Watches: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 42 mm 2014 Collection (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on January 27, 2014

For many, 2014 is the Year of the Horse. For me and other Audemars Piguet’s aficionados, it will be remembered as the Year of the Royal Oak Offshore! As much as I appreciate Gerald Genta’s timeless Royal Oak (see for instance the beautiful Royal Oak Automatic with blue dial) or the elegance of the Millenary (I do love my 4101), what makes the Le Brassus-based manufacture so special in my eyes is the sporty and sturdy Royal Oak Offshore. So, imagine my excitement when I learned that for the SIHH 2014, no less than six new versions of the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in 42 mm were to be launched.

First presented in 1993, the watch took the Haute Horology world by storm and led the way to the oversized sports luxury watch segment. Although many brands have tried to copy its unique design and surf on its success, the Royal Oak Offshore has remained in a class of its own: coveted by many, it is both sporty and luxurious, a symbol of fine watchmaking as well as a status-symbol.

When you have such a legendary timepiece in your collection, the last thing you want is turning upside down a design that has barely changed in two decades and yet looks as refined and modern as it did on its first day. Hence, quite understandably, the relooking is more an evolution than a revolution.

The case with its iconic octagonal bezel secured with eight hexagonal steel screws remains unchanged but the shape of the crown and pusher guards has slightly evolved to give a more contemporary look to the watch. Previously made of rubber-coated metal, the crown and chronograph pushers are now crafted in black ceramic.

Although all new models feature the trademark waffle-like Mega Tapisserie pattern, their dials seem somehow edgier. A closer inspection reveals new facetted hands and slimmer Arabic numerals surrounded by polished decorative fillets. Filled with SuperLuminova, they bring an additional technical touch to the watch. Even the new gold “AP” appliqué looks sharper.

The most noticeable aesthetic change relative to previous versions is undoubtedly the presence of a sapphire exhibition case back. It means that the watch is no longer anti-magnetic like original Offshore models but who cares? At last we have the opportunity to admire the movement and its beautiful finish. And nobody will be disappointed here since the brand took advantage of this relooking to retire the 2326 calibre and replace it with the in-house 3126 calibre equipped with a beautiful 22-carat gold oscillating rotor decorated with the Audemars and Piguet family crests.

Lastly, the hornback alligator strap has been tapered a bit and given a wide pin buckle. One reference even sports a rubber strap.

To acknowledge all these subtle aesthetic changes that emphasise the technical look of the piece as well as the presence of the manufacture movement, the Royal Oak Offshore model abandons the ‘26170’ reference: it is now the era of the reference number ‘26470’! It will surely spark the collectors’ interest for the decades to come.

The collection includes a stainless steel model with rubber strap priced at $25,600, three stainless steel watches with alligator straps retailing at $26,000, a pink gold model with an alligator strap worth $40,700 and lastly a pink gold reference with matching bracelet that can be yours for $69,200. Let us now review each variant in detail with live pictures.

Reference 26470ST.OO.A027CA.01

This blue model is clearly the replacement for the Royal Oak Offshore Navy. I really love it: the blue Méga Tapisserie with the orange hands and minute track gives it a sportier feel relative to the previous version. This is strengthened by the presence of a rubber strap secured by a pin buckle. Yet, the silver counters and the newly designed Arabic numerals bring a refined touch and create a very well-balanced design. The watch truly looks fantastic on the wrist as you can see below.

Reference 26470ST.OO.A801CR.01

Almost inseparable from the Royal Oak Offshore Navy is the Royal Oak Offshore Safari. This iconic model also received a makeover this year and I must say it is definitely for the best! I have always found that the Royal Oak Offshore Safari was dull, lacking colours and personality. This is no longer the case: the boring white dial has now been replaced with a sensational ivory Méga Tapisserie enhanced by brown counters, numerals and flange. Even the colour of the alligator strap has slightly changed for the better. The timepiece is now beautiful, very understated.

Reference 26470ST.OO.A101CR.01

Whether you consider the new black model as the successor of the Royal Oak Offshore Panda or the Royal Oak Offshore Themes, there is once again no doubt that the design of the new version is largely improved. The Royal Oak Offshore Themes was plainly black: the new model has the right amount of red on the dial and with the stitches to create the sporty racing look that goes so well with the Offshore model. Sure the Royal Oak Offshore Panda had colours, but maybe too much. It was not as smart as the new version. This is certainly the most multi-purpose model of the collection.

Reference 26470ST.OO.A104CR.01

I have always loved grey watches. It is a colour that works very well on watches but that remains unfortunately underused. I was thus really happy when I first heard about the Royal Oak Offshore LeBron James but I ended up quite disappointed by the result: the grey is way too light for me and the piece lacks the refinement it should have. The new Royal Oak Offshore grey model is perfect colour-wise. The watch is a pure beauty: you will never get tired of its elegance.

Reference 26470OR.OO.A002CR.01

Surprisingly, there was no equivalent to this model: a non-limited edition Royal Oak Offshore in pink gold with an alligator bracelet that is. This gap has now been filled. The new model has a lot of temperament. I really like how the designers played with the contrast of pink gold and black on all parts of the watch: the pink gold-coloured stitches contrast with the black large-scale alligator strap (no hornback on this version), so do the black counters and flange with the interesting pink-gold-toned Mega Tapisserie dial. Even the Arabic numbers mix the black and gold. A very luxurious Offshore that avoids the “bling” trap…

Reference 26470OR.OO.1000OR.01

Lastly, an all-gold version that can be regarded as the successor of the Royal Oak Offshore Themes Pink Gold. Although I think that the white dial of the latter was too plain, I also believe the pink gold-toned dial of the new version is a bit too much when paired with a pink gold bracelet. I would have preferred a black dial with ping gold-toned counters but, eh, some people like it shiny…

The major problem with these watches is that they all look terrific: it is impossible to choose! Apart from the all-gold version that remains too bling for me, I honestly don’t know which ones I will buy: I would love to own them all…

And since I am sure many of you will agree, here are some more live pictures to keep you waiting until they hit the stores in April if everything goes according to plan.