Audemars Piguet’s latest limited-edition Royal Oak watch — introduced this week at a press conference in Berlin — is a collaboration with legendary auto racer Michael Schumacher. The seven-time world champion was personally involved with the development of the model, which includes numerous car-inspired design elements.
The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph Michael Schumacher has a 44-mm-diameter case which is available in titanium (1,000 pieces); 18k rose gold (500 pieces) and platinum 950 (pictured below, 100 pieces).
The anthracite grey dial bears the Royal Oak Offshore’s familiar “Mega Tapisserie” pattern, and is discreetly marked at the circumference of the tachymeter scale between the 12 and 1 o’clock positions with seven stars — two blue and five red — which represent Schumacher’s record seven championship victories. The blue stars symbolize his wins driving for Benetton in 1994 and 1995; the five red stars, for his wins driving for Ferrari from 2000-2004.
Auto racing fans will appreciate the subtle background element on the minute track, a pattern that brings to mind a checkered flag; and the galvanic chronograph counters (black on the titanium and rose-gold models, blue on the platinum model), whose raised frames echo the dashboard instruments of a high-performance car.
The automotive motif extends to the hour and minute hands, made from faceted gold with a white luminescent coating and somewhat reminiscent of the silhouette of a racing car’s monocoque. The red-lacquered chronograph hands have extra-blackened heads to help focus the eye on the indication. The date display, located in a round window at 3 o’clock, is in red — a first for a Royal Oak Offshore watch.
In a detail specific to this limited-edition watch, the one-piece, octagonal Royal Oak Offshore bezel is made from Cermet, a material that is seven times more durable than steel, and secured with eight automotive-style domed and inset nuts.
Audemars Piguet and Schumacher have thrown in even more details for gearheads to appreciate. The rubber strap — gray on the titanium and rose-gold editions, blue on the platinum edition — is attached by microblasted, satin-brushed titanium studs that resemble a racecar’s cooling scoops. while the microblasted crown (made of either titanium, rose gold or white gold) is machined to resemble a gear wheel and topped with a red anodized aluminium plate bearing the Audemars Piguet “AP” logo. Microblasted titanium guards protect the polished black ceramic pushpieces, which are topped with caps of either titanium, white or rose gold.
The caseback, which has a sapphire viewing window in its center, sports a design influenced by a racecar’s wheel spokes. Through the window, you can observe Audemars Piguet’s automatic, 365-part Caliber 3126/3840. Its 22-gold rotor has an anthracite galvanic treatment and is embossed with both an AP emblem and Schumacher’s “MS” signature. The rotor, too, has an automotive element in its design: its two cut-outs are based directly on the aerodynamic “NACA” ducts seen on high performance cars. The movement boasts many of the decorative finishes typical of Audemars Piguet: the mainplate is circular-grained; the bridges are rhodiumed, hand-bevelled, snailed and adorned with Côtes de Genève; and jewel-sinks are diamond-polished.
Schumacher, who describes himself as a “huge fan” of Audemars Piguet for about 15 years, is said to have worked closely with the watch company’s chief artistic officer, Octavio Garcia, in the development of the watch. “There is a similarity between auto racing and watchmaking,” he says, “principally in the fact that it is essential to take care of the smallest details because everything is connected.”
The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph Michael Schumacher retails for $42,500 in titanium, $75,000 in rose gold, and $110,000 in platinum.
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