Watches - Feature Article

25 years of the Royal Oak Offshore

On its silver jubilee, an ode to the original sports luxe watch and a look at the new models for 2018.

Take a look back over the journey of the Offshore and what makes it one of the most important watches of its generation.

The Age of the Offshore

The Offshore is the evolution of a revolutionary concept that first reared its head at Baselworld in 1972. To appreciate its significance you have to understand that at that time the industry was in the midst of what later became known as the “quartz crisis”, aka the arrival of digital watches and the fear that they would spell the end for horology.

Until then, high value watches were exhibits of the fruits of hundreds of years of watchmaking tradition—extraordinarily complex mechanics and exquisite finishing. Sports watches had recently come onto the scene, in the shape of the Rolexes and Omegas used for diving, sports timing and other pursuits, but these were at the other end of the value scale.

The first Royal Oak was a combination of the two; a luxury sports watch, which saw the finishing techniques of haute horlogerie applied to a piece that could otherwise find its home in the gym. After meeting with widespread disapproval from the press and the Swiss bigwigs, the Royal Oak instigated a movement and the industry had an unlikely hero. 

After two decades of unprecedented success, Audemars Piguet decided to up their stake in the concept. They devised a new model and exaggerated its merits. They wanted a bigger, more masculine version that would catch the eye of an even younger audience. They gave it a beefed-up 42 mm case, which was huge for its time, a chronograph complication, and a rubberised strap, which was almost unheard of in the world of luxury. Again, Audemars Piguet was met with a flood of criticism, but before long their Offshore was everywhere and it sparked the “oversized” trend.

Today the Offshore continues to hold the attention of the young and affluent, with stars and athletes of the calibre of Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran and LeBron James having their own dedicated models. Many imitation brands and models have sprung up in its wake, with the likes of Hublot and Richard Mille working exclusively on the luxury sports concept.

Original Royal Oak Offshore Ref. 25721ST
Original (1993) Royal Oak Offshore Ref. 25721ST.

Royal Oak Offshore 25th Anniversary Models

For 2018, Audemars Piguet has paid homage to the original Offshore from 1993. It has also introduced two limited edition tourbillon pieces that play on the Offshore’s spirit of exaggeration.

Offshore Ref. 26237ST

The Ref. 26237ST is a faithful remake of the original. It has the stainless steel case and bracelet with the iconic blue “Petite Tapisserie” dial and rubberised chrono pushers. Inside beats the Caliber 3126/3840, an updated movement which we have seen in other recent Offshore models. It comes in the original 42 mm size, which nowadays is no longer oversized and sits just right.

Set against the standards of the Offshores since 1993, the Ref. 26237ST can be considered one of the cleanest and most toned down. It’s also the closest to the original Royal Oak. While we love some of the more playful and adventurous models, we are big fans of the original and think the steel and blue is still the ideal combo. All in all then the Ref. 26237ST is a tasteful Offshore and a dignified jubilee tribute.

Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph

Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph

Audemars Piguet loves to celebrate its technical prowess and these latest iterations are just that. For the first time, the watches have open-worked dials, leaving behind the iconic waffle-print effect. Eight skeletonised bridges align to reveal the Calibre 2947, an impressive in-house tourbillon movement with a seven-day power reserve. Visually, while they retain the iconic octagonal bezel, they are entirely original. The look is futuristic, technical to the extreme, and it works. It comes in steel and rose gold and each model is limited to just fifty pieces.

A SIHH 2018, alongside these three anniversary models, Audemars Piguet unveiled a number of other Offshore updates and tweaks. What’s more, knowing Audemars Piguet as we do, we’re anticipating others in the pipeline, so for those of us who admire this revolutionary watch, 2018 is going to be an exciting year!

For more watch news and reviews follow our magazine or for buying options you can shop pre-owned and vintage Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshores on Xupes.