While the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak dates back to 1972, the bolder Royal Oak Offshore first saw daylight 21 years later in 1993. The 42-mm Offshore was designed by Emmanuel Gueit. It is said that Stephen Urquhart, then a manager at Audemars Piguet and later CEO of Omega, asked Gueit to come up with something special for the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak.
Not everyone was happy with the daring and large design of the Royal Oak Offshore, but in 1993 it was finally introduced to the public. Although many Royal Oak fans were appalled by this new extreme design, it generated a completely new audience for AP. It drew in people who wanted to flaunt a more extravagant timepiece than the modest Royal Oak that perhaps had too much of a 1970s feel.
The Same Yet Different
In 2004, you might say that Hublot jumped on the Royal Oak bandwagon. As the fame and reputation of the large sports watch from Le Brassus grew, it was hard for the manufacturer to keep up with demand. Hublot seized the opportunity and decided it was time to spice up their collection as well, introducing the Big Bang 11 years after AP debuted the Royal Oak. And a big bang it was. Clearly inspired by Genta’s Royal Oak and Gueit’s Offshore, the Big Bang caused quite the stir.
Hublot took the design and use of materials to the next level, using flashy colors, unusual materials, and making sure each model was only available as a limited edition. It worked. The Hublot Big Bang is favored by many ‘new money’ customers like soccer players, rappers, and the real estate broker down the street who recently made a small fortune.
That being said, both Hublot and Audemars Piguet both seem to be doing well with their respective collections. You might even call them their bread and butter. Interestingly enough, the Royal Oak Offshore has become even bolder and more colorful since the release of the Big Bang. In some ways, they appear to even be pushing each other. While Hublot fans will say the Royal Oak Offshore is a tad boring, Audemars Piguet fans will accuse Hublot of being a fashion watch.
Simply put, Royal Oak Offshore and Big Bang watches are rivals like BMW and Audi or Apple and Windows: You either love one and hate the other, or you hate them both.
Regardless, Audemars Piguet has clearly shown courage with their Royal Oak Offshore models over the last few years. At the same time, Hublot has demonstrated their watchmaking prowess with their Unico movement and interesting use of materials.
Both brands have watches featuring a wide variety of complications, including chronographs, perpetual calendars, and tourbillons. However, the chronograph models are easily in the highest demand. Interestingly, many 42-mm Royal Oak Offshore chronographs have a more daring appearance than the 44-mm Big Bang chronograph, for example.
Let’s take a look at these two models.
Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 42
The Royal Oak offshore is available in stainless steel or gold, with or without diamonds. It also comes as a chronograph with subdials at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock and a date display at 3. The Royal Oak Offshore features an inverse Cyclops lens, putting it closer to the date display on the base movement. The chronograph module has been added on top.
As of this article’s publication, Audemars Piguet has yet to develop an in-house chronograph movement for Royal Oak Offshore watches—much to the confusion of collectors and fans of the brand. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be too difficult for a brand like Audemars Piguet to develop a dedicated chronograph movement for this watch. Audemars Piguet manages to keep the demand for their watches high by limiting (yes, you read that right) production to 40,000 watches per year.
Big Bang Chronograph 44
The Big Bang Chronograph is also available in a number of materials and colors, though it is the more toned down of the two models. It comes with a dark blue or black dial and with a matching strap made of rubber or alligator leather. There are also some gold and diamond-studded versions. The Hublot Big Bang 44 has a more classic chronograph layout, with subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.
This watch does not include the in-house Unico movement; instead, it is powered by the caliber HUB4100, based on ETA’s 2892-A2 with a chronograph module on top. While Audemars Piguet offers the occasional ceramic bezel with their 42-mm Offshore Chronograph models, Hublot is able to offer a full ceramic model with a carbon fiber dial and a rubber strap.
In the end, it’s safe to say that these two models from Audemars Piguet and Hublot both offer similar things. If this happens to be your style, it’s your lucky day, as each brand offers a wide variety of models for you to choose from. There’s no right or wrong: It’s just a matter of which brand and watches appeal the most to you. Audemars Piguet is a bit better known for their ‘haute horlogerie’ and mechanical engineering. On the other hand, Hublot makes sure your watch won’t go unnoticed. The question ‘Who was first?’ only really matters to watch nerds.