Finally, a Royal Oak Offshore (ROO) worth buying. Until now, I was with Gerald Genta – the man, the myth the legend, the genius behind the whole luxury steel sports watch phenom. He famously called the jumbo-sized watch riffing on his design “an elephant in the sea.” And no wonder…
The ROO launched in 1993, when the average men’s watch clocked-in at 34mm to 36mm. Sports watches upped the ante 36mm to 38mm. The Rolex Submariner of the day was a veritable size queen at 40mm. The ROO debuted at a staggering – for the time and the brand – 42mm.
Yes, the 44mm Panerai Luminor hit the streets the same year, but in limited, under-the-radar quantities. Sylvester Stallone didn’t elevate the Swiss brand (masquerading as Italian) until ’96 when he wore one in the movie Daylight. Then handed them out like candy to his Hollywood BFFs.
I’ve always found the ROO over-sized and overwrought. Under the stewardship of outgoing AP CEO François-Henry “Marvel Makes Us Marvelous” Bennahmias, the ROO has become a caricature of itself. And that’s saying something. Behold!
I’m not saying the Royal Oak Offshore Music Edition is hideous, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone making that observation. This bejeweled ROO runs $70k – without playing music. That’s par for the course. AP has been gussying-up the Offshore to goose sales since, well, at least since the [initially austere] Code 11.59 was a flop.
There are plenty of examples of equally over-the-top Offshores from which not to choose (unless you hang out in Strip Club VIP rooms). I’ll go even further: the more subtle designs are still busy AF, what with the combination of expensive materials and Tapisserie dials in multiple sizes and colors.
There is an exception. If you handed me a relatively demure 42mm $50k black-bezeled Royal Oak Offshore Self-Winding Chrono on a $6k titanium bracelet (above), I might not resell it. At least not immediately. Light as it is, it’s still quite the, uh, statement piece.
Enter the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Ceramic (Ref. 26238CE.OO.1300CE.01). The design is easy on the eyes. Legible. Dare I say useful? The case, bracelet, crown and pushers are all ceramic. Winner winner chicken dinner!
OK, it’s still big. The full 42mm. But it’s black, and everyone knows black is slimming. Equally, the duo-tone color scheme makes the timepiece look as elegant as a basically monochromatic Porsche Design chrono.
Ceramic isn’t cheap to make, but the material has a higher hardness rating than titanium. While that makes ceramic more scratch-resistant than titanium, titanium is lighter and more durable in terms of impact resistance.
And? A ceramic watch is cool. Something different. If feels different, too. Sexy in its own less slippery than titanium, gold or steel kinda way. Sure it costs more. Wristing one of these bad boys will run you $110k. On the positive side, production is only limited by the number of people who want one, and waiting times, of course.
Bonus! The Ceramic ROO is powered by AP’s latest generation in-house automatic caliber 4404, a work of art comprised of 433 parts with a 70-hour power reserve. Visible from the back. Not so visible but just as stunning: the Dubois Depraz flyback chronograph.
I could have done without the tachymeter chapter ring; BPM’s would have been more appropriate for the average elderly AP buyer. But why cavil? Oh what the hell…
The Royal Oak Offshore Ceramic would have been better in a slightly smaller size. That said, I’m sure this one wears well. I’m not so sure the market doesn’t favor blinged-out Offshores. We shall see.
Meanwhile, the Ceramic ROO represents a return to finely-crafted elegance for the brand. I’m sure that Genta – an innovator in both technology and materials – would approve of this timepiece. Higher praise I can’t imagine.