(Here talking with Gerald Genta on the left of the photo. Mr. Genta was the original designer of the Royal Oak and other significant models in the watch industry.)
I had chatted with Octavio before at the Alinghi launch event back in March 2007. Always an honour and a pleasure to talk with Octavio. He is the man behind the redesigning of Royal Oak line and much of what is seen at the moment in terms of design at Audemars Piguet has his signature on it. And some of the design signatures are beginning to show. I was able to see a number of this years pieces and talk with him about them. In general, it was the Offshores year (although the Millenary ran it a close second), and Octavio indicated that there was more to come in the Offshore range in future years.
First up was the Offshore Scuba Diver. This is only the third ever Offshore that is not a chronograph. I have to say that I loved this piece. Octavio was also pleased with the way the watch had worked. He felt that there had been no compromise with the design and that the watch was both a true working watch as well as complete in the design. One of the aspects of the watch that I really liked was the dial; the markers appeared to float above the tapestry pattern. Octavio explained that in the design of the face he was trying to get back to the original impact of the Royal Oak dial design. The same tang buckle from the Alinghi was evident on the strap and the watch was very comfortable on the wrist. It was with some reluctance that I took it off and handed it back; I even offered to pay for it there and then but AP were not selling at the SIHH!
We then had a look at the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon chronograph. The movement was a derivative from the Cabinet Piece No 4, but the case design had been upsized to Offshore dimensions. I thought that it would have perhaps been more daring to produce the watch in a white metal, even going as far producing the watch in steel, or titanium, or even finding a more exotic alloy. Octavio thought that this would also have been a more risky approach, but suggested that this was a progression on the existing rose gold Offshore; the use of precious metals with more base materials such as rubber or ceramic. However, the design cues are still there. The watch has ceramic pushers (as with the Alinghi), and the curve of the case with the pushers is also reminiscent of the Alinghi.
Which brought us onto the new Royal Oak Offshore F1. Again new materials were evident in the watch, although for my tastes, the watch was a little too complicated in mix. I had a look at the range, and for my tastes, the carbon and the platinum versions stood out. I asked Octavio about the dials and he explained that once again, the use of new materials had enabled the new look. The dial on the F1 was made of aluminium; which in turn allowed more vivid colouring of the tapestry pattern. The red for the carbon and the blue for the platinum were noticeable and drew the eye to the watch.
I looked around for someone to model the watch and found an avid AP fan at the front of the booth. He was happy to model the watch and show how it looked on the wrist. It was a pleasure to meet Jarno Trulli! Jarno is a watch enthusiast and genuinely collects AP!
What is good to see is the use of the AP 3120 movement in their watches as standard; in the Offshore Scuba and F1. It is a free-sprung balance and a finely finished workhorse movement. All the initial kinks are now worked out of the movement; the play that was apparent in initial movement in time setting has now been removed.
"A Purist does not believe in gilt by association. Respect, AND disdain, have to be earned..."