Sunday Morning Showdown: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob NuddsMarch 15, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week, we plumb the depths of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore’s character to see how it stands up under an uncomfortable level of scrutiny.
I didn’t expect to be sitting here on a 3-2 win/loss ratio after the way voting on last week’s column began. The Vacheron Constantin was always going to be a tough sell to the masses that we are constantly conditioned to believe care about nice, shiny steel sports watches and little else. Well, it seems that a shade more than half of the voters last week have room in their sock drawers for a bit of luxury. Extreme luxury, in fact. After a see-saw voting period that saw the scores knotted-up on several occasions, the pro-VC crowd triumphed with 51% of the vote. And no, we will not be entertaining a second referendum. Results on Fratello are final. So I’ll be taking that big curly W from Balazs and holding onto it for dear life.
This week we go back to more mainstream fare. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore is the big, bouncing baby of a classic. Yes, we know the Royal Oak itself hasn’t yet featured in the Sunday Morning Showdown corner of the internet. Don’t worry. We’ll get to it. But for now, let’s see what happens when the two RJs go head-to-head over an industry mainstay. Last week I predicted the contest would be close. I didn’t imagine we’d be separated by a handful of votes. This week? Well, let’s just say I’ve drawn 2-7 off-suit and I’m praying for a sneaky full house on the river…
Rob Nudds (Arjay)
I mean, what do you want from me? I’m not the 2007 Patriots. I was never going to roll through the regular season undefeated. I’m happy to take my losses like a boss (not like Dr. Robotnik, though. That guy was a cry-baby). And so I’ll preface my tirade with this: I don’t expect you to agree with me, and if you don’t, I don’t much care. But sure, if I run into you in a dark alley and you’re wearing an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore on your wrist, I might change my tune. And why? Because the only thing this behemoth is good for is clubbing an adversary to death. It’s a lumpy, bumpy horror show that takes all the good done by the preceding Royal Oak and chucks it out of the window.
Where’s the refinement? Where’s the grace? Sure, it has all the calling cards of its forebear, but it lacks all the charm. It is the poster boy for an age of excess that prioritized bombastic wrist presence over technological advancement. Now, in an era of conservative customers baying for something worthwhile on which they can splash their cash, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore really looks like the dinosaur it always was. This is not an icon of progress. It’s positively Jurassic. And not in a good way. Not in the calm, tranquil, “I’m-eating-my-leaves-so-leave-me-alone” Brachiosaurus kind of way. Hell no. This is a, “oh-hey-I-can-see-you’re-on-the-toilet-having-a-quiet-moment-alone-but-don’t-mind-me-while-I-bite-you-in-half,” kind of beast. Have you ever heard of anybody inviting a T-Rex to a dinner party? No. That’s why.
Look, I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom. It’s spawned some pretty nice lookalikes of its own down the years. And yes, if you desperately need a chronograph, it’s got you covered. All I’m saying is who in their right mind picks this over the standard Royal Oak? When I struggle to envisage a watch — any watch — being on the top of anyone’s list, then I get nervous. And right now I’m trembling. So tell me, RJ, what in high heaven possessed you?
You better believe me that I used to be in your camp as well. I did have a weak sport for some of the Offshore models, like the Safari or the special “Montauk Highway” they did in the past, but I didn’t care for most others. I was a Royal Oak guy and owned a few of them myself. The Royal Oak reference 15300, the Royal Oak Chronograph 26300, and, of course, the best of all Royal Oaks, the “Jumbo” (15202ST). The Royal Oak Offshore was clunky. I didn’t like piggy-backing chronograph movements. And, above all else, it was just large. But — and here’s the big but — all this changed in 2018 when the Offshore celebrated its 25th anniversary. I realized the original Offshore is actually a classic in its own way and started to open up to it. 25 years later, I finally get it.
Although you rant about them being the “T-Rex” of luxury watches, the original Offshore collection (reference 25721ST) was “only” 42mm in diameter, the same diameter as my favorite chronograph. Admittedly, the Royal Oak Offshore is a bit thicker, but it suits the watch. Over a year ago, I wrote this article that looks back on 25 years of history of the Royal Oak Offshore with the help of a seasoned Offshore collector, and it was definitely an eye-opener for me. The fact that the watch is not without flaws (like the piggy-backing movement for a watch with this price tag) doesn’t bother me much. It makes it almost human.
It is fair to say is that there are a lot of different Offshores and I don’t want to generalize. For instance, I am not too fond of the Barrichello models (also called “the Barries”) but I do like the Offshore Diver watches and some of the Concept models. I just learned to widen my horizon and get out of my comfort zone a bit. Most importantly, the size or dimensions of the Royal Oak Offshore might have been causing shocks in the watch world in 1993, but in 2020 these are widely accepted. Not everyone is down with <40mm watches or like the competition some brands have going on for the thinnest possible watches. I rather have a watch that works and is reliable, than some 2mm watch that will stop ticking the moment you flex your arm muscles.
Rob: Come on, man, stop banging that drum. We all know not all 42mm watches are created equal. You sound like one of those dudes that has “42 and above” tattooed on his tongue. I’m sick of the argument. You even went as far as to point out the central flaw (although you tried to slide it in there without me noticing). Yes, the ROO is “a bit” thicker than a Speedy, but that thickness makes it the weapon any self-respecting rake would identify it as.
And I’d almost be a fan of the “human flaws” argument if you tried to shove it down my throat in a press release but in the cold light of day, using piggy-backing movements is downright scandalous. And please, for the love of God, let’s not drag the concept models into this. I love those things. They are entirely different because they are supposed to be ridiculous artifacts of excess. That I can live with.
You’re right that in 1993 this kind of diameter would have caused a bigger stir than it would today, but it isn’t the diameter I’m moaning about. It’s the dimensions of the thing that get my goat. And, as you can probably tell, my goats been so far got, it now calls a tajin home.
So tell me this honestly. In your mind, does this model come anywhere near to the level of success and longevity it’s enjoyed if it weren’t for the original Royal Oak? And when, if ever, has it truly stepped out of its predecessor’s shadow? I’m not saying you can’t like the ROO, but if you do, don’t you like the RO more?
RJ: Rob, there was a time, not too many years ago, that the Royal Oak Offshore sold many more pieces than the regular Royal Oak. Even when I just had my Royal Oak 15202, back in 2009, people stared at the watch and wondered why I didn’t go for an Offshore. I bought that Jumbo for 7500 Euro and traded in a 15300 (39mm with caliber 3120) that I had purchased for even less. It is only for +-5 years that the Royal Oak has the same demand the Offshores had in the decade before. So let’s not go there. The regular Royal Oak was in the shadow of the Offshore for many years, but only recently stepped out of it again.
Anyway, I am totally with you on the fact that this watch shouldn’t have a piggybacking movement, but that’s about the only lame thing I can come up with. As said before, I “rediscovered” the Royal Oak Offshore recently again and I think it suits me better now than it did in 2008, when I bought my first Royal Oak. Not only because I put on some muscle weight since then, but also because I think the design grew on me. Royal Oak Offshore designer Emmanuel Gueit was ahead of his time, for sure. I wouldn’t mind owning an Offshore chronograph or Diver. And the thickness of the first Audemars Piguet Offshore Chronograph reference 25721? That’s 15mm, is that really an issue? My Seamaster Ploprof 1200M measures 17.5mm in thickness and would eat the Offshore Chronograph alive, yet it is in my wearing rotation program all the time. Don’t be a watch thickness wussy.
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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