Ever since its birth in 1972, the Royal Oak has soared in its popularity for its unique attitude and horological excellence, which consequently positioned the Le Brassus based watchmaker as the "master" of high-end sports watches and opened a whole new market within the horological industry. As time moved on, so did people's lifestyle. To meet the demand of 'brutal' ("active" is perhaps a more suitable adjective but yes...) lifestyle of modern generation, Audemars Piguet came up with a matching brutal solution in 1993 - the Royal Oak Offshore.
As the name suggests, it's a more 'practical' adaptation of the traditional Royal Oak with larger cases, chronograph complication, use of materials like rubber, ceramic and forged carbon, which gives a more sporty look.
Let's take a look at the one particular Offshore model, the "Panda" reference (26170ST.OO.DD101CR.02).
Before some of you might think "hmm... that's unusual", one thing to note is that, the "Panda" reference usually comes in 2 variations: in Black Hornback strap with a deployment clasp or metal bracelet, which comes in either Stainless Steel or Titanium.
The one pictured is obviously not in black hornback nor in metal bracelet, that is because I have replaced the black hornback with a tan one with white stitching (which usually comes with the "Safari" reference). Hence the reason why I call this baby "Panda in Safari".
I generally prefer brown leather straps over black ones, so I came to replace it and in all honesty, I think it actually looks better (but again, this is just personal preference!):
It has some similar features to that of the standard Royal Oak: the iconic octagonal bezel with 8 white gold screws, plots that link with the strap and the Tapisserie dial (although this is the 'Mega' sized version). Unlike the Royal Oak, it has Arabic Numeral hour markers and tachymeter around the dial.
It also has black counters at 12, 9 and 6 o' clock positions, counters at 9 and 6 indicating minutes and hours respectively used for the chronograph function.
The case comes relatively thick at 14.30mm and the diameter at 42mm. The pushers and the crown are rubber clad. These exterior specifications allow 100m water-resistance.
Unlike some of the Royal Oaks and Offshores, this particular reference does not come with sapphire crystal back but instead comes with iron back with anti-magnetic protection inside, which I suppose adds to its practicality.
Upon close inspection, you may realise that there is a small magnifying glass for the date dial - That is because of the architecture of the In-house movement Cal. 3126/2840, which powers most of the Offshore references:
Cal. 3126/2840 is a 'sandwich' movement that consists of the 'standard' movement (a modified version of Cal.3120 ) with the chronograph module sitting on top. For this reason, the date dial sits at the bottom, thus a need for magnification.
It's a shame that you cannot appreciate the heart that beats inside on this particular reference but the fascinating exterior and added practicality through soft iron core inner casing certainly compensates for this loss.
Some people consider Offshore ranges to be too big even for today's standards and yes, it is definitely not the lightest or the most comfy watches of all but quite frankly, I think the boldness alongside its sharp design is what makes the Offshore range instantaneously recognisable and gives them their cult status.