Historical review of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Nearly 27 years in the making, this second-ever launch of a sports watch by Audemars Piguet Manufacture proved to be a daring decision and is today the driving force behind a genuine new success. We are pleased to provide you with a brief overview of its history and its first limited edition series in order to better understand the milestones achieved by this collection and what makes it what it is today.

CAs CEO at the time, Stephen Urquhart had already started thinking as early as 1989 about a new version of the Royal Oak that would appeal to a younger clientele; and while we owe the Royal Oak's first design to Gérald Genta in 1971, the Royal Oak Offshore was first brought to light in 1991 under the watch designer Emmanuel Gueit's pencil, who had been in collaboration with Jacqueline Dimier.

Early sketches illustrated by Emmanuel Gueit
Early sketches illustrated by Emmanuel Gueit
Early sketches illustrated by Emmanuel Gueit

This was a risky new venture for Audemars Piguet who was being driven by Stephen Urquhart at a time when nobody in the watchmaking industry had ever seen a watch of this size. Nevertheless, the launch of this collection and its success is reminiscent of the audacious Poker move that was the launch of the Royal Oak in 1972, when the market least expected it.

The Royal-Oak Offshore was originally scheduled to be launched in 1992 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak (at the same time as the Royal Oak's anniversary mod. 14802ST...) Uncertainty and last-minute revisions postponed the Royal Oak Offshore's launch up until the 1993 Basel edition.

Illustration of model number 25721ST

The very first edition bears the model number 25721ST, and was quickly nicknamed "The Beast" for its imposing size never before seen in watchmaking.

The Royal Oak Offshore n° 25721ST (Emmanuel Gueit's personal piece) credit Philips
Illustration of an advertisement for the Italian market

The Royal Oak Offshore is the result of various updates to Genta's original design by thickening the bezel's gasket, incorporating a thicker anti-magnetic case, and fitting it with a curve-end strap.

Unsure of the name to be given to this collection (which was almost called "Challenger"), the Offshore engraving only appeared on the back of the case after the first one hundred copies were produced.

Emmanuel Gueit's personal Royal Oak Offshore not yet equipped with the Offshore engraving.

The Offshore collection allowed Audemars Piguet to innovate and rejuvenate the brand in 1996 with less classic and "more amusing" watch designs combining leather straps and colorful dials.

Illustration of model number 25770ST introducing colored dials and straps from the Offshore collection.

The Royal Oak Offshore was a brilliant source of ideas, research, and innovation for Audemars Piguet, which made bold choices by introducing many never before used materials in the watchmaking industry (Forged Carbon Cases, introducing Titanium, Ceramic Bezels, or even rubber bezels and push buttons developed by Dupont called "Therban" that follow a strict set of specifications.

Illustration of model number 25940SK introducing a rubber bezel and strap circa 2002

The Offshore collection also enabled Audemars Piguet to make its mark with several limited-edition series as early as 1999, the first of which being the "End Of Days" series, 500 pieces in all, and made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This model is characterized by its innovative design and an innovative choice of materials for a time-piece, with a PVD-treated case and a Kevlar bracelet, an association never before seen in watchmaking.

Royal Oak Offshore “End Of Days” (credits Antiquorum)

The Offshore Collection gave Audemars Piguet the opportunity to produce its first case in forged carbon (now widely used by competitors like Richard Mille), as this was a material that came straight from the world of aeronautics and appreciated for its strength and extreme lightness despite its imposing size.

Royal Oak Offshore Edition "Alinghi" made in 2007 featuring a forged carbon case and ceramic push buttons.

The Influence of Motorsports

LThe Royal Oak Offshore collection is best known for its limited-edition series linked to the world of motor racing. Here, let's a look back at the most famous series following Octavio Garcia's arrival as "art director" in 2003.

• Montoya Limited Series

Circa 2003 - Limited edition of 1,000 pieces in titanium, 500 pieces in pink gold, 100 pieces in platinum. One of the first Limited Edition series with a race driver. This model is characterized by a "carbon fiber" style bezel and a leather strap to resemble a race car's interior seat upholstery.

• « Grand Prix » Limited Series

Designed by Philippe Vaptzarof (a designer who joined Audemars Piguet in 2004, with a background in the automotive world), the Grand Prix edition was unveiled in 2010. It is the second Royal Oak Offshore model with a forged carbon case. The model is surprisingly lightweight. The dial exudes the world of motor racing, with three sub-meters resembling automobile counters. The case is 44MM in size.

It was produced in:

  • 1,750 pieces in forged carbon
  • 650 pieces with a rose gold case
  • 75 pieces with a platinum case

• Rubens Barichello limited edition in 2006

Limited series of 1,650 pieces available in three versions (white, black or midnight blue dial): Platinum, 18K Gold, Grade 5 Titanium. The case is 42MM and the movement is 2326/2840. The materials used are directly sourced from the automotive world with ceramic bezels and push buttons, which are preferred for their lightness and high scratch resistance.

• Schummacher Limited Edition in 2012 :

As a tribute to the race driver who is particularly fond of the Offshore collection, this model has a 44MM case. It was produced in: 1,000 titanium pieces, 500 pink gold pieces, 100 platinum pieces.

7 small stars symbolize the 7 world championship titles won by the driver (2 with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 symbolized in blue, and 5 with Ferrari between 2000 and 2004 symbolized in red).

Illustration of model number 26568IM.OO.A004CA.01

Other Limited Editions

• « Survivor » Limited Edition

The pinnacle of the most "out of the ordinary" design was accomplished in 2008 with the "Survirvor" series, limited to 1,000 units. The titanium case has a PVD treatment which is then mounted with a ceramic bezel and push-button protectors, which give it an extraordinary look.

• Royal Oak Offshore Diver

Introduced in 2010, the Diver collection designed for diving has a rotating disc integrated inside its case, allowing you to keep an eye on your dive time while keeping a fixed bezel. The crown at 11 o'clock allows for interaction with the rotating disc.

The first version bears the model number 15703; it was upgraded in 2015 to model number 15710, and now has a sapphire crystal on the back to show its Manufacture calibre 3120 ( in common with the Royal Oak ref. 15400). The sapphire case-back has a slight influence on the case's thickness, increasing it to 14.10MM (as opposed to 13.90MM for model number 15703 with a solid case-back). The Royal Oak Offshore has a 42MM case.

• Model 26237ST – A re-edit of « The Beast »

As a tribute to the 1993 model 25721, Audemars Piguet revisited the very first offshore piece designed by Emmanuel Gueit in 2018. The model now bears the model number 26237ST and has been enhanced with the latest technological advances, especially in terms of caliber.

Written by Clément C.

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