It had been exactly 16 months since I had last held a new watch in my hand. The onset of the pandemic and the accompanying physical distancing guidelines had essentially meant that the WTI Team had to make do with (like most other watch journalists) online presentations and press releases of new watches. So it seemed like the perfect homecoming to be able to hold and try the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph 43mm.
Sure the 'digital boom' is the way forward for the watch industry, and the fact that many brands have made that transition quickly and effortlessly is commendable. However, picking up a new timepiece, placing it on my wrist, and actually getting to understand its nuances is something that's irreplacable. It's a different feeling, and I am just not ready to let go of that.
About the watches now...
The Royal Oak is one of the most popular collections from Audemars Piguet. This year, the brand has released the well-known collection in a 43mm, with five models in different case materials and design. Out of the lot, I got a chance to view three of these, and experience one that I partcularly liked -- the blue all-titanium (26420TI.OO.A027CA.01), stainless steel and black ceramic (26420SO.OO.A002CA.01), and finally my favourite in stainless steel case and ceramic bezel with a smoked taupe dial.
The size decrease to a 43mm is a significant evolution of the entire line since it became a 44mm in the 2000s. At first glance, one can notice the signature elements of the collection on the new watches. From the sturdy and easily recognisable case to the uniquely crafted dial, the new collection harks back to its original design, while keeping in mind ergonomics and optimising the aesthetics. Having said that, the new watches also signify an evolution in the design language and technical innovation of the classic Royal Oak timepieces of the yesteryears. This includes the timepieces being powered by the latest integrated flyback chronograph movement and the presence of Audemars Piguet's interchangeable strap system.
The overall structure deserves attention. Available in titanium, stainless steel, or 18K pink gold (I did not see this version), the case has been worked to give comfort to anyone wearing this watch. Despite seeming larger at first glance, once on, the case feels comfortable on both male (Sr Correspondent Mohak Gupta stepped in for a quick comparative study) and female wrists. There is a rich vertical brush on the case and bezel, additionally, the use of polished chamfers on the edges set with a ceramic bezel (except the titanium version, which has a titanium bezel) commands the kind of visual appeal that I as a watch lover adore. The glareproofed sapphire crystal that is curved from 6 to 12 o' clock not just brings out the beauty of the dial but also ensures the overall aesthetic of the watch. The crown and chronograph pushers are ceramic too, flaunting the same vertical brushing and mirror finish.
The face of this sporty watch is available in black, grey taupe, and blue hues, set with Audemars Piguet's signature 'Méga Tapisserie' pattern that adds depth and contrast. Look closely you will find that the square tops of the pyramids that make up this singular pattern are satin-brushed like the effect seen on the case. This nuanced feature adds a punch. Set on this background are the highly legible and rearranged chronograph counters -- the minute counter now appears at 9 o’clock, while the hour counter is positioned at 3 o’clock, a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock and a small seconds counter at 6 o' clock (in the 44mm selfwinding chronograph the small seconds is at 12 o'clock, the date at 3 o'clock, the hours at 6 o'clock, and the minutes at 9 o'clock). The chrono counters are the guilloched and the hands and hourmakers filled with SuperLuminova.
Furthermore, a welcome change and staying tuned to ongoing trend of logo minimalism, the applied gold AP initials replace the earlier found long-form signature at 12 o' clock. As mentioned earlier, the taupe version had my heart --- its 'smoked' dial meant that the edges were dark, a sort of gradient starting light and becoming deeper towards the edges.
At the heart of the watch is the Manufacture's latest in-house integrated chronograph movement. The Calibre 4401 (it debuted in the Code 11:59) is a selfwinding chronograph movement that features a column wheel and a flyback function that allows the user to restart the chronograph without stopping or resetting it first. The transparent sapphire caseback allowed a look the working of the movement as well, along with its blackened 22-carat pink gold and the 'Côtes de Genève', and 'traits tirés' decorations. The watch has a power reserve of 70 hours and water resistance to 100 metres.
Like all major brands across the globe, Audemars Piguet has also jumped on the bandwagon of offering their timepieces in a secure and efficient interchangeable strap system. Easy to use and simple to learn, the Manufacture’s new interchangeable strap system allows clients to change their straps and buckle in no time - all you have to do is push two buttons on the back of the lugs and replace it with the choice of your strap. The buckle too has an easy release system. Unarguably, I had the most fun trying the different combos here. On offer are calfskin straps in beige or brown, as well as a black alligator strap.
Overall, the watch felt great on the wrist, the 1 mm decrease working its magic, and the flyback chronograph was spot on with its working. The watches are priced at Rs 30,00,000 onwards, and that's a steep ask. However, the fact that all the three verions we saw are already spoken for is proof that update and techical aspects have found takers.
Out of the five timepieces released this year, three models of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 43mm line are available for viewing in India only at Kapoor Watch Company, Delhi, till Thursday July 15, 2021.