There is no doubt that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is one of the most iconic and recognizable designs in watchmaking history. The emblematic geometric case silhouette has captivated the global market with its sporty appeal and supreme finishing quality. In contrast, the Offshore collection represents a more robust and substantial variant of the original icon. In addition to a variety of general production offerings, historically AP has used the Offshore collection as the canvas for an array of limited editions. This Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 26133ST Shaquille O’Neal Limited Edition of 960 pieces pays homage to one of the most influential and respected basketball players in history.
By now you’re likely familiar with the history lesson behind the original Royal Oak; if not, this earlier article of ours covers all you need to know. The Royal Oak ushered in an era of steel sports watches that transitioned the industry into the present age. Today, integrated bracelet steel sports watches constitute some of the most desirable watches including the Patek Philippe Nautilus, yet another design from Gerald Genta, and the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo we covered recently.
In 1993, after the budding success of the Royal Oak, AP released the first Royal Oak Offshore as an anniversary piece. What began as a one-time edition of the Royal Oak became a collection that AP utilized for the testing of new materials, techniques and celebrity endorsements. The contemporary Offshore collection includes timepieces featuring ceramic, carbon, and titanium components, some of the more modern materials to be utilized by the industry. In 2007, AP announced the release of the Shaquille O’Neal limited edition Offshore reference 26133ST. This announcement came in the same year that O’Neil had crossed the 25,000 point milestone. Having already won four NBA championships, Shaq was one of the most famous and idolized players in basketball. This was relatively early in the game of sporting ambassadors for the brand, and before long Shaq was followed by Leo Messi, LeBron James, Michael Schumacher, and others who then had the opportunity to collaborate with Audemars Piguet for limited edition tribute pieces.
Every AP Royal Oak Offshore shares the same DNA and fundamental attributes. The case shape, dial layout, finishing techniques, and basic proportions are consistent across all models. With the Shaquille O’Neal limited edition Offshore, however, a couple of key changes were made. Firstly, the entire execution of the watch has been scaled up significantly to suit the mammoth proportions of the basketball giant. A massive 48mm case contrasts with a comparatively svelte 14.75mm case thickness. This combination of sizing allows the watch to maintain the relatively slim appearance of the Royal Oak while presenting sizably from the dial side. A 14.75mm case thickness is in no way a thin watch, but next to the 48mm case size and supersized pushers, it also does not appear particularly chunky in this dimension. Additionally, AP has swapped the 2 and 3 hour markers to pay tribute to the number Shaq wore for most of his career— 32. These hour markers have been contrastingly colored in red, next to the off-cream hour markers that adorn the rest of the dial.
From a presentation standpoint, the dial shows incredible depth with a sunken date window, three dimensional tapisserie dial, bathtub style hands and stark, red chronograph hand. The colorway chosen for this model is red on black paying homage to the Miami Heat where Shaq was playing at the time of this model’s release. Like all Royal Oak models, the side profiles of the bezel are mirror polished to compliment the polishing of the case facets. A sizable slab of stainless steel creates the buckle on the strap harmoniously complementing the supersized aesthetics of this timepiece’s execution. Additionally, the recognizable rubber gasket resides beneath the bezel, immediately identifying this Royal Oak as an Offshore model and contributing to the over-constructed sports aesthetic. To further accentuate the dial colorway, AP has extended the same color combinations to the strap execution. The strap is a glossy black alligator with a large scale and contrasting red stitching, all choices thoughtfully pulling the design elements together cohesively.
The dial layout is consistent with most other AP Offshore chronographs with a constant running seconds, a 30 minute chronograph register and a 12 hour chronograph counter. Practically specced and beautifully finished, the AP Royal Oak Offshore Shaquille O’Neal Limited Edition is a fantastic representation of quintessential Audemars Piguet design.
This AP Offshore is powered by the caliber 3126/3840. Although the movement is obscured by stainless steel the case back, and is therefore invisible to the user, those that have the opportunity to view this caliber will be immediately impressed by the high quality finishing standards that have been applied. Cotes de Genève adorn the bridges, a solid gold rotor adds mass and aesthetic refinement to the movement. Subtle beveling and black polished screws soften the lines and break the arises. The caliber 3126/3840 is based on AP’s base caliber 3120, and possesses a power reserve of roughly 50-55 hours depending on the engagement of the chronograph mechanism. This movement is equipped with 59 synthetic jewels for decreased friction and wearing on the moving components.
The general case execution and external appearances of the Shaquille O’Neal Royal Oak Offshore leave hints to the legacy of high horology mastery possessed by AP, but a quick scan of the movement immediately exposes the rich heritage of quality and dedication that have established AP’s exceptional reputation within the industry.
Versus the Competition
The most logical competition for the AP Shaquille O’Neal Limited Edition Offshore would be any of the array of other Offshore references. AP is a prolific creator of variations and limited editions, meaning that almost every combination of colors, metals and sizes is available for purchase. For example, this Offshore features a black ceramic bezel and titanium case and bracelet. Conversely, this Offshore is full titanium with a blue and gray dial. This spread of options allows for a great level of customization and personalization that ensures options for almost every collector. Alongside the Offshore, for those seeking a more refined perspective on this design language, the standard Royal Oak is a great option, with a slimmer profile and more elegant execution.
Another fantastic option for an integrated bracelet sports offering would be a Patek Philippe Nautilus such as this reference 5712 featuring a moonphase, power reserve, pointer date, and subsidiary seconds. Many Nautilus references come in more complicated variants that provide an opportunity to explore high level complications including perpetual calendars and flyback chronographs. In its simplest form, the Nautilus reference 5711 features hour, minutes, and seconds hands.
From Germany, A. Lange and Söhne brings an entirely different perspective to this class of watches with the legendary Odysseus. The dial of the Odysseus features an incredible level of finishing that is coupled with a beautiful movement. The German influence is apparent in every aspect of the timepiece’s implementation from the bold and clean layout of the watch to the final finishing details.
With the legendary popularity of AP worldwide, the Royal Oak Offshore Shaquille O’Neal Limited Edition would appeal to any number of collectors. For some, this Offshore will be their one and only watch. The iconic status of the Royal Oak families and the added interest of a limited edition make this a compelling choice. Due to the larger case dimensions, this particular Offshore is best suited for a larger-wristed person, with other offerings within the collection being better suited to smaller wrists. Other collectors will be seeking a sub collection of AP limited editions. With so many variations available, an entire collection could easily be composed with different metals and dial variations for different outfits and occasions.
For fans of Shaquille O’Neal, this limited edition could also be a particularly meaningful piece to have in one’s collection. Shaq’s following would take special interest in the color choices and tributes that have been ingrained in multiple aspects of this watch’s design.
In recent years, the Royal Oak has continued to explode exponentially as a staple both within the watch world and in pop culture. The Royal Oak is as historically relevant to the watch industry as it is recognizable as a status symbol in modernity. The added intrigue of a partnership with Shaquille O’Neal makes this particular reference an exceptionally special and desirable one. The effortless marriage of a watchmaking giant’s refined aesthetics and a sports icon’s global reputation make for a timepiece that can easily be called a gentle giant. Sophisticated in its details and bold in its sizing, the AP Shaquille O’Neal Offshore is a wonderful representation of AP’s heritage and virtuosity.