This year Audemars Piguet is of the brands releasing a lot of new watches. The most visually exciting of which is this Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix watch collection. Each is in a limited edition, so these aren't permanent additions to the collection. There are three luxurious versions and I have for you the hands-on experience. Let's start with the basic options. Each has ceramic and lots of forged carbon, but I will get to that in a bit. You have a choice of complimenting it with titanium, 18k pink gold, or platinum. These come in a limited edition of 1750 pieces, 650 pieces, and 75 pieces, respectively. Clearly titanium is going to be the biggest and most affordable seller, and I will explain why.
The "new" luxury watch doesn't need to be a giant paper weight. Sure it can be heavy as is typically valued, but lightness is in. Years of giant metal watches have consumers lashing back, not for smaller watches, but for ones that are lighter. After spending $50,000 on your new golden love, why do you want to hesitate about lugging it around. Granted, I am not one to complain about heavy watches, but there are times when you do want something "barely noticeable" on your wrist. In this category the Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix watch certainly fits it. Totally noticeable to the eye, but not as much when it comes to drag on your arm.
It all starts with Audemars Piguet's proprietary forged carbon technology. I must admit that I was very skeptical about this material when it was first announced a couple of years ago. Not carbon fiber, forged fiber was a special way of compressing carbon into defined shapes and using them as case materials. It took a while for Audemars Piguet to get it right, but the current result is something that sold me. The marbled black tones of the forged carbon aren't for everyone, and in this case Audemars Piguet compliments it with a host of other materials so as to make it just another texture. This was wise. Next to ceramic and metal it looks really nice. Depending on the model the forged carbon makes up most of the case. To the touch the forged carbon is impressive. It is hard, but has a smooth warmth to it - almost being soft to the touch. It is totally without depressions or uneveness. Best of all, it is tough and ultra light. I mean super light. Even with gold, it makes for a very light watch. When you mix forged carbon with ceramic and titanium, you have a luxury watch that is almost impossibly light - even though the watch is 44mm wide by 15.65mm tall.
The titanium version has the most forged carbon in it. You can see the titanium in the screws and the section around the chronograph pushers. There is titanium piece around the caseback sapphire crystal. A lot of the case design is a mix between the Royal Oak Offshore Survivor and the older Royal Oak Rubens Barrichello II watch. Much of the racing inspired elements of the watch are in the dial and the many "air vents" around the bezel and other parts of the watch. You see this also on the automatic movement rotor. However the decor on the rotor looks more like a piece of a Star Wars Storm Trooper outfit (in black) as opposed to something off of a race car.
Speaking of the movement, it is the all in-house made Audemars Piguet automatic Calibre 3126/3840 that has 365 parts and a 60 hour power reserve. Like all Audemars Piguet watches it is meticulously detailed and finished. The rotor is actually in partially blackened 22k gold. Functions for the movement include the time with subsidiary seconds dial, 12 hour chronograph, and a date indicator (under reserve mounted magnifier underneath the sapphire crystal).
When you look at the gold and platinum versions you get heavier watches, but ones that emphasis those materials more. For the super light version you know to go with the titanium model. Each of the models has a different palette of colors for the dial. The titanium version has the red center "mega tapisserie" while the gold version is in black, while the platinum version has it in gold. This part of the dial as well as the chapter ring flange with the tachymeter scale and the subdials are done in aluminum. The dials further emphasis the racing spirit by borrowing looks from race car instrument panels. It has been done before, but this is just a fresh interpretation of the luxury race watch.
Looking at the side shot of the case you can really get a good idea of how complex it is. Really interesting design features make it more sci-fi than motorsports in my opinion. I see tons of fantasy world spaceships in the design of this watch. In a place far, far away... can't you see the Star Wars Millennium Falcon being the inspiration for this watch? Think about the overall shape of the case with the pushers. Move the cockpit from the side of the ship to between the jetting section, add some thick chronograph pushers, and you have the basic shape. Even the crown of the Grand Prix watch and the cockpit look similar. Whatever the inspiration is, I like the idea of a space-age tech tool on my wrist more than something to do with racing. Or maybe that is because racing isn't that popular in the US unless you count NASCAR. And in that case the watch would have to look like a Chevy.
The watch strap is pretty neat as well. It is made from a few fabrics including black calfskin and Alcantara leather (used on a lot of race car seats because it reduces slippage). The buckle matches the metal of the case, and is perfectly wrought to have a pristine look with its bead-blasted finish. All in all the Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix is a cool ultra-modern luxury watch to keep the Royal Oak Offshore watch collection fresh. Even though the design isn't all that unique in comparison to their past pieces, it does feel special and has that typical impressive Audemars Piguet character to it. Prices for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix watch are $34,500 for the forged carbon and titanium, $56,300 for the pink gold, and $94,300 for the platinum version. Each again are limited editions (with the specific pieces per each listed above). Look for them soon.
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