Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding 15550BA

Let’s skip the (entirely understandable) impulse to make AC/DC references and start with a little history lesson, instead. Thirty years ago, the folks at high-end Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding released a beast—no, seriously, it was nicknamed “The Beast”—from the workshops of their Le Brassus headquarters. It was a cousin of the brand’s flagship Royal Oak model, rendered with burly, beefed-up proportions that seemed almost purpose-built to land on the wrists of action stars and athletes, not to mention the rising generation of luxury watch buyers.
It was called the Royal Oak Offshore, and it wound up doing exactly what it was meant to, and not just the whole “appealing to younger customers” thing—though it did indeed do that and you might recall collaborative versions with guys like Jay-Z and Shaquille O’Neal. But the very first notable name to link up with AP on an Offshore was none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. A black PVD version of the watch with highlighter yellow hands was created to be worn in (and released alongside) the apocalyptic flick End of Days. Truth be told, the watch was a whole lot better than the movie. And one can’t help but recall that 1999 limited edition when looking at the new, all-ceramic, even-darker Royal Oak Offshore that was revealed by Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding in Le Brassus last week.
Audemars Piguet works with ceramic quite often, but the 42mm Selfwinding Chronograph ref. 26238CE is the first time the brand has offered the Offshore with a ceramic bracelet to match the case. And thanks to the Offshore’s mix of satin and polished finishing, creating it from ceramic—renowned for its extreme hardness, and therefore its intransigent nature when being manipulated or machined—remains a particularly difficult endeavor. But it’s not just the material that’s notable in this new release. There’s also a monochromatic dial in AP’s Petite Tapisserie pattern that was, until now, reserved for gold or titanium versions of the watch. According to AP, executing it in all black was a challenge in and of itself thanks to the mix of materials and textures used in the dial.

What you won’t find on the dial are the oversized numerals that have become an Offshore signature, something that may raise a few brows but—to our eyes—offers a sense of balance and restraint to a watch that can quite easily skew aggressive. Finishing things up on the impressively legible display are the chronograph hours, minutes, and seconds—at 12, 9, and 6, respectively—and the date window at 3 o’clock.

Inside, the Calibre 4404 movement powers the flyback chronograph. It’s finished with the exacting attention to detail fans have come to expect from Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding, and a titanium and sapphire caseback means you can gaze at the 22-carat pink gold oscillating weight (engraved with the initial “AP,” naturally) whenever the watch isn’t sitting on your wrist. Of course, considering how it looks, that might not be that often. And anyways, when the forces of hell rise up to wreak havoc on earth, you’re going to want your tough-as-nails watch at the ready. Arnie knew it. Now you do, too.