it is quite possible that the two ‘Pride of Russia’ references are the only ones in the collection to have this feature.
In its press release, the company explained that the introduction of the watches took place on the occasion of the opening of the Audemars Piguet brand boutique in Moscow (which is currently closed) on Kuznetsky Most Street, but that the official presentation of the watch and the launch party took place at the Rasputin nightclub in New York, USA.
On this occasion, the official representative of the brand in Russia at the time expressed his surprise and displeasure, as the launch of this edition had not been agreed with him in any way. For this reason, the official distribution of the watches in Russia was not carried out.
The next edition of the “Pride of” series was released just five years later, in 2010. A lot has changed at Audemars Piguet. Georges-Henri Meylan, the former head of the brand, stepped down at the end of 2008 and handed over the reins to Philippe Merk for just over three years.
However, François-Henry Bennahmias remained in charge of the American subsidiary, which was responsible for Mexico and the countries and states of the Caribbean region.
The occasion for the release of new models in the “Pride of” series was the 200th anniversary of the independence of Mexico, which took up the fight against the Spanish colonial authorities in 1810 while European countries were preoccupied with the Napoleonic Wars.
Compared to the Russian edition of 2005, the Mexican edition has clearly patriotic features on the dial.
The colors of the Mexican tricolor – green, white and red – can be found on the dials of both models. The Arabic numerals (hour indices) were filled with green luminous material, and the stitching of the ROO collection’s hornback crocodile strap, which was made from the part of the skin on which the high reliefs of the scales are located, was also made with green thread.
The hour and minute hands were made to glow with white mass, and the central seconds hand of the chronograph was painted red. However, this three-tone color scheme should not be considered obtrusive; we can imagine it being found on non-limited references as well.
There is also a medallion on the caseback of the ‘Pride of Mexico’. However, you won’t find the expected image of an eagle sitting on a rock on a nopal cactus and devouring a snake foretold by the fearsome Aztec deity Vitzliputzli – this image is Mexico’s national emblem.
Instead, it shows the Angel of Independence – the name given in Mexico to the statue of the Greek goddess Nike that crowns the Column of Independence, which was erected in the Mexican capital in 1910 to mark the centenary of the start of the struggle for independence.
One of the Mexican “Pride of” models is made of rose gold, while the second is fitted with a titanium case and a steel bezel.
The bicentennial of the historical events of the same era, namely the beginning of the War of Independence of Argentina, another Spanish colony in America, served as the occasion for the release of the Royal Oak Offshore ‘Pride of Argentina’ editions in 2010. In total, two basic versions of the “Pride of Argentine” were released – in rose gold, 50 pieces, and in titanium with steel bezel, 100 pieces.
In terms of materials, the ‘Pride of Argentina’ uses the same options as the “Pride of Mexico”, but there are no color accents of the national flag on the dial of either version of the ‘Pride of Argentina’. The caseback of the watch is engraved with an image of the Buenos Aires City Hall, a symbol of the May Revolution – this is where the First Junta, the country’s governing body after the victory of the revolution, met.
Together with the ROO, a unique ultra-complicated Royal Oak Grande Complication ‘Pride of Argentina’ wristwatch was also launched in 2010.
For this type of watch, a rare (possibly unique, at least I have never heard of such a feature) case was designed with an additional hinged solid caseback, on which the Buenos Aires City Hall building is also depicted in relief.
The case is made of white gold, the openworked dial reveals the partially skeletonized automatic caliber 2885 with minute repeater, perpetual calendar and chronograph functions with split seconds. This watch is not from the ROO collection, but I mention it for the sake of completeness.
For the same purpose, two other representatives of the “Pride of” series that belong to the Royal Oak collection should also be mentioned. In 2008, the Royal Oak ‘Pride of China’ watch was released in two limited editions of 250 pieces (steel and rose gold, Ref. 26168SR.00.1220SR.01 with a black dial and Ref. 26168SR.00.1220SR.02 with a silver-plated dial) with a highly interesting case back depicting the Great Wall of China in relief. In my opinion, a panda would also be very appropriate.
The white elephant, one of the symbols of Thai royalty from the time when the state was still called Siam, is depicted in relief on the medallion of the case back of the Royal Oak Offshore ‘Pride of Siam’ watch – exactly in the shape we see on the kingdom’s modern naval flag.
Released in 2013, when François-Henri Bennahmias had already become CEO of Audemars Piguet, this watch continued the “Pride of” series. Of all the references in the series, this almost monochromatic watch is perhaps the most refined.
The design is based on a two-tone combination of white metal tones and warm shades of rose gold. The light metal tone of the steel case is complemented by a silver-plated dial with rose gold-colored hands, applied indexes and counter outlines, a white ceramic bezel, a crown and chronograph pushers with a white rubber coating.
The picture is rounded off by a white rubber strap or a white crocodile leather strap with gold thread stitching. It is also worth mentioning that the movement is based on the in-house automatic caliber 3126, which is being used for the first time for the “Pride of” series.
In 2015, the “Pride of” series was continued with the Royal Oak Offshore ‘Pride of Indonesia’, which is the most unusual of all representatives of the series in terms of design and execution. With a brushed titanium case and bezel and a rose gold caseback, an extremely rare (if any) option in modern watchmaking was chosen for the Indonesian special edition.
Now, logically, this approach is not to be dismissed out of hand: Your gold is closer to the body. In keeping with the tradition of the “Pride of” series, the caseback features the country’s national emblem in relief – in this case, the Indonesian eagle Garuda, the mythical king of birds.
The appearance of the ‘Pride of Indonesia’ is dominated by two colors – dark grey brushed titanium and shiny rose gold. The sunburst dial in these colors has an unprecedented design for “ROO” with a flat background without the usual tapisserie relief decoration, on which rose gold-toned and brushed Arabic numerals are applied – in ROO ‘LeBron James’ style. This dramatic detail completes the appearance of the Royal Oak Offshore ‘Pride of Indonesia’, the penultimate of the «Pride ofs».
The occasion for the launch of the latest “Pride of” was the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the reunification of Germany.
This edition is interesting for two features: for the first time in the series, the ROO F1-style case appears in its most relaxed, slender form and the sapphire caseback reveals the caliber. The blackened self-winding rotor of the caliber 3126/3840 no longer bears the classic Audemars Piguet coat of arms, but the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
All this is history, as is the caliber 3126/3840, which is no longer used in the ROO collection.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/com/en/collections/royal-oak-offshore.html