Top of the Game: Audemars Piguet Introduces the Leo Messi Limited Edition Royal Oak Chronograph

There’s an elegance to soccer that makes it a natural ally to the world of fine watchmaking. The incredible athleticism and finesse in action the sport demands of its players at the most elite level finds its counterpart in the taming of power and precision in detail of mechanical watchmaking, where even the slightest imperfection can render a watch useless, and flawless execution is not a rarity but the standard to which those who create fine timepieces hold themselves every day of their lives.

Leo Messi is an extraordinary athlete: born Lionel Andrés Messi in Argentina in 1987, he plays for FC Barcelona and is the captain of the Argentine national team. A winner of numerous awards and accolades for his accomplishments both as a player and leader, many colleagues and fans alike have called him one of the best, if not the best, soccer players alive.

His relationship with Audemars Piguet is as passionate as his game. Messi received his first Royal Oak as a gift from the managers of his club in 2005. Messi fell in love with the Royal Oak, as have so many since Audemars Piguet introduced the Gerald Genta-designed masterpiece of modern watch design in 1972. The Royal Oak–famous for having revolutionized watch design by treating stainless steel with the reverence and craft that had hitherto been lavished only on conventional precious metals–was his first Audemars Piguet watch, but it was destined to be the first of many. Messi began collecting Royal Oaks enthusiastically and became a brand ambassador for Audemars Piguet in 2010.

Most recently, Audemars Piguet and Messi have announced their collaboration on his first limited edition series of watches for AP: the Leo Messi Limited Edition Royal Oak Chronograph.  It’s actually three watches: 500 in steel, 400 in pink gold and a very limited release of only 100 in platinum. These watches, contrary to what some Audemars Piguet enthusiasts might expect from a sports world collaboration, are not Royal Oak Offshores, but true Royal Oaks; though, unusually, they are being delivered with straps rather than the signature metal bracelet for which the original Royal Oak was famous.

A detail shared by all three watches is the presence of a bezel made of tantalum, an exotic metal that’s extremely hard (873 Vickers, or 6.5 on the Mohs scale) and also extremely resistant to corrosion. Tantalum is noted by chemists for its ability to resist almost any acid (except strong hydrofluoric or hot sulfuric acid, and if you’ve got hot sulfuric acid on your arm you’ve probably got other problems anyway). The blue-gray luster of tantalum gives the watches an idiosyncratic allure amongst the more conventional, steel bezel Royal Oak models, and Royal Oak fans aware of the scratch-magnet reputation of the highly polished bezel of the steel and gold models will surely find the use of tantalum something to celebrate.

Inside is the extra flat selfwinding chronograph movement is Audemars Piguet calibre 2385, offering a 40-hour power reserve. Its toughness and discreet but distinctive elegance make it a fitting horological homage to Leo Messi–and a winning move for Royal Oak enthusiasts.

The Leo Messi Limited Edition Royal Oak Chronograph is available in 3 limited editions: 500 in steel, 400 in rose gold, and 100 in platinum–all with tantalum bezels and matching straps. Price and availability by request from Audemars Piguet boutiques.

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