When a luxury watch brand has a hit on their hands, it is not uncommon for the company to create a spin-off of the popular model. It’s a way to create a new, often brasher, version of the watch for a new audience without alienating the fans of the original. Think the Rolex Deepsea to the Sea-Dweller, the Patek Aquanaut to the Nautilus, the Omega Planet Ocean to the Seamaster Diver.
The newer edition retains many of the fundamentals of the first but it is distinct enough – whether in size, functionality, or materials – to warrant its own name and collection. Another example of this is the original Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and its younger but beefier brother, the Royal Oak Offshore. Let’s take a look at the Royal Oak vs. Royal Oak Offshore to highlight their origins stories, similarities, and differences.
Royal Oak vs. Royal Oak Offshore – Can you tell the difference? (Image: Audemars Piguet).
First Came the Royal Oak
The history of the Royal Oak watch is well documented. But in case you need a refresher, the Royal Oak was designed by prolific watch designer, Gerald Genta and launched by Audemars Piguet in 1972. It was unlike any watch on the market at the time. It had a large (for the era) 39mm case, an octagonal bezel secured to the middle case via exposed screws, a hobnail textured dial, and an integrated bracelet. Almost as audacious as its design was its hefty price tag (for a full stainless steel watch).
Unbeknownst to the designer and the brand at that time, the debut of the Royal Oak essentially laid the foundation for the entire luxury sports watch genre. Many other watchmakers would soon follow with their own expensive steel watches boasting non-traditional designs. Although there was plenty of resistance to the watch at first, the Royal Oak eventually became Audemars Piguet’s flagship timepiece. As a result, Audemars Piguet has produced countless versions of the Royal Oak over the years in varying materials, sizes, colors, and complications.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (Image: Audemars Piguet).
Then, the Royal Oak Offshore Followed
In 1993, Audemars Piguet shook up the conservative watch world yet again with the introduction of the Royal Oak Offshore. Using the Royal Oak watch as the foundation, designer Emmanuel Gueit added his own spin to Genta’s original design to create the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph.
The maiden Royal Oak Offshore inflated the case size to a massive (again, for the time period) 42mm, placed a visible black gasket underneath the octagonal bezel, made the links on the integrated bracelet slightly curvier, and added black silicon caps on the chronograph pushers and winding crown. And just like the 1970’s Royal Oak, the 1990’s Royal Oak Offshore had its fair share of critics (side note: maybe this is a good sign for this year’s highly controversial release of the new Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 collection). In fact, not only did the Royal Oak Offshore pick up the unflattering nickname, the “Beast” but it’s been reported that even Genta accused Gueit of ruining his masterpiece. Tough crowd.
But just like its predecessor, the Royal Oak Offshore successfully carved out its space in the luxury watch landscape, and today it is a popular Audemars Piguet watch collection, independent of the original Royal Oak.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph (Image: Audemars Piguet).
Differences & Similarities: Royal Oak vs. Royal Oak Offshore
At first glance, it is easy to spot the design traits shared between Royal Oak (RO) and the Royal Oak Offshore (ROO); they do after all have similar shapes. However, if you look at them side by side, it is clear that the ROO is bulkier in size and personality.
Men’s Royal Oak watches are typically 41mm and smaller (there are exceptions with the ultra-complicated editions), while the men’s Royal Oak Offshore watches are characteristically 42mm and larger. Plus, almost all Royal Oak Offshore models are chronographs, making them even larger on the wrist. Although both watches are undeniably sporty, the Royal Oak Offshore has a bolder design approach, while the Royal Oak takes the subtler route. For instance, RO watches have thinner profiles than ROO watches. Plus, whereas the Royal Oak has a smaller hobnail pattern on the dial (“Petite Tapisserie”), the Royal Oak Offshore generally displays the bigger pattern (“Méga Tapisserie”).
Which Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore is your favorite?
The Royal Oak Offshore collection is home to plenty of colors, modern materials like rubber and ceramic, and primarily consists of chronographs and divers’ watches. On the other hand, the Royal Oak watches lean more towards traditional metals, leather, classic colors, and plenty of refined complications like perpetual calendars and tourbillons.
In short, the Royal Oak Offshore is the flamboyant version of the lower-key Royal Oak. Another shared theme between the pair is that both Audemars Piguet models overcame their rough starts to become cult classics.
Lastly, there is one other type of Royal Oak collection that is currently produced by Audemars Piguet: the Royal Oak Concept. AP describes their Royal Oak Concept collection as “where ultra-modern technical precision meets cutting-edge micro-mechanics to create perfect harmony between case and movement” – and this description certainly holds true. While the Royal Oak Offshore collection is a bolder take on the classic Royal Oak, it is within the Royal Oak Concept collection where you will find ‘halo pieces’ featuring state-of-the-art materials, skeletonized movements, flying tourbillons, and minute repeater complications.
From traditional and (comparatively) conservative to bold, high-tech, and in-your-face, the various Audemars Piguet Royal Oak collections offer a wealth of diversity on the iconic Royal Oak aesthetic. Provided that you are even partially open to the Royal Oak’s fundamental design language, you will almost certainly find a model that has a place on your wrist.
Guess the watch – Royal Oak vs. Royal Oak Offshore?