Whether you’re a fan of Gérald Genta’s designs or not, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is one of the most successful and popular watches of all time. Its place on the wrists of businessmen, musicians, and athletes since its introduction in the early 1970s has elevated the watch to a legendary status rarely seen in the world of horology. In 1993, Audemars Piguet decided that it was time to extend the family and introduce a younger sibling of the Royal Oak to the market. The Royal Oak Offshore — which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018 — was a gutsy move at the time, but over 120 references later, the Royal Oak’s flashier little brother is an unquantifiable success. At SIHH in January, Audemars Piguet is unveiling three new limited-edition Offshore models that embrace the Royal Oak personality while continuing to move its design identity forward.
First up, we have Ref. 26237ST, a re-edition of the 1993 Royal Oak Offshore that remains extremely faithful to its forefather. The blue “Tapissierie” dial is as distinctive as ever. In fact, the watch is almost identical to the original other than the Caliber 3126/3840, which you may recognize as the same that powers many other modern Royal Oak Offshore chronographs.
The surprise piece of the new collection is the Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph which offers a new look for the Offshore line. Although based off of previous Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph models — the 26388PO and 26288OR, respectively — the two new timepieces introduce an entirely redesigned movement and dial that make them unlike any Offshore before. The dial is a far cry from the waffle-like “Tapissierie” pattern that has long been associated with the Royal Oak; instead it comes across as a Genta fever dream — openworked and distinctive, it would hardly be recognizable as part of the family were it not for its octagonal shape. The watch offers a view of the tourbillon at 9 o’clock, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, and two mainspring barrels that offer the most substance to the watch’s skeletonized foundation. Rather than metal and rubber, the pushers and crown are now made from ceramic. The watches are available in either 18k rose gold or stainless steel, each limited to 50 pieces, and are powered by the hand-wound Caliber 2947.
While these three are a fantastic first look into what’s to come from the brand in 2018, this feels like only a taste of what we have to look forward to in a special anniversary year for one of Audemars Piguet’s most comprehensive lines. Prices for these models are currently unknown, but expected to be announced during SIHH 2018 in January.