Archives September 24, 2002 admin
Review of the
Audemars Piguet Offshore Chronograph
Posted by Hans Zbinden on January 29, 1998 at 0:04:02:
Last October I went on a long trip that took me all through Asia. First stop was Singapore where I met up with a group of Timezoners based there. After lunch and lots of chatting, we headed down to Orchard Road, a street that probably has the highest watch store-per-square-foot ratio of any place in the world. Bryan Goh had kindly ensured that my dream watch, the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph was put aside for me at a shop called Cortina Watches (Paragon Plaza). I had been longing for that watch for 4 years, after hearing the shop’s offer, I knew my wait was over…
SJX asked me to write a review of the watch, here it is.
A picture of the watch can be seen on AP’s website at: http://www.audemars-piguet.com
The Offshore is one of the largest and certainly the heaviest watch in production today. The case is 46 mm in diameter and 14 mm high, the entire watch weighs 250 g. It’s also, to my knowledge, the most expensive watch in the category “stainless steel chronographs without further complications”, hence my long wait. It was introduced around 4 years ago and my particular model has the serial number 964, so I guess AP make around 250 per. I’ve actually only seen it on two other persons wrists, one of them being a German pimp being interviewed on television (which is statistically completely irrelevant I would like to add!)
This review is on the original SS model with the grey/blue dial and bracelet. It’s also available in the following configurations:
As far as I know, the strap models cannot be fitted with the bracelet at a later date.
Certainly the part of this watch that puts it in it’s own class, if you ever want to demonstrate what a routing machine is capable of, this is the piece to show! The entire case is built with such an uncompromising massiveness, there’s nothing even slightly resembling flimsiness to be found, everything is twice as thick and hefty as on other watches.
Thankfully, AP chose to give the Offshore a mostly matt finish, only certain edges of the case and bezel are highly polished, which makes it look just a tiny bit flashy in certain lighting. The backside of the case has a third type of polishing, there the metal appears dark grey.
Throughout the whole watch, the finishing is outstanding, the metal has a gleam I haven’t seen on other steel watches (even on other Royal Oaks), it looks more like white gold or platinum.
One of the unique features of the Royal Oak design are the 8 screws (with octagonal heads) that run from the bezel to the back. As the Offshore is so thick, two sets of screws are used, one attaching the bezel to the case, the other affixing the back. The screws are made out of white gold, the heads are highly polished.
Between the bezel and the case there’s a wide silicone gasket which adds to the watches unique look, it does take some getting used too, I remember hating it when I first saw it. The back is also octagonal-shaped and is engraved with the Offshore logo and the serial number.
The inside of the case incorporates a second inner casing out of antimagnetic material which protects the movement from magnetism, it can withstand field of up to 24’000 A/h.
The original Royal Oak was the first watch to have a integrated bracelet, the case doesn’t have the usual lugs but only two routings on each side where the bracelet joins. The bracelet isn’t affixed with the usual spring-loaded pins but is screwed in as are the links closest to the clasp.
The heftiness of the case can also be found in the individual links of the bracelet, they’re about twice as thick as those of an Oyster bracelet, again, the finishing is matt, the edges are smoothened and polished.
With such a heavy watch, you need a clasp that can hold the weight. The clasp closes with a reassuring click but opening and closing swiftly needs a bit of practice. After clasping it down, a sort of flip-lock part is pressed down over the bracelet. I feel this part would merit a bit of re-engineering, though it hasn’t accidentally opened yet, I think the design would benefit from a spring loaded locking button like those found in the Seamaster or Flieger bracelets.
The buckle that attaches the two sides of the bracelet is a three-part folding type. To allow a comfortable fit to the wrist, it’s kept quite thin and looks a bit flimsy compared to the rest of the bracelet.
Dial and hands
The dial has the same blue/grey color of the original Royal Oak introduced in 1972, depending on the light it can change from nearly black to a deep purple. The surface has a fine structure (small squares) which is typical for most Royal Oaks. The helper dials and tritium hour index are encased in silver rings, all writings on the helper dials and tachymeter scale are white and very clearly legible.
Due to the modular construction of the movement, the date ring (which is attached to the base-movement) is located a few mm below the dials. To enhance readability, there’s a small loupe fitted between the crystal and the dial, similar to those found on Rolex watches, just on the other side. Still, the date isn’t easy to read under poor light or from the side.
The 8 hour index (none at 3, 6, 9 and 12 due to the helper dials and date-aperture) and the hour/minute hands are covered in light-green tritium and glow very brightly in the dark. As the hour and minute hands don’t differ that much in length, it always takes me a moment to figure out the time at night.
The watch is fitted with a flat sapphire crystal. It stands about a half a millimeter over the bezel which makes it slightly prone to chipping, the fitting is perfectly straight.
Crown and buttons
The steel part of the crown is a tube which is capped with an octagonal shaped piece of black silicone, the chrono buttons also have caps made out of the same material.
The AP logo is engraved on the tip of the crown.
While the silicon may have a positive effect on absorbing blows against the relatively delicate stems of the crown and buttons, I do wonder how the material will stand the test of time. I’ve been toying with the idea of having these parts remade out of tantalum, a metal AP has quite a bit of experience with, we’ll see…
The screw-down type crown is fairly large and thus easy to grasp and turn, (un-)securing it works very smoothly. Pulling it out to the first position lets you quick-set the date, in the second position, the movement stops running (hack feature) and you can set the time. There’s absolutely no play on the hands (in comparison to a Valjoux 7750 for example) so the time can be set very precisely, once the watch is running again, the minute hand stays synchronized with the second hand, something many other movements have difficulty with. Also compared to the Valjoux 7750, the chrono buttons need a lot less pressure to operate, all chrono hands reset perfectly to zero in one smooth jump.
AP own a 40% share in Jaeger LeCoultre and get most of their base movements from them, so it’s no surprise that the Offshore is also JLC-powered. The official calibre number is 2126/2840, the number 2126 relates to the base movement, 2840 to the chronograph movement propped on top.
Calibre 2126 (2125 when it’s not in a chronograph) is basically a JLC 889/1 running at 21’600 A/h instead of 28’800. It’s an automatic, 26 mm in diameter, 3.25 mm high, has 33 jewels and a power reserve of 45 hours. I don’t know the origin of the chrono module but I somehow doubt that JLC makes it, Dubois-Depraz or some other specialized company would be my guess. As far as I can tell, the module is exclusively for AP, I haven’t seen it in watches by any other manufacturer.
Module-type chronograph calibres do have some disadvantages against classically constructed movements where the mechanics for the chronograph are fully integrated. First of all, watch-makers don’t particularly like them because a lot more disassembling is required for a repair. Many also show a very annoying characteristic, the sweep second hand takes a jump of about 1/2 second when the chronograph is activated. Thankfully, the AP module starts and stops very smoothly without the jump. Also, due to the module being place on top of the base, the buttons and the crown aren’t on the same line, on the Offshore the difference is hardly noticeable.
The finishing on the movement is AP-typically outstanding, all surfaces are either pearled or have Geneva stripes, the rotor is out of 21 K gold. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t open it but have to rely on photographs)
The days when I checked every new watch daily against a reference time are over, I’m happy when they run within a minute or two a month. For this review, I tracked it once every 24 hours for 3 days, it ran a constant 3 seconds ahead per day.
It’s officially rated at 100 m but in a test done by the German magazine Chronos, it was pressurized to 300 m without leaking. I’ve worn it in the ocean, swimming pools and in the shower and haven’t had any problem. The warranty doesn’t mention if the chrono-buttons can be used underwater and I’m not planning to try it out…
Having a wide wrist is certainly a prerequisite for wearing this watch, it’s huge! I got used to the heft and high build in a day or two and don’t notice it any more but have bumped it against a door a couple of times. The watch took the blows without complaint, don’t ask about the door…
The octagonal shaped box is done in green leather and has a domed plastic “crystal” on the top. Very classy but not practical for storing in small safe-deposit boxes.
The watch came with a one-year international guarantee and a service booklet, AP will service the watch for free after a year. As I don’t have the gall to bring in a watch with a Singapore-stamped warranty card to a dealer in Switzerland, I’ll be sending it directly to AP.
No instruction manual or further material were included.
The US-list price for the Offshore is 16’200 US$, as discounts are so common in the USA, I doubt anybody would actually pay such an outrageous price. Depending on certain factors, like VAT percents or current exchange rates, the European and Asian list prices are about 35% lower. In Europe, you’ll have trouble getting significant discounts from official dealers, in Asia rebates of 30-40% are very common. With the discount, VAT refund and favorable exchange rate (of the Singapore $) I paid considerably less than 50 % of US retail. Even so, a very hefty price to pay for this type of watch and certainly merits the question “Is it worth it?”. Considering the excellent construction and finishing in every detail, the small series it’s built in and particularly the fact, that there’s nothing comparable on the market, I’d say it is. Definitely!