Audemars Piguet To Release Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph

In advance of the Watches & Wonders show taking place in Hong Kong at the end of September, Audemars Piguet has unveiled its latest complicated sports watch, the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph. Through the high-tech materials, fans will still recognized the familiar Offshore case shape -- and the caliber 2897 movement inside adds a non-traditional winding system to two of the most classic complications, the tourbillon and the chronograph.

The first Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph was released in 2010 with a forged carbon case and a manually-wound movement inside. Since then, we've seen other interpretations of the tourbillon chronograph from AP, including limited editions in titanium, platinum, and pink gold with various manually-wound movements and ceramic accents.

The new Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph (reference 26550AU) offers some familiar features from the 2010 original, along with some new flourishes and technological developments. The forged carbon case is accented with a black ceramic bezel, crown, and pushers, plus large titanium pusher guards. At 44mm in diameter (not including those massive protectors) and 14mm thick, this watch is far from understated. The "méga tapisserie" dial -- accent required -- is on the brash side too, but you're not wearing this watch to fly under the radar.

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The caliber 2897 movement is the latest generation of tourbillon chronograph from AP; it was developed by research arm Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APRP). At 6 o'clock you have the one-minute tourbillon that beats at 3 Hz. While this would be slow for a non-tourbillon, 3 Hz is normal for a tourbillon and allows for better views of the mechanism at work. The chronograph counts up to 30 minutes and the all-important column wheel is visible through the caseback at 6 o'clock, just behind the tourbillon. The movement contains 335 total components, 34 of which are jewels, and it has a 65-hour power reserve.

The biggest addition, however, is the automatic winding system. Previously, AP's tourbillon chronographs have been manually-wound, letting you see the entirety of the beautiful movement through the caseback. Not wanting to obscure things with a large rotor when they incorporated the automatic system, the team at APRP engineered a peripheral rotor. You can see the dense platinum mass around the edge of the dial and the large coupling gear around 1 o'clock. This is a system we're seeing more often these days and it's a perfect fit for a watch like this.

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While there is no arguing with the technology here, the aesthetics may be more polarizing. The Offshore case with the large protectors is a modern classic and instantly recognizable, and the monochrome color palette is certainly cool. But, the dial is a little over-the-top and lacks balance. Set into the large pattern of squares are four round elements, all of different sizes, and overall things feel cluttered. Plus, the placement of the logo feels a little like an afterthought. The upside is that no other manufacture finishes its ceramic and carbon to the same level as Audemars Piguet, and the level of detail achieved is top-notch.

The Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph is a limited edition of only 50 pieces. Official pricing has not yet been announced, but based on comparable models in the collection we expect it to come in between $250,000 and $300,000.

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