- By Arthur Touchot
It’s Spring and with temperatures rising slowly in Geneva, one can’t help but notice that the snow covering the mountains surrounding the city is receding. The ski season is well and truly over, and I’m already looking forward to spending the upcoming sunny days on the water of Lake Geneva. But for now, it’s time for one last hike to clear my mind ahead of what promises to be an exciting auction season.
The irony of testing a watch – any watch - out on the trails is that what I enjoy the most about hiking is the feeling that time is suddenly standing still. As I typically spend the week racing against deadlines, scheduling meetings and generally thinking about life as a series of planned events, being out here on my own (with our star photographer Jess Hoffman) is a welcomed change of pace.
In front of me is a goal which, for once, isn’t measured by elapsed time but by meters. Reaching it is quite simple, it’s one foot after the next, and I can let my mind wander while my legs do the same.
I’m sure many will be surprised about my timekeeping companion for a hike – of all the watches available in our sale, including a truly remarkable Explorer model, a gold Offshore Diver seems like a controversial choice, I know. But please bear with me, beyond the cheap thrill of wearing a watch the “wrong” way, there are a couple of reasons why that’s the watch I landed on.
First of all, and despite the nautical universe surrounding the Diver, this is a watch conceived, manufactured, and assembled in the Vallée de Joux, by men and women who spend their winters making watches while watching snow fall – as per tradition. Taking the watch back to this beautiful corner of the world therefore felt pretty natural.
Second, because I’ve had a major weakness for this particular Offshore ever since Audemars Piguet kindly loaned me one of their models – in stainless steel – for a diving trip off the coast of Corsica. That was a while ago, and so any opportunity to spend more time with one I was always going to take.
I was never going to go diving in the still freezing Lac Leman so with nowhere to go but up, I decided to take the Offshore for a hike in the Jura to find out how it would handle what at first may seem like unnatural terrain.
Finally, because I wanted to challenge the notion that a watch is made for a specific purpose. Whilst I recognize that certain watches are better suited to certain situations (I wouldn’t go diving with a vintage Calatrava), I am becoming more and more convinced that the best watches are those that adapt to the wearer, regardless of their gender, occupation, or lifestyle.
So, whether you agree with it or not, that’s how I ended up boots in the snow at the zero-mile mark, a rucksack on my back containing a small survival kit (cheese and wine) …and a pink gold diver on the wrist.
As I expected, I spent the first hundred meters of the hike looking down at the watch…which almost cost me going off-track at the very first turn in the trail. I must admit being very impressed by the unique grey and pink colour scheme of this particular limited edition. The contrast looks amazing and made the watch feel brand new and completely different to the stainless steel version I had tested. But one thing remained the same, and that is the size of the model.
Like every other Offshore, the Diver feels like a brick on the wrist. It measures 42mm which seems reasonable on paper, but it feels bigger to other watches with the same diameter because the case sits quite high. Because of this, the Diver is often described as a “tough” or “robust” tool. But this pink gold and titanium model feels a little different.
As I slowly pulled myself out of the mountain’s giant shadow and onto its snow line, thoughts of the watch’s size and weight became a distant memory. The watch is indeed surprisingly comfortable to wear thanks in large part to the thick rubber strap that secures the watch on the wrist.
It would be unreasonable to say this watch was made for hiking, but I actually found its design is very well aligned with those with mountaineering pedigree and those you expect to see on a trail, starting with having an extremely legible dial.
As a bonus, it features large hands filled with SuperLuminova which thankfully I did not have to test but would come in handy if I had found myself racing against the sunset to find shelter. Indeed, thinking of one’s own security is sadly becoming vital even on a small trail like the one I was on, with rock fall and rock slope failures becoming more common and more extreme around Switzerland.
In pink gold, the Diver reveals itself the same way. From afar it looks formidable, a wristwatch that can handle anything you throw at it, but on the wrist, the softness of this particular model, in pink gold, forces a different opinion and you quickly realize that you are wearing something that is unmistakably precious.
It becomes even more evident when you turn the watch over to see that, at its core is something worth preserving: one of the finest base movements of the modern era, the manufacture’s beautiful in-house self-winding caliber 3120.
Seeing this movement, which is hidden whilst the watch is on the wrist, is one of the small pleasures reserved to the watch’s owner. It doesn’t tell the time, and it’s unlikely going to be the reason one would buy the watch, but there’s a good chance it’ll be what he or she most appreciates about the watch with time.
Having successfully reached the peak of the trail and now on my way back down, I feel especially grateful for being able to experience the scale and beauty of the world around me. Living in Geneva, near the water and in front of Europe’s greatest mountainscape is a privilege, especially at this time when many are facing lockdowns in busy, polluted cities, but with it comes a sense of responsibility and duty to do better for future generations.
Environmental protection is a cause that is dear to Audemars Piguet as well, and some of you may know that the Royal Oak has played a pivotal role in the fundraising efforts of the manufacture’s Foundation, long before the launch of this particular limited edition.
Initiated in 1992 by Jacques-Louis Audemars, the grandson of the company’s co-founder, the Audemars Piguet Foundation has financed countless projects around the world, including the preservation of nature reserves in Asia, the promotion of forest conservation in North America, and, closer to home….the opening of new trails in Switzerland.
A parting thought as I return the watch to the office ahead of the small: I have recently spent a lot of time with Offshore models, and this pink gold limited edition is right there at the top as one of my favourites because of its versatility – it is reminiscent of “The Beast” because of the incredible wrist presence it has, but it has a modern, but it has a modern, relaxed vibe thanks to its rubber strap, and unique combination of materials. All in all, it’s a winner, whether you’re wearing it in the mountains, under water, or simply in the city.
To learn more about the Audemars Piguet Foundation, please visit their website.