If you were to ask a collector to picture their ideal Audemars Piguet watch, they are no doubt going to describe something from the Royal Oak — or Royal Oak Offshore — collection. The Gerald Genta design lives on in our minds, and that octagonal bezel is instantly recognizable. With the Royal Oak Offshore already seemingly larger than life, how do you top it? You get The Terminator himself on-board, and produce the limited edition known as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph (ref 26378IO.OO.A001KE.01).
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore is a fairly recent creation, first hitting wrists in 1993. The roots of the design go back 31 years prior, when Audemars Piguet first released the Royal Oak, penned by none other than Gerald Genta. At the time, releasing a thin steel sports watch that cost more than a gold watch was a risk. Why was it so pricey? For one, it had the thinnest automatic movement of the day, and for another, it was still given all the finishing that precious metals would have gotten.
Setting the pricing aside, the Royal Oak was divisive upon its release. Over time, the design won people over through its capability to adapt. Over the years, there have been updates and new complications introduced. As the 30-year anniversary mark was coming up, Audemars Piguet decided a special version was necessary, one that put more focus on the sports side of “luxury sports watch”. Though it ended up being introduced a year after the 30-year mark, the Royal Oak Offshore was no doubt an evolution of the design – even sharing the same disbelief (“It’s too big!” “It’s too different!”) that the original had upon its introduction. Just as with the original, the Royal Oak Offshore has morphed over the years, becoming an icon in it’s own right.
If you’d like more on the history of the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore, we’d recommend this article that covers it in greater detail than we have here.
As you would expect for a watch that Arnold lent his name to, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph is no wallflower. The 48mm case is made of ceramic, finished in a way that it gives the appearance of steel. This use of ceramic brings an air refinement in materials, while the pusher guards, case bumpers, tang buckle and case back are all made of titanium, lending a quiet strength in cool grey to the assemblage.
The chronograph pushers bring a third material and color to the party: rose gold. This serves to remind that while the Royal Oak Offshore is a beefy sports watch, it is indeed a serious piece of luxury. Those golden tones carry onto the dial, showing up on the chapter ring, the outlines of the subdials, the date window framing, and the oversized Arabic numerals. All of this is set on a dial pattern that Audemars Piguet calls “Méga Tapisserie”, enlarging the grid pattern common to the standard issue Royal Oak. While this is a standard dial pattern to the lineup, it’s another callback to the fact that it’s namesake — Arnold Schwarzenegger — is larger than life.
Another unique feature of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph is it’s strap. Not the fact that it has a strap, but in how the strap attaches. The Royal Oak line is known for its integrated bracelet design, and even the straps use the same connection point to the case. Unlike that standard, on this watch we see something we’d consider more of a “normal” lug configuration. The textile strap tucking into those lugs, and then flaring out at the shoulder to taper down to that titanium buckle. This is a design detail that you simply do not see in most of the modern offerings of the Royal Oak Offshore.
Inside the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph is the Audemars Piguet 2326/2840 cam-operated chronograph movement. Unfortunately for us, the titanium caseback prevents us from seeing the 21K gold rotor of the movement, as well as the Côtes de Genève finishing on the rhodium plating. The movement runs at 28,800 vph, and is assisted in its accuracy goals by a monometallic balance that’s adjusted in five positions and for thermal changes, a flat balance spring, and a straight-line lever escapement. Individually, the components feel familiar, but here are brought together in a manner to elevate the whole to be more than an assemblage of its parts.
Versus The Competition
If you found your eye being caught by the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph, but aren’t quite a fan of the color scheme (or can’t find one of the 1,500 made), you are still very much in luck. There are a wide range of materials and hues to be found in the Royal Oak Offshore line, and even ones that have other celebrity tie-ins, like this one which also brings that rarer lug configuration we see on this watch.
If you’d like to look past Audemars Piguet for your bold chronograph needs, I’d offer two different directions that you could head. If you want your chronograph to not just be large, but also be with a brand that has 80s action star associations, look no further than Panerai, well-loved by Sylvester Stallone. If you want one that looks more like a historical reference, the Panerai Mare Nostrum Titanio should do the trick.
The other direction you could head would be to embrace the integrated bracelet look and feel, and go with a space-age interpretation of what that can look like. For that, the H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Flyback Chronograph is where it’s at. While it has a visual “largeness” to it, the more-compact 42mm case will no doubt be comfortable on a wrist that would be overwhelmed by the 48mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph.
Viewed from afar, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph feels very much like the personality we see of Arnold the action star. It’s bold, it’s brash, and it’s ready for action. When you start taking a closer look at the elements and materials that make up the case and dial — and the hidden movement — we see another side to the watch. Though the watch itself is from 2011, the design details point us to the Arnold that we see today. An elder statesman in the political arena, as well as an advocate for those taking charge of their health. In both of these, he’s a champion, and exudes a likability and strength that this particular Royal Oak Offshore manages to encapsulate.
As I mentioned at the outset, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore are icons in the watch world, and for good reason. Perhaps due to the bumpy reception of the Offshore collection, its design has not been so sacrosanct as to keep it from being iterated upon and updated over the years. This keeps things interesting, and allows the design to improve over time.
For this specific reference, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph shows us what Audemars Piguet can do when they have a celebrity on-board that they understand, and can morph the reference to be an embodiment of. Just as there innumerable bad impressions of Arnold, there are many bad takes on the octagonal bezel with it’s hex head screws. No matter where you see them, your mind will be called back to the Royal Oak Offshore. Maybe not today, but odds are, you’ll be back.