You are all familiar with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver, a piece that has been in the ROO collection since 2010 designed for action men who want a robust companion for their extreme sports/lifestyle. What was once considered a big bad boy watch back in 1993 has now settled down and even its dimensions have become the accepted norm for sports watches. Every so often, AP refreshes its diver with new colour combinations. Today we’ll be looking at the khaki Royal Oak Offshore Diver unveiled along with three other models in 2018.
The Genesis of the Royal Oak Offshore
It’s hard to be the descendant of a living legend. I can only imagine 22-year-old Emmanuel Gueit’s look of shock when Stephen Urquhart, then joint managing director of Audemars Piguet, gave him a brief in 1989 to design a new version of the Royal Oak that would attract a younger crowd. The original idea was to launch the watch in 1992 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak. Without revisiting the much-reviewed history of Gerald Genta’s iconic 1972 Royal Oak and its ongoing impact in watch design, suffice it to say that the task at hand for Gueit was daunting.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph ref. 25721ST, the first watch under the “Offshore” name
However, Gueit was young and intuited that the market was ready for an oversized, high-testosterone Royal Oak: a colossal (42mm, which was huge back then) chunk of macho steel that would look right on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wrist (it was eventually featured in the 1999 film End of Days) and appeal exclusively to men. Although it remained almost four years in the shadows, as Urquhart and his team put the project on hold as they pondered the critical impact this watch might generate, it was finally released during Baselworld 1993. And as they had anticipated, the watch was met largely with shock horror. Gerald Genta, so the story goes, stormed into the AP stand claiming they had killed his Royal Oak.
Breaking the size barrier
Breaking the size barrier of the day was Gueit’s massive 42mm x 16mm Royal Oak (the Offshore appellation was added later) steel chronograph ref. 25721ST weighing in at almost 250 grams. Nicknamed “The Beast”, this heavyweight contender bore the iconic design elements of the Royal Oak – the raised octagonal bezel and exposed screws, the guilloché dial, the integrated bracelet, and the overall industrial design mood – but was rigged with novelties. Beyond its enormous proportions, what shocked many conservative watch lovers was the daring ‘deconstructed’ exposure of the black rubber gasket between the case and the bezel. Not only that, but rubber was used for the chronograph pushers and the crown. This might seem conventional practice these days, but back then it was radical (admittedly Hublot had been mixing metal and rubber since the 1980s) and opened the door to materials not usually associated with watchmaking.
Appearing in countless guises and revamped over its 26 years of life, the ROO exists in many formats, from dive watches to tourbillon chronographs and even skeletonised grande complications in materials like titanium, ceramic and carbon fibre. When the ROO turned 25 in 2018, Audemars Piguet celebrated with a re-edition of the original chronograph.
Fashionable funky colours
Following its debut in 2010, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver underwent a subtle facelift in 2015 although the base remains practically unaltered with its 42mm case, mega tapisserie pattern on the dial, 300m water-resistance, internal bezel activated by the pusher at 10 o’clock and in-house automatic calibre 3120. What has changed though over the past nine years is the colour scheme of the ROO Diver. From the white 2015 model with blue markings to the vibrant acid colours of the 2017 divers, the ROO keeps apace of trends. True to its original mission to attract a younger crowd, the ROO Diver plays with fashionable colours, which is not to say it is a ‘fashion’ watch, not by any means.
This year the colour palette, described as ‘funky’ by Audemars Piguet, introduced four new colours with rather unusual names: round-the-clock purple, sand buff, tropical turquoise and charismatic khaki. I’m not sure if ‘charismatic’ is the adjective I would use to describe this colour; perhaps ‘military green’ or ‘camouflage’ work better. To me, this khaki colour evokes the outdoors, ideal for men who like extreme sports, including diving – even though diving is often associated with blue. In any case, today’s dive watches aren’t really used for this purpose.
Although we have become accustomed to 42mm cases on sports watches, the dynamic and distinguishing architecture of the Royal Oak Offshore never fails to impress. The raised octagonal bezel with its vertical brushed finish and bevelled polished edges, the eight exposed hexagonal screws, the solid middle case and crown guards all transmit a reassuring sense of solidity. The two screw-locked crowns, one at 3 o’clock for winding and setting the time and the other at 10 o’clock to rotate the inner bezel are both covered in khaki rubber.
The ‘mega tapisserie’ or chequerboard pattern on the dial is khaki as is the area marking the 15-60 minutes on the internal bezel. The all-important 0-15 minutes zone for divers is white with green markings. Both the hour markers and hands are made from white gold and treated with luminescent coating. I particularly like the way the date window at 3 o’clock echoes the cushion-shaped squares of the dial and the judicious use of a khaki background that helps it fuse into the scenery without creating too much of an eye-sore. Like all Royal Oak Offshore models, the strap is integrated and flows seamlessly from the case. The khaki rubber strap is attached to the wrist with a stainless steel pin buckle and features two grooves that emanate from the flexible lugs.
Inside the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver and under a sapphire caseback is the in-house automatic movement, calibre 3120, with its central gold rotor decorated with AP heraldry, Geneva stripes on the bridges, polished bevelled angles and circular graining on the base plate. Running at a frequency of 21,600vph/3Hz, the power reserve is a comfortable 60 hours. This movement needs no introduction anymore, as it has been the base of many time-and-date models (whatever the collection) since its introduction in 2003.
It’s safe to say that the original shock and awe tactics of the Royal Oak Offshore in 1993 have been digested and we are no longer intimidated by its dimensions. Colour is the new arsenal deployed by Audemars Piguet to generate buzz and ruffle some feathers.
Of the four new colour schemes introduced in 2019, the khaki is probably the one with the longest shelf life. I can imagine getting tired of round-the-clock purple and turquoise blue pretty fast. This Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Khaki is less strident than its counterparts and evokes all sorts of masculine pursuits, from military associations to action man outdoor sports.
Availability and price
Audemars Piguet’s webpage mentions that this Royal Oak Offshore Diver – ref. 15710ST.OO.A052CA.01 – is a boutique exclusive model and availability ‘to be confirmed’. In this case, the best thing to do is to follow the link on the webpage and make an appointment in your local AP boutique online. The retail price is EUR 20,400.
For more information, please consult audemarspiguet.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.