One of this year’s most anticipated new watches is not, strictly speaking, new. The sturdy Royal Oak Offshore series by Audemars Piguet, which debuted in 1993, has experienced a resurgence in popularity because of a recent string of exceptional limited editions. With this year’s entrant, dedicated to Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya, the company further demonstrates that it has a talent for creating thematic designs that are as compelling as its innovative mechanisms.
The verbosely titled Juan Pablo Montoya Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph ($17,900 to $60,000) has undergone more extensive design updates than any of the previous Offshore limited editions (including the Alinghi and the T3), allowing it to pull ahead of the pack of commemorative automotive racing watches. “We decided from the start that we were not going to simply add a touch of red on the dial and call it a racing watch,” says Audemars Piguet CEO Georges-Henri Meylan. “The modifications include several suggestions from Juan Pablo, who was very specific about what he wanted to see.”
Immediately apparent is the prominent use of carbon fiber on the Royal Oak’s signature octagonal bezel and pushers, clearly announcing the piece’s Formula One connection. The design of the bezel screws is reminiscent of those on an F/1 engine, and the rotor—visible through the caseback—is a miniature replica of a clutch. Audemars Piguet has also dressed the strap with stitching similar to that on racing suits and a lining made from alcantara, a microfiber material used for Juan Pablo Montoya’s steering wheel covers and seats.
The Montoya is also remarkable for the burgeoning demand it has generated well before its official October launch date. The majority of the 1,600 pieces—divided among titanium, rose gold, and platinum versions—will be allocated to Europe and the Far East, where Formula One racing is most popular. Such constraints will likely make this timepiece even more difficult to acquire in the United States than the massive T3. “Audemars Piguet seems to have a knack for creating interesting watches, and the word seems to be spreading with each new model,” says Mark Udell, owner of Long Island’s London Jewelers.
Audemars Piguet’s golden touch with limited editions is evidence of the brand’s renewed design vitality. So even if you cannot get your hands on a Montoya, you might want to stay tuned to see what is coming around the bend.