Watch In Focus – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

The Royal Oak Offshore has become something of a core product for Audemars Piguet, and it is difficult to imagine the brand without it — but there was a point at which it didn’t exist at all.

The company, today one of the top watch manufacturers in the world, can trace its heritage back to 1875 with the collaboration of Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet. Manufacturing and regulating movements in small workshop in Le Brassus was the first stepping stone to becoming one of the world’s most prestigious brands, a feat that can be partly accredited to the continuous family involvement with the company since its inception.

As with all businesses that can celebrate long-term success, Audemars Piguet’s start was a slow and steady one. Despite seven years of trade, it wasn’t until 1882 that the company name was even registered as a trademark, and a further seven years before they opened their own branch and sold watches direct to the public.

Part of the continuing increase in popularity and accomplishment was down to commitment to quality control.

This reputation spread to other established brands such as Tiffany and Co, Cartier and Bulgari, who, after Audemars and Piguet had died in the early 20th century, commissioned the company to make movements; even whole watches to be rebranded and sold as their own.

Producing extravagant movements had become somewhat of a forte for Audemars Piguet, and certainly helped to establish the brand’s credibility, but it wasn’t to last.

After the Great Depression in the 1930s brought the world to its knees, the watchmaker struggled through the next few decades, and were on the edge of folding. Enlisting the help of burgeoning watch designer Gerald Genta, Audemars Piguet released a watch that would amaze and bemuse the public in equal measure in 1972, as a final bid for recovery. That watch was the Royal Oak. Named after a 19th Century battleship and wearing strange features such as an octagonal bezel with visible octagonal bolt heads, and an angular case with a flat, integrated bracelet, the Royal Oak very nearly sounded the death knell for them.

Since the stainless-steel sports watch cost considerably more than even Audemars Piguet’s own top of the range gold watch, there was a lot of initial head-scratching, but slowly the idea of super-luxury sports watch took hold. The Royal Oak was instantly recognisable and distinguished the wearer as someone who was wealthy enough to afford the premium. From there, its popularity only grew.

In 1993, Emmanuel Gueit designed the Royal Oak Offshore, a beefier, modernised face-lift of the classic Royal Oak. This sporty model gave the company a chance to flourish with more extravagant colours, shapes and materials, from the carbon cased Alinghi Team, to the other-worldly Survivor. A strong link with motorsport — Formula 1 in particular — was formed, with famous drivers like Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli coming on board.

Love them or hate them, the Offshore is here to stay, and coupled with its more restrained sibling the Royal Oak, suits practically every taste.

The forged carbon case (pictured right) is made by compressing seven micron thick carbon fibre strands at a whopping 300kg per square centimetre of pressure.

KEY FACTS
– The Royal Oak was a tree in which King Charles II of England hid from the Roundheads in during the 1651 Battle of Worcester. It then went on to become the name of eight British Royal Navy warships

-The Royal Oak Offshore movement was originally developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre and has evolved to become in-house movement.

[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]

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