The Audemars Piguet Forged Carbon Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 44 mm ref. 26400AU.OO.A002CA.01 is yet another AP forged carbon timepiece that has been discontinued by our friends from Le Brassus. While Audemars Piguet has always been a pioneer in the watchmaking industry by using new materials never used before by other watch companies, they are also well known for halting production of watches with these innovative materials after short periods of time. Originally released a few years ago, this discontinued reference is one of our ultimate AP Royal Oak Offshore favorites.
History of Audemars Piguet Using New Materials
Not only Audemars Piguet was the first company to release a luxury sports watch in stainless steel with the launch of the Royal Oak in 1972, but also the first company to use many materials never before used by other watch companies. These materials include: tantalum for its Royal Oak in 1986; black PVD stainless steel for the Royal Oak Offshore 'End of Days' ref. 25770SN in 1999; Alacrite 602 —a cobalt-based, non-magnetic stainless steel super-alloy— for the Royal Oak Concept in 2002; also in 2002, rubber clad gold and stainless steel bezels for the Royal Oak Offshore Rubber Clad ref. 25940; carbon fiber for the bezel and crown guards of the Royal Oak Offshore 'Juan Pablo Montoya' ref. 26030 in 2004; and then in 2007, Audemars Piguet released the first-ever forged carbon case with the launch of the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team ref. 26062FS, a 1,300-piece limited edition for the 32nd edition of the Americas Cup where the Alinghi Team was the defending sailing team. Lastly in 2010, Audemars Piguet was the first company to use a special composite named cermet. This very advanced composite, is typically used in creating heat shields for space shuttles and its name is the result of the contraction of the words “ceramics” and “metal”. With a hardness rating of 1,450 Vickers and anti-corrosive properties, cermet was utilized for the very first time on the bezel of the Royal Oak Offshore Jarno Trulli Limited Edition ref. 26202AU we reviewed here.
History of Audemars Piguet Using Forged Carbon Cases
After the release of its first forged carbon case in 2007 with the Alinghi Team limited edition, several references followed using this unique material. The forged carbon case has very unique attributes when it comes to its resistance, lightness —cases typically weighing less than 100 grams— and marbled effect and to the touch, it feels satiny and smooth unlike any other material out there. To take advantage of this material, Audemars Piguet has significantly invested and developed a unique know-how —like no other watch manufacture— that goes all the way from the manufacturing process to equipment development by utilizing the same method used in aeronautics when forging carbon.
According to Yves Leuba, head of Audemars Piguet's forged carbon department, there cannot be two identical forged carbon cases due to its meticulous and unique production process. To make a forged carbon case, carbon fibers are distributed in a random manner inside a mold. When the material is compressed under heating, it evolves in an unpredictable way delivering a final product that is unique every time. He also mentions that AP has kept the same philosophy that aeronautic companies have followed, but have modified the technique for heating and cooling the molds. While Audemars Piguet had already experimented with carbon watch parts in the 1980s and developed a keen sense for the material’s potential, forged carbon is the registered brand of an aeronautical company in the region of Lyon, France. The idea of using this material in watches, originated in a meeting between AP and Vincent Duqueine, head of said French company.
Starting in 2008, Audemars Piguet released the following references using forged carbon for their cases: Royal Oak Concept Carbon Tourbillon Chronograph ref. 26265 in 2008; also in 2008, the Royal Oak Offshore Singapore Grand Prix ref. 26190 with forged carbon case and stainless steel bezel; the Royal Oak Offshore Bumble Bee ref. 26176FO with a forged carbon case and ceramic bezel released in 2009; the Royal Oak Offshore Jarno Trulli ref. 26202AU with forged carbon case and cermet bezel released in 2010 and which we reviewed here; also in 2010, AP released the Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix Limited Edition ref. 26290IO with a forged carbon case and forged carbon bezel and which we reviewed here; the Royal Oak Offshore Ginza 7 Limited Edition with a forged carbon case and ceramic bezel was released in 2011 and which we reviewed here; then in 2012, the Royal Oak Offshore Diver ref. 15706AU debuted with a forged carbon case and a ceramic bezel and which we reviewed here; in 2015 AP released the impressive Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher ref. 26221FT.OO.D002CA.01 we reviewed here and lastly this year, Audemars Piguet presented the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 'QE II Cup 2016' 44 mm ref. 26406FR.OO.A002CA.01 with a forged carbon case and 18K pink gold bezel.
As you can see the history of Audemars Piguet using forged carbon is very rich and while the use of this revolutionary material has mainly focused on the Royal Oak Offshore collection, Audemars Piguet has also utilized it within the Millenary collection with the release of the Millenary Carbon One ref. 26152AU, a manual wound tourbillon chronograph with power reserve indicator, forged carbon case and available in a limited edition of 120 pieces.
While the real reasons remain unknown and unofficial, as to why AP has discontinued all forged carbon timepieces so far —with the exception of the recently released Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 'QE II Cup 2016' 44 mm ref. 26406FR.OO.A002CA.01—, we believe that just as with other materials like tantalum or ceramic, the production of cases using these materials represents too much work, high waste and lower profit margins. Especially, if we keep in mind that in order to meet their stringent quality standards, these somewhat 'unstable' materials have to undergo a rigorous scrutiny where many of the cases produced, might not pass quality control and end up being destroyed.
Sadly, we don't know if forged carbon will ever become a standard case material at Audemars Piguet, instead of just one destined to limited editions or very low production runs. One thing we do know, is that when it comes to forged carbon, no other watch company does it as well as AP and this is a perfect instance to remember Audemars Piguet's slogan: 'To Break the Rules, You Must First Master Them'. In our book, they clearly have master them.
The discontinued Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 44mm Forged Carbon ref. 26400AU.OO.A002CA.01 is fitted with a black 'Méga Tapisserie' with applied white gold batons and white gold hands with luminescent material. The dial features slightly recessed and snailed running seconds register at 12 o'clock, a 12-hour chrono register at 6 and a 30-minute chrono register at 9 o'clock. The date aperture at 3 o'clock features a black calendar wheel to blend in with the color of the dial perfectly. All hands related to the chronograph are either red or red accented. A black tachymetric scale flange rounds out the stealthy look of this watch.
The Case, Bezel, Crown & Pushers
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 44mm ref. 26400AU is fitted with a forged carbon 44 mm case with black ceramic bezel and with black ceramic screw-down crown and pushers. The pushers are made of titanium with rectangular and slightly rounded black ceramic caps and protected by sandblasted titanium guards. The crown and pusher guards are attached to the case with hex-screws.
The black rubber strap, is made of the same rubber like that on the AP Royal Oak Offshore Diver and on all other 44 mm Royal Oak Offshores. The strap is connected to the case via satin brushed titanium plots and the strap is fitted with a titanium pin buckle with the same design as the AP Diver buckle.
The beating heart inside the Audemars Piguet Forged Carbon Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 44 mm ref. 26400AU.OO.A002CA.01 is the Audemars Piguet calibre 3126/3840 composed of 365 parts, 59 jewels and which provides a power reserve of 55 hours when fully wound. As we have mentioned it before, this calibre is based off of the in-house AP calibre 3120, but with a Dubois-Depraz chrono module sandwiched to it. The calibre is fully visible via the titanium display case back.
On the Wrist & Pricing
On the wrist, the Audemars Piguet Forged Carbon Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 44 mm ref. 26400AU.OO.A002CA.01 wears true to its size and is simply one of our favorite Royal Oak Offshores. Trust us when we say this. As the Royal Oak Offshore purists we are, there's nothing more comfortable than the original 42 mm version. However, the lightness of the forged carbon case and its stealth appearance with the all black look, makes this 44 mm Offshore a much more wearable timepiece. If you can find one laying around at an authorized dealer, don't wait too long and make your move. This is a must have for any forged carbon lover.
Sticker Price $36,900 USD. For more info on Audemars Piguet click here.