Ok, Audemars Piguet fans, and Royal Oak/Royal Oak Offshore watch fans in particular – get ready for the huge rush surrounding the wild new Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team Chronograph. With this one, Audemars Piguet has, in my opinion, created a sensation that will take its place amongst such Royal Oak watch legends as the T3, the Royal Oak “End of Days” chronograph, and the Royal Oak Offshore Juan Pablo Montoya Chronograph watch.
When I saw the press on this new Audemars Piguet watch yesterday (for the first time) I wasn’t sure what to think – a watch with a case manufactured completely from forged carbon fiber? Wild… proudly un-traditional… provocative. In truth, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or disliked it, so I decided to step away from it for a bit. This morning, I logged on and decided to take a second look – there is no question that my appreciation is much greater! The thing is growing on me, and I have to admit, this is one super-cool watch which is really fresh and distinctive. Following up a tradition of a series of limited edition Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore watches for the Alinghi sailing team, Audemars Piguet really pulled out the stops to create a watch engineered specifically for the sailors to wear. Since the America’s Cup race places such a premium on lightweight technology, and carbon fiber in particular for the construction of the vessel, this same material was a natural choice for the designers to focus on to create an entirely new Royal Oak watchcase. For one, it provides a tangible connection to the construction of the Alinghi yacht. Secondly, it allows for an exceptionally large, visible sports watch which is amazingly light (at 100 grams) and resistant to environmental ravages. Thirdly, (and perhaps most importantly for most of us landlubbers), it demonstrates the capabilities of Audemars Piguet in creating amazing things out of carbon fiber. Audemars Piguet has been intensely developing their advanced carbon fiber manufacturing processes and refining them greatly, which is why we have seen even movements being made out of the substance, with the example of the incredible Millenary MC-12 Tourbillon watch. Viewed in that light, this new case made entirely from carbon fiber is a logical evolution of AP’s research and development, and it is extremely cool, I might add! Add to this the super-slick ceramic chronograph pushers, the blackened hexagonal bezel screws and magnificently detailed dial, not to mention the technical appeal of the flyback chronograph and regatta countdown function, and its easy to see why this new Audemars Piguet watch is already creating a massive stir amongst the ranks of salivating Watch Idiot Savants.
Audemars Piguet is offering the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team Chronograph watch in both 18K rose gold and platinum, complete with a carbon fiber bezels on both. Despite the smaller editions of these two versions in precious metals, I predict that neither of these models – attractive though they are – will have the resonating appeal of the basic carbon fiber model. The 100% carbon fiber case MAKES this watch special – having just a bezel made from the material is not going to satisfy in the same way. Traditionalists may disagree, but then again, these watches are not really aimed at traditionalists to begin with. From the beginning, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore watch was provocative, and throughout the years, the design has continued to evolve, pushing the boundaries in a luxury sports timepiece. Before the Panerai-fever, before the Hublot “Big Bang” and other in-your-face sports watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore platform really got the large sports watch craze kicked into high gear, much the same way as the original Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch came to represent a new design concept for exclusive horological luxury back in the 1970’s. I think that’s the nutshell reason that the Royal Oak/Royal Oak Offshore watches continue to electrify watch lovers so much—the basic design is so versatile, it seems there is little limit to what it can express, from elegance, to mechanical virtuosity, to cutting edge sportiness.
So, my hat is off to Audemars Piguet. They have succeeded yet again in creating another cult Royal Oak Offshore timepiece. I only hope I can get a chance to handle one of these amazing new creations (the carbon fiber version, naturally!) before they are all spoken for. I’m not going to stake my life on that, though—these watches are going to be gone in the blink of an eye.