January 30, 2016
by David Bredan
There are some watches out there that, one might feel, appear to have always been around. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph works so well as a natural extension to the Diver collection that, to me, it is certainly such a watch. A couple weeks ago at SIHH 2016, Audemars Piguet finally enhanced their “ROO Diver” – originally released at SIHH 2010 – by adding a chronograph function to it. Do the math, and you’ll find that It took six years for the brand to make the first considerable, major update to this collection. To make up for that lengthy wait, the Le Brassus-based manufacture premiered not one, but four different color options. Here’s our hands-on look.
In 2016, the luxury watch industry (and many of its peers) are still in a phase where for a renowned manufacture to debut colorful new pieces can be widely considered a “controversial move.” I can’t help but feel inclined to point to the numerous, considerably more pressing industry issues, that we covered at length here – things that should arguably come sooner than being afraid of a brand “losing it” just because it debuted a few colorful watches.
Sure, whether you would want to wear a bright yellow (or green, or orange, or blue) watch or not is surely down to your personal preference, but to suddenly find a brand to be “controversial” or “polarizing” for its use of colors on a sporty collection may be one unnecessary step too far in watch-snobbery.
When approached with a more open mind, the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph may just surprise you with its blend of popping bright colors and AP-standard craftsmanship – I could feel its genuinely fun vibe get to me even in snowy-foggy Geneva in the middle of January. While the deemed success or failure of color schemes may very well be down to personal taste, I can only applaud it when brands leave behind their usual – and, for the most part, not very fascinating – black-silver-white colorways and dare think out of the box a bit. At a time when such an overwhelmingly large number of high-end brands dedicate most all their attention to “heritage,” “tribute,” “anniversary,” and “vintage,” to see something as fun, unapologetic, and bold as the new ROO Diver Chronograph, was a truly refreshing experience… even if, technically, it is based on a 1972 design.
This new chronograph version brings that modern approach to the next level as, at the time of release, there actually are no truly conservative color options for the new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph: you can have it in bright yellow, vibrant orange, deep blue (with a splash of yellow), or in-your-face green (facts: that latter one is not an official color code, and it is being reserved for the Geneva boutique only – seriously).
The new Diver Chronograph retains many of the original Diver’s trademark design elements. The inner rotating flange ring that can be adjusted via the ceramic crown at the 10 o’clock position is still present, and so is Audemars Piguet’s trademark “Méga Tapisserie” dial pattern with those chunky, well-defined blocks that, to this day, still work so well with the overall theme and looks of the watch. The massive hour and minute hands remain, and so do the applied indices with the faceted edges – upon a closer look, you will find numerous high-end details to keep the new Diver in line with what you would expect from AP when it comes to quality of execution.
The Royal Oak Offshore case is as impressive as ever, too: built like a tank, crafted from beautifully machined and polished steel in a size of 42 millimeters wide and 14.75 millimeters thick. The ROO strikes a fascinating balance, looking like the love child of weapon-grade equipment and fine jewelry. Just look at that profile shot two above: it is chunky, blocky, and yet in some weirdly cool way, justifiably over the top.
To create some much needed contrast to all this muscle-flexing, the thin, polished and beveled edge that runs along the side of the crown protector bridge, the side of the case and lugs, and also the edge of the bezel all work in tandem to give a high-end feel to a watch that otherwise could easily just come off as a block of brushed steel that tries too hard to impress.
It was a relief to see Audemars Piguet not shy away from using a see-through case-back, using the 300-meter water resistance rating as an excuse to hide what’s inside. Hence, what you will discover turning the new Diver Chronograph over is the impressive-looking Audemars Piguet Calibre 3124/3841 – a manufacture base caliber with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module on top. That’s right, AP has stuck with this modular construction, while Vacheron Constantin has at last updated its Overseas (hands-on here), and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus (hands-on here) also has their in-house chronograph movement, albeit at a much higher price.
An easy way to spot and distinguish a modular chronograph movement from an integrated one is to check the pushers and crown of the case: if the chronograph pushers are not on the same level as the crown but further up, then you know there has been a module installed on top of a base movement. Just check the profile shot two above, for a “once seen, you can never unsee” experience. This little detail may or may not be an issue for you – although, arguably, the higher the price, the more expected a fully in-house movement becomes.