Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 67651July 20, 2023
No, I’m not talking about the Book of Revelation, in fact, things were pretty normal when I finally got to lay my hands on Audemars Piguet’s newest Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 67651 in full black ceramic. But the watch, a faithful callback to the first Offshore nicknamed “The Beast” due to its size and weight, is still pretty imposing, especially for someone like me who has never loved the Offshore. So it might as well be the End of Days (Offshore/Schwarzenegger pun intended) but with the new “Black Beast” I think AP has won me over.
Even recently I held on to the idea that I and my good ol’ pal Gérald Genta (Gérry to his imaginary friends like me) were the cool kids sitting in the corner channeling Mean Girls and saying “stop trying to make Offshore happen” as we proudly stuck to our refined taste for the elegant design of the original “Jumbo” Royal Oak. I don’t think Genta was trying to be a bully when he accused the designer Emmanuel Gueit of “ruining” the Royal Oak design when he created the Offshore. There’s just something so timeless and elegant about the Royal Oak and the Offshore was undoubtedly a departure (and, I’d argue, a pretty anachronistic one).
The watch market can be a fickle thing and it might be hard to imagine in the haze of its modern resurgence, but 30 years ago at the introduction of the Offshore, sales of the Jumbo and other Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 67651 were in steady decline and Gueit’s design would eventually prove the shot of adrenaline that the brand needed. And along with Genta, very few people were convinced at first.
It actually seems like AP’s burden over the years has been to break the mold with a whimper, not a bang. The Code 11:59 launch was roundly dismissed in the same breath as accusations that AP was a one-trick pony. But hindsight has historically been AP’s salvation. Four years on and the Code has seemingly gotten over its growing pains despite having the same movement and case design. Thirty years later and the Offshore has gone through a meteoric rise (and lately slight dip) in popularity. And while the brand had given nearly every treatment of case material and design touch possible within the confines of the “Offshore” box and never quite clicked with me, leave it to AP to pull out the stops for the 30th anniversary with the coup de grâce to my indifference to the Offshore.
I mentioned when we introduced the watch that while no brand “owns” ceramic, AP comes darn close. They are masters with the material, which is why I just assumed an all-ceramic Offshore was just one of the hundreds of models I’ve glossed over in the brand’s history. I apparently gave Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 67651 too much credit in their mastery as brand representatives reiterated how hard it is to work with the material and create a full ceramic bracelet for the Offshore. It’s not entirely clear to me why that’s the case, with so many fully-ceramic Royal Oaks on offer, and leads me to believe this watch was held in reserve for a big anniversary launch. But even if that’s the case, it was worth the wait.
Looking at that introduction piece and James Stacey’s early hands-on photos you can see that even in ceramic, the finishing AP has done makes the new Offshore case trend visually close to the original in a big way that leans into brand history and consumer nostalgia. Historically I’ve always thought Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 67651 ceramic was a material that looks better than it feels and I’d venture to say that’s still the case here, but that’s in part because the black ceramic just looks so incredibly good.