Audemars Piguet has established its modern market presence on the strong foundation of the Royal Oak. Following the 1972 debut of the model line, AP extended the collection to a sportier and more relaxed audience with the 1993 Offshore collection. Today, we are discussing arguably the furthest the brand has pushed the Royal Oak DNA from a casual standpoint, the Royal Oak Offshore Survivor, produced in a limited edition of only 1000 examples.
In 1969 Seiko introduced the industry’s first quartz watch. In addition to making the efficient and affordable mass production of watches possible, the “quartz crisis” forced major Swiss watch brands to contend with a new marketplace, and reexamine their approaches. For Audemars Piguet, the correct response was to lean further into the craftsmanship and innovation, pushing more luxurious designs to ensure that the brand wasn’t really competing with the quartz market in the first place. To this end, in 1972 the brand introduced the Royal Oak, what would prove to be the most expensive and luxurious stainless steel sports watch produced until that point. It was a bold move, but the integrated bracelet sports piece also inspired a trend followed by other brands in the following years, having laid the seeds of the Nautilus and Octo Finissimo among others.
After the wild success of the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet wished to extend the Royal Oak design language to an even more sporty package, and in 1993, the chunkier Offshore family was born. The Offshore has been one of the places that Audemars Piguet has experimented with new materials and designs, and today we are covering one such model, the 2008 Audemars Piguet “Survivor” Limited Edition.
The “Survivor” edition of the Royal Oak Offshore is inspired in many ways by firearms and tactical gear. The bezel is constructed to look like the heat sink (thermal dissipater) for a gun. The crown is inspired by muzzle brakes, and the pusher covers look like grenade pins. There are also several holes drilled in the case, a detail that allegedly is related to the weight relief practices of gun makers. If the combative vibe of the watch isn’t to your liking, just view the watch as built highly robustly. This is one of the most bulky looking watches AP has ever made, but it actually wears pretty well as a 42mm timepiece. In spite of the significant thickness of the watch, it wears quite light since the case is constructed from titanium.
The tactical theme extends to the dial, which features sub-registers inspired by bulls-eyes in a scope. The aggressive theme underlying this watch complements the styling of the Offshore design language perfectly. The Offshore has always had an over-built aesthetic, and this watch looks like it belongs in a movie about a zombie invasion. The piece is paired with a sturdy rubber strap and substantial pin buckle, both elements that help to tie together the aesthetics of the watch.
Taking a step back momentarily, the case finishing is exactly what would be expected from an AP. The facets of the bezel are executed in highly polished black ceramic, and the tapered titanium case line is polished just like any other Royal Oak. While this watch is not a conventional Audemars Piguet, the DNA is still there.
Within the “Survivor” Edition Royal Oak Offshore beats the automatic winding caliber 3126/3840. The robust movement is outfitted with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module. This modulation demands a 365 component assembly, with 59 jewels and bridges treated with inverted snailing. This movement resides within the cases of almost all contemporary Offshore chronographs, and it’s a shame this piece has a solid caseback, because the movement is quite attractive. It even has a 22kt yellow gold winding rotor, a treat only for the eyes of the watchmaker who joyfully will work on this movement.
Versus the Competition
This watch is relatively unique in aesthetic, and if this is what you are looking for, it will be difficult to find an alternative that provides the same attributes. That said, if your interest in the Survivor lies in an appreciation of hardcore watches capable of hard use in a military or otherwise tactical environment, there are certainly options for you.
To start with a vintage classic, consider the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Milspec 1 “Demolition”. Produced in the 60s and 70s as a “safer” alternative to the radium dials of earlier Fifty Fathoms models, the Civilian Milspec 1 was marketed by Abercrombie and Fitch as a “demolition” watch. The nickname has stuck, and these rare examples are considered grails among military dive watch circles.
Next up is the first generation Royal Oak Offshore, a member of the D series of highly collectible Audemars Piguet models. This example comes complete with a tropical chocolate dial, another favorite among collectors. Produced in 1993, this piece shares the overbuilt robust construction of the “Survivor” edition, as the earliest in the collection and the father in a sense to the modern Offshore line and in turn, the survivor.
Last, for another overbuilt design and a flyback chronograph, the RM 032 is a great choice. A bit of an outlier in the sea of RM tonneau cases, the RM 032 is a more conventional round interpretation of the Richard Mille design language. RM and AP share a lot in terms of target audience, and this particular reference looks like it would be at home in a similar environment to the Royal Oak “Survivor” Offshore.
The collector that seeks out a Royal Oak “Survivor” would most naturally be a lover of shooting or rifle sports. The aesthetic ties and inspirations throughout the watch make a compelling case for someone who appreciates gun construction and componentry. That said, a collector just as easily could buy this watch because of its robust design and significant presence. If you enjoy the massive look, this watch will hit it out of the park.
In addition to being a funky design for AP, this watch is also limited to 1000 pieces. That makes the design much more alluring for those who need another reason to collect a watch. All 1000 examples sold out almost immediately, and as a result, the watches have remained in demand.
Looking at the AP watches of old, would collectors ever have expected a watch like this to be branded “Audemars Piguet”? Perhaps not, but the fact remains that watches like the “Survivor” have become an integral part of the Audemars Piguet brand story. In a modern context, it’s now hard to view AP without them…