Listen to me now and hear me later, girly man. Arnold Schwarzenegger the Austrian Oak aka the Governator, is a walking, talking, Predator-dispatching, cigar chomping, Humvee driving embodiment of the American Dream. Having headlined over 40 feature films, been the boss of California, publicly feuded with Donald Trump, married a Kennedy, sired multiple children both in and out of wedlock, at the age of 70 he can still military press you and your hold fah-ma-lee over his head if so inclined. He is single-handedly redefined the late 20th century male physique, introduced weightlifting to the world and inspired one of the all-time most hilarious skits on Saturday Night Live, ‘Pumping Up with Hans and Franz’ responsible for the first line of this story. But it is particularly in his relationship with Audemars Piguet, his penchant for romantic dalliances with his domestic helpers aside, that has yield his most conspicuously cool issue. Namely a watch called End of Days.
The film from which the watch takes its name is a supernatural thriller. In it Schwarzenegger plays Jericho Caine, ex-NYC police detective dedicated to defeating that ultimate screen villain, Beelzebub himself, or in Arnold-speak, “Say-Tan.” Don’t bother watching it. It is crap. If you’ve a hankering for this genre turn to Rosemary’s Baby or the still genuinely terrifying Exorcist instead. But the watch created for the character is cooler than Johnny Hartman jamming with John Coltrane wearing ice underpants.
The First True BadAss Luxury Watch
Launched in 1993, Audemars Piguet’s original Royal Oak Offshore was a revolution and an assault on conservative values that had patrician boardroom chairmen and ladies running away from it as if it were accompanied by a Mongol army intent on plundering their loot and absconding with their daughters. Yes, it was a luxury watch. Yes, it was extremely refined in finish. But it was also irrefutably badass. If the Offshore were a person, he would have parked his Harley FXR in your rose bush and put his motorcycle boots up on your Bedermier table. And that was the point. In the same way that its predecessor the Royal Oak was a watch that targeted specially at the ‘70s era playboy and his love for all things sports chic, the Offshore was a declaration that you could be rich (enough to afford its price tag) successful (enough to be rich enough to afford its price tag) and also something of a bad mother f***ker.
In 1993 when launched, this watch scared children and old people.
In 1997 AP upped the ruggedness of the Offshore while making it easier to wear by ditching its near half kilo steel bracelet for a double strap, made unbelievably enough from heavy duty ballistic Cordura, Kevlar and aramid, and a Velcro closure. If the aforementioned older generation gentility had revived from their fainting spell, this would send their panic-stricken hearts back into cardiac arrest. Because never in the world of haute de gamme watchmaking — a term often associated with AP, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, horology’s “Holy Trinity,” — had so lofty a brand deigned to invoke military codes. It was as shocking as your college daughter returning from her semester studying sculpture in Florence, knocked up and with an Italian husband named Fabrizio. But those who dared strap this divisive animal on their wrist were rewarded with a watch that could fit a much wider variety of wrists and with a fantastic level of comfort.
End of Days Royal Oak Offshore 1999 500 Pieces Limited Edition
The 1999 End of Days took the “Velcro” strapped Offshore as its base but then upped the bad assitude to Spinal Tap Level 11. First of all, the steel watch was entirely coated black, using Physical Vapour Deposition. Now this may not seem radical today, but in this era, only tool type watches, Tag Heuers, Porsche Designs, and Panerai had gone to the dark side. For a rarified brand like AP to do it was, to quote the bald dude in The Princess Bride, “inconceivable.” The blacked-out case was backed up by a blacked-out dial featuring the brand’s signature tappiserie motif, white gold subdial surrounds and shocking high alert signal yellow hands and indexes. The Special Forces meets high luxury allure was cemented with the use of a black Kevlar, aramid, Velcro strap.
When it was launched people lost their minds over the 500-piece limited edition. It was snapped up in a heart beat. For the first time here was a true luxury watch manufacture expressing that it understood what was cool. From a historical perspective the End of Days would forge the aesthetic underpinnings for an entire generation of blacked-out timepieces and it’s fair to say there would be no Hublot All Black and no George Bamford watches without its existence. Prices rapidly shot up to touch $100,000 but in recent years secondary values have come down a lot. Watches today can be bought in the $40,000 dollar range.
Why have the prices of End of Days watches softened? The first reason is that the world has moved more toward vintage and retro styled watches. Apparently it’s not quite so relevant to be a bad motherf**ker anymore. And the second reason was that owners realized that the PVD finish scratches relatively easily, making this badass watch susceptible to frailty. That said, I still believe in the long term collectability of these watches and if you buy one in great condition you can either wear if carefully or just enjoy it with abandon as AP will refinish the case for you. It just won’t be cheap. Prices for refinishing the case averages 1,400 euros. If you want one of the most historically significant watches we’ve curated a small selection of End of Days Offshores here.
The Royal Oak Offshore Bumblebee 2009
So now that I’ve gotten you all amped up about the End of Days, let me introduce you to a watch that is every bit as visually dynamite but you can wear every day and not baby it. It is also, from a performance perspective, one of AP’s lightest and hardiest watches. Its name is the Bumblebee. And it combines all the badass looks of the End of Days with real world wearability. The watch’s arresting yellow and black styling codes clearly borrow significantly from its predecessor, so much so that put them next to each other and the Bumblebee looks like the modern version of the End of Days. But beyond its epic style the Bumblebee represents three massive technical innovations pioneered by Audemars Piguet.
“The Bumblebee is so light and so robust that mark cavendish has worn it in the heat of competition.”
First, the Bumblebee’s case is made from carbon fiber. That’s right, the same revolutionary material that’s used to make the chassis and pretty much every body panel of every current F-1 car. Nothing boasts a better strength to weight ratio than carbon fiber. Also carbon fiber possesses an innate ability to absorb shock and this dampening quality is the reason it is the material of choice for cutting edge bicycle frames used in the Tour de France. Audemars Piguet was the very first brand in Swiss watchmaking to create a carbon fiber watch case. You can read that story here. The Bumblebee is the second carbon fiber watch made by AP using their proprietary forged carbon technology.
Second, the signature octagonal bezel of the Bumblebee is made from ceramic. Ceramic is incredible stuff. It’s so strong that it’s used for the chest plates in bullet proof vests. Ceramic is much lighter than steel and is the hardest substance on earth after diamond. Because the bezel on an AP with its sharp edges and high polished bevel is the element most prone to dings and scratches, ceramic is the smartest material to make it from.
Third, the movement inside the watch uses AP’s in-house full bridge variable inertia balance equipped automatic caliber 3126 as its base. This movement still powers a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module but is a big improvement in robustness and finish from the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber used in the earlier watches. As an aside, the first 157 Bumblebee had non-luminous markers and though this makes them a little less functional it also makes them rarer and more collectable. Watches marked with CR02 on the back and later will have luminous markers.
“The in-house caliber 3126 feature a full balance bridge and a variable inertia balance wheel to provide greater stability.”
Strap the Bumblebee on your wrist and you’ll immediately be surprised by how lightweight it is and how effortless it is to wear. Its stunning Langkawi horn back crocodile strap with high contrast yellow top stitching gives the watch even more in-your-face attitude, though considering its lightweight you will probably be inclined to fix it to a rubber strap and wear it even during sports or on the beach because while it is truly is one of AP’s most handsome watches, it is also truly a watch without performance compromise. And if this article has whetted your appetite for a Bumblebee and you’re ready to get stung, Revolution has curated a phenomenal selection of these now out-of-production watches, each of which is backed by our game-changing 15 month warranty.