Ten Essential Luxury Watches – Watch Number 2
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore “Bumblebee”
I could have picked on any Royal Oak Offshore and it would still be a superlative watch. For a start, it was designed by one the greatest watch designers of all time, Gerald Genta. As for Audemars Piguet, their status is assured as one of the top three of the high-end watch brands – the other two being Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. You may argue that other brands are encroaching upon this territory, but these are still the three brands that consistently impress collectors the most.
The Royal Oak Offshore is the beefier brother of the Royal Oak. The Royal Oak broke new ground the moment it was introduced at the Basel fair of 1972, (now known as Baselworld).
Its origins began on the eve of the Basel Fair in 1971 when Audemars Piguet CEO Georges Golay asked Gerald Genta to design a luxury stainless steel watch that was both sporty and at the same time elegant. Working literally overnight, Genta designed a watch that changed the face of watches forever. Genta considered the Royal Oak the crowning achievement of his career. It was also a much needed new concept for AP. The early 70s saw several high-end brands facing severe difficulties due to the so called quartz crisis.
Although by today’s standards the watch was modest in size, by 1970s standards 39mm was considered a large and imposing watch. The movement of choice was the beautiful self-winding Calibre 2121, derived from the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 920 which was later used by Patek Philippe for the Nautilus, another steel sport watch designed by Gerald Genta in 1976.
The design theme was inspired by a diver’s brass helmet, and the name itself was to have a distinct nautical influence. Audemars Piguet ultimately settled upon Royal Oak which came from the name of a series of eight vessels in Britain’s Royal Navy which in turn took their name from the ancient hollowed oak tree within which King Charles II of England hid to escape the Roundheads during the Civil War. The symbolism of the number eight is reflected in the octagonal design of the bezel.
Today the watch is regarded as a design classic, but it faced harsh criticism upon its initial introduction. It was deemed ugly as the 8 screws were visible on the bezel, it had an integrated bracelet and an exorbitant price tag of over $3,000. It was most certainly the shock of the new.
So much for the Royal Oak. Twenty years later, once the Royal Oak had become firmly accepted, the Royal Oak Offshore was introduced. The first Royal Oak Offshore was designed to cater to the tastes of sports enthusiasts. The idea was to produce a “deconstructed” approach taking the elements of the Royal Oak and making them more powerful.
Audemars Piguet describe the Royal Oak Offshore’s key characteristics as being of larger-than-life proportions, using high-tech materials and components engineered to ensure protection from magnetic waves, as well as by its distinctive “Mega Tapisserie” motif.
And so to the Bumblebee model, which was released in 2009. It is particularly sturdy with an impressive forged carbon case and signature octagonal Royal Oak bezel. This watch is highlighted by a tachymeter scale printed on a yellow flange, and white gold luminous hands and pushers protected by a rubber coating. The black and yellow colourway resulted in the watch being known as the Bumblebee. The watch features a small seconds sub-dial at the 12 o’clock position, a magnified date window at the 3 o’clock position, and it comes on a black “Hornback” crocodile strap with matching yellow stitching. The watch is powered by the AP calibre with a power reserve of around 60 hours.
The Royal Oak Offshore in its many variants is worn by celebrities such as actor and retired Mayor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, singer Usher, and Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard. Love the Bumblebee version? It can still be acquired, but just make sure you have at least $30,000 in disposable assets.
Ten Essential Luxury Watches – Synopsis:
1. The Rolex Day-Date President
2. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore “Bumblebee”
3. TAG Heuer Monaco
4. Omega Seamaster 300 M Co-Axial 41MM
5. Cartier Tank
6. Breitling Chronomat 44 Flying Fish
7. Panerai Radiomir 1940 3 Days – 47mm PAM 00514
8. IWC Da Vinci Automatic
9. Patek Philippe Calatrava
10. Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711