Enter to Win a Rolex Explorer II
video

WatchBox Reviews

AUDEMARS PIGUET vs HUBLOT: ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE BATTLES BIG BANG UNICO

Contact tmosso@thewatchbox.com for pricing and availability; Either I have it, or I can get it! Hublot vs. Audemars Piguet wouldn’t have been a fair luxury watch comparison ten years ago. Pitting a 2008 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore against a 2008 Hublot Big Bang would have been unfair to Hublot’s low-spec fashion-first Big Bang and an insult to Audemars Piguet’s high-horology standard of finish and watchmaking. In 2018, however, luxury watch collectors can expect Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Italia Independent Camouflage limited edition to put up a legitimate fight against Audemars Piguet’s reigning champion of the oversized sports watch world. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 26405CE is one of AP’s best Offshores yet. But Hublot has been moving up to the premier weight class with smart case engineering, ergonomic excellence, and genuine watchmaking innovation. Is the Royal Oak Offshore still the champion of the heavyweight sports watch class? The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore bowed at Baselworld 1993. 44mm Royal Oak Offshore Chronographs became a regular Audemars model line offering in 2011; the full ceramic Royal Oak Offshore 26405CE.OO.A002CA.01 model seen here launched in 2014 as the sole 44mm Royal Oak Offshore in a model year dominated by the 42mm chronograph’s re-design. Retailing for a price of $32,100 U.S. and selling pre-owned for $31-33,000 U.S., it’s safe to say that the luxury watch collector market already has declared this AP to be the winner over Hublot’s contender, which sells used for half of the AP’s pre-owned price. But the AP is a fantastic watch, not just a sound store of value, and this Offshore should be appreciated on that basis. With sharp ceramic creases, titanium hardware for caseback and crown shoulders, and a mega tapisserie dial with slick greyscale treatment, the 26405CE looks the part of an artisanal product executed in contemporary style. The super luminova applied to the AP’s dial offers FAR greater legibility at night than the tepid black lume of the Hublot Big Bang Unico. AP’s caliber 3126/3840 automatic modular chronograph is less sophisticated in its engineering but more beautifully crafted than Hublot’s Unico caliber 1242. Hublot introduced the Unico in-house movement on the monstrous Hublot King Power during the depths of the late 2000s recession. By 2013, rising economic tides were sufficient to lift the new Big Bang Unico to a warm reception from the luxury watch press and watch buyers. Today’s Big Bang Unico Italia Independent Camouflage 411.YG.1198.NR.ITI16 limited edition of 250 pieces debuted as the most limited of an Italia Independent-branded troika at Baselworld 2016. The Hublot’s 45mm case offers ergonomic excellence; light weight, arched lugs that hug the wrist, and a quick-release system for rapidly swapping Hublot straps without need of tools. The Hublot concept of “materials fusion” makes itself seen and felt on this Big Bang Unico; there’s a titanium inner case for the movement; a carbon fiber sandwich structure defines the shape of the exterior case and bezel; texallium – a combination of fiberglass and colored aluminum deposits – creates the color and depth of the watch’s; silk creates the camouflage pattern; yellow gold hardware provides a pointed metallic contrast; twin sapphires (one for dial features) cover the visible dial side of the Hublot Unico caliber 1242. Hublot’s watch is more comfortable on the wrist than AP’s full ceramic Offshore. Finally, Hublot’s Unico Caliber 1242 automatic is a more impressive technical effort than the AP partially in-house 3126/3840. First, the Hublot chronograph is an integrated design that was planned from the outset for the Big Bang Unico case. Moreover, the technical specifications of the Unico 1242 shame the AP; 70-hour power reserve vs. 50; unlubricated silicon escapement vs. traditional Swiss lever; column wheel vs. cam chronograph; minutes register driven off the barrel vs. chronograph driven off the fourth wheel in the AP (off the barrel preserves amplitude); flyback chronograph vs. conventionally sequenced chrono. Finally, the Unico was designed inverted so that the chronograph drive train and column wheel – usually found on the back side of a caliber – can be enjoyed on the dial side of the Unico without removing the watch from one’s wrist. If the Unico gives up anything to the Audemars Piguet, it’s the rote industrial blasted finish of the Hublot’s bridges and plates. The AP movement is beautiful; the Hublot’s is grim. Can the muscular challenger from Hublot vanquish the defending champ from Audemars Piguet? Watch VERSUS #4 to find out!