The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chrono Michael Schumacher
If you want to add a Royal Oak to your collection, you are an innovator, a person who loves motorsport, and definitely in the avant-garde, Audemars Piguet has, for the past several years, linked its image to the most exclusive of motor sports: Formula 1. It has done so through its Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chrono line, the sportiest version of this watch that has been conquering the heart of Italians since the 70s. (please click here for the original post). And it did so by making a limited production series dedicated to the most important names of Formula 1 of past years, names like Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya, models made in such a limited number that they have become veritable cult items and the object of a frenzied search by collectors from all over the world. With the result that their cost has gone sky high. The unremitting and constant growth of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chrono series reached its apex, when the maison based in Le Brassus included in its limited circle of Ambassadors the seven times world champion Michael Schumacher:
Having justifiably become part of history with his record of seven world championships, 91 victories and 68 pole positions (while waiting, probably, to be overtaken by the enfant prodige Sebastien Vettel), Michael Schumacher is, in our opinion, the definitive ambassador, exceptional pilot and man of charisma, and the one man that can permanently consign to history the reputation of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chrono as the icon of the sports chronographs, endowing it with that particular touch of charm that may perhaps still have been missing. For your information, there are three versions, all limited editions of course, that have been made in honor of this great champion: with a case in rose gold, platinum or titanium.
We managed, on a (strangely) warm winter day, to try on the version in rose gold. I say "We managed" because this model, in any of its three versions, is really difficult to find; very, very exclusive, only 500 pieces of the rose gold version were ever made.
When you approach such a watch, there is a completely different outlook. You know you’re not talking about a mass production timepiece, because even the smallest detail of the watch’s design was planned with extreme care. The shape of the winding crown, the craftmanship of the case, the oversized chrono push-pieces, the manner in which the bezel (Cermet) is made, all combine to create an extraordinary aesthetic coherence in both size and design. This is pure, high-tech Audemars Piguet. The seven stars on the dial commemorate Michael Schumacher’s seven world championships, two with Benetton and five with Ferrari, a treat for true watch lovers:
The excellence of the design of course requires excellence of material: the only parts in steel are the 8 hexagonal screws that join the bezel in Cermet to the rose gold case. The winding crown, also in rose gold, is enclosed in two clips made of Titanium, and that also house the chrono push pieces, made in rose gold and with a ceramic base. And of course there is the unmistakable “mega-tapisserie” dial, part of the stylistic vocabulary of Audemars Piguet. Lovers of fine mechanics will enjoy the in-house movement, visible through the sapphire case-back, of 13¼ lines with a balance wheel that oscillates at 3Hz, the bi-directional winding rotor with the Michael Schumacher logo engraved, mounted on ceramic ball bearings and with 55 hours of power reserve. This is, we believe, the definitive Royal Oak Offshore Chrono and one that resolves the few slight design imbalances of the version that came out a few years ago. We asked ourselves only one question: how far can this collection go and how will it renew itself over time? Perhaps the answer lies with the Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon that the maison will be presenting at the next SIHH 2014:
The first version of this concept actually dates to 2002, when Audemars Piguet produced it as a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak. Apart from its technical excellence, this was an obvious indication that Audemars Piguet was exploring the possibility of new design trends. Will the current horizontal design of the case lead in the future to a case developed in a vertical direction? Perhaps. At any rate the stylistic language of the Concept envisages a prism shaped case with an octagonal base, highlighting the typical language of the Royal Oak and its famous bezel screwed to the case, a product of the genius of Gèrald Gènta.
(Photo credit: Google, Schuberth helmets, Horbiter®'s photo shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®