Audemars Piguet Royal Offshore Grande Complication
For my first article for 1 of 1 World, I wanted to talk about a watch that speaks volumes about traditional movement architecture and modern-day contemporary aesthetics. Now this isn’t exactly a piece unique, but with only three pieces adorning the wrists of some very lucky (and very wealthy) people, its highly likely that you won’t see one any time soon. And some times that’s the point of these limited edition pieces. The fact that you are pretty much guaranteed your friend won’t have the same watch makes this piece that much more compelling. I am talking about none other than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication.
Now the watch itself is not exactly subtle. At 44mm in diameter and 17.5mm in height it is quite a hefty timepiece. Its more statement-like than functional, despite its plethora of complications (of which I’ll get to in a second). The sheer volume of watch sitting on your wrist should be a reminder as to the enormous amount of time and indeed effort it took to create such an incredible piece. The case, which can come in either rose gold or titanium is finished impeccably and as close to as perfectly as possible. From the centre-point oriented bezel screws, to the chronograph pushers, to the crown and its crown guards, every part of the watch has been finished with meticulous precision. Ceramic is the main theme, and is offset beautifully against the openworked dial and the rest of the watch’s case material. The dial has been skeletonised, so the wearer can see the inner workings of the timepiece without having to turn it over.
Audemars Piguet can stake the claim, in my books, of being one of the only manufacturers to be able to skeletonise a watch without losing any of its aesthetics. The issue with skeletonising a watch is that not only is the manufacturer limited to the amount of customisation they can do on a dial, they expose a movement for all its worth. Any blemishes that a watchmaker has overlooked will come to light and will be in full view, which isn’t ideal, especially for a piece with such a high price tag. Each hand-finished component has been bead blasted and bevel polished, while the bridges have been finished with rounded-off and polished bevels. The watchmaker assigned to the timepiece by Audemars Piguet will spend at least 860 hours assembling, testing, disassembling and reassembling the watch three times to ensure complete functionality before it leaves the workshop.
Turn the piece over and you’ll be confronted with a massive rotor that can be customised by the purchaser.
They can add their family’s emblem, coat of arms, or just their initials. The possibility for making an already unique piece that much more individualised makes the watch even more special than it already is.
Now, onto the complications. For the sake of simplicity amongst such an overabundance of complexities, I’ll resort to listing the complications rather than delve into each function. Beyond the obvious function of a timepiece (hours, minutes and seconds), the Grande Complication includes a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar showing the date, day, month, moon phase and leap year, and a rattrapante chronograph complication. And while you may think that 17.5mm is thick for a watch (which in all respects it is), considering the movement is also automated makes it fairly decent in size. It’s a piece for the contemporary watch collector. I have no doubt in my mind that the purists that lord over simplicity and tradition will only find something negative to say about the Grande Complication. And being a purist at heart, I can see its flaws. But I can see its appeal, and I would not hesitate for a second in purchasing it, given an opportunity (if I were heir to a billionaire’s fortune, that is!). Priced at over $740,000USD, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication represents haute horlogerie for the modern-day aficionado. Breathtakingly beautiful, functionally compelling and stupidly expensive — everything a truly unique piece encompasses!
With only three of watches in circulation, 1 of 3 can be found at Marcus Watches in their London flagship store.