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LeBron James, hailed as the most important athletic personality of his generation, has salvaged the legacy he almost abdicated during The Decision era. Barring a contract meltdown over the next two off seasons, James will retire with the Cavaliers, iconic status intact. Now 29, James is clearly looking to the future as he enters the second half of his career.
But WatchBox isn’t ESPN or GQ, so you know where this is going. With the Age of LeBron paused at halftime, now is the perfect opportunity to consider what the future holds for King James’ contribution to the world of horology. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Limited Edition Lebron James debuted at a Miami gala on September 27, 2013. While the watch proved to be a memorable installment in AP’s “ambassador” series, the takeaway from the night was just how restrained and tasteful the LeBron proved to be.
In general, the phrases “Royal Oak Offshore,” “Limited Edition,” and “pro athlete” will evoke mental montages of Smithsonian-sized inset gems and enough kitschy sports references to redecorate Dave & Buster’s. But LeBron James isn’t a generic pro baller, and he didn’t request a generic luxury sports watch. Through a combination of light and dark tones, subtle nods to its upscale pedigree, and unique design detail, the “LeBron James” achieves a rare balance of peerless presence and good taste.
LeBron and AP won half the battle by adopting a refined two-tone palette, and they sealed the deal by sweating the details. James specified a watch that could be a two-way player, so to speak. Compatibility with a suit was mandatory, so AP selected colors that split the difference between blinding gleam and stark darkness. Rose gold became the dominant light tone, and a matte grey was chosen to avoid excessive contrast.
Topside, a titanium bezel with straight grained vertical brushing and polished shoulders defines the dial. Below, AP’s “mega tapisserie” waffle pattern in polished grey echoes the bezel. A halo of rose gold encircles the central mass of grey metal. The combination of the two is softer than a straightforward light/dark clash, and it has the engaging quality of a firm rather than crushing handshake.
On the dial, brushed rose gold Arabic numerals replace the gloss luminescent articles from the series-production Offshores. The blue chronograph seconds hand is a standout; naturally, only Royal Blue will do for LeBron James.
Comprehensive attention to nooks, crannies, and peripheral features cements the impression of refinement. On this LeBron James signature model, the sprawling expanse of the standard 44mm Offshore’s lugs is broken through the use of contrasting finish on the metal facets. A frosted center channel creates a matte surface with a dark hue that sets off the striking brushed lug shoulders and polished lug edges. Compared to the standard 44mm Offshore, the LeBron boasts stronger character lines at the case extremities.
Additional differentiation from the production Offshores can be found on the crown side of the case. Both chronograph pushers and the crown are rendered in black ceramic. The power of hard contrast is deployed at the micro level; fourteen diamonds sparkle within the cap of the anthracite chronograph stop/start pusher. Small strips of grey rubber line the gold shoulders of the chronograph controls, and a cap of red gold sits atop the black crown.
Even the caseback is fit for a King. LeBron and Audemars Piguet inscribe and ink the signature of the man himself into the sapphire display window. At the periphery of the window, the rim of the caseback has been machined into a relief pattern that imparts an air of techno-industrial chic.
Matching grey rubber and alligator straps with rose gold pin buckles – not deployants – compliment the prevailing design theme and complete the package.
See this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore LeBron James Limited Edition in high-resolution imagery with full factory accessories on https://www.thewatchbox.com/watches/audemars-piguet
Video and content by Tim Mosso.