Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Borro Benchmarks: The Collectability of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

The Backstory

How does one follow a classic? As with any redesign, or in-house homage to an extant icon, manufacturers are often met with internal and external resistance when they begin the creation process. This was held true throughout the process of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore in 1989.

Commissioned by Stephen Urquhart, who was at that time serving as Joint Chairman and Delegate of the Board of Directors at Audemars Piguet, to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Royal Oak’s launch (that took place in 1972 after its design had been conceived in a single night back in 1970), the project fell to a young second-generation designer named Emmanuel Gueit.

Nicknamed ‘the Beast, the size of the piece was seen as prohibitively enormous in those days, although by modern standards the 42mm diameter (excluding the crown) and the 15mm case thickness, seems almost conservative.

Despite resistance to the design, Urquhart believed in his young protege and pushed ahead. He named the watch the ‘Royal Oak Offshore’ and pushed the project to completion, debuting the new model at Baselworld in 1993.


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Which Models to Watch

Since then the Offshore has gone on to be celebrated in its own right, and now has a dedicated enclave of collectors, fervently seeking out the rarest and most mouth-watering examples of the early runs.

When it comes to nuanced difference between the relatively small batch sizes of the early nineties, collectors would be hard pushed to find a model that offers more. Differences between case back engraving, font kerning, dial paint and color, clasps, and packaging make for an engaging, if trying task when it comes to identifying the real McCoy.

Simply put, the earlier and more complete the better. The initial run of 100 pieces features some cool quirks that serious collectors should look out for: The absence of the word ‘Offshore’ on the back of the dial (due to the company’s reluctance to rebrand a classic without testing the market first), a solid butterfly clasp as opposed to the more skeletonized one that followed, a slightly more spaced out tapisserie pattern on the dial, the original blue pushers made of ‘therban’ (a highly temperature resistant rubbery compound), and the green leather ‘porthole’ box are the key markers for an original D-Series Offshore.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Under the Hammer

If you’re able to find a D-Series from the first 100, or 200 pieces, you’re in luck. Typically these pieces will fetch upwards of $65,000. For each of the key traits your piece is missing, it would be advisable to knock about 2k off your hammer price expectations.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore is highly sought after in its original make-up. Beware frankensteins or fakes. It’s not that an original D-Series from the early nineties won’t still garner you a decent return even if its sporting a modern bracelet, or is missing its box and/or papers, but for the purists that want to own a museum-level piece of horological history, it’s worth holding out until you can find a perfect example.

About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.