30th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore: Vintage and Classic Car Rally Models
In this article, we continue to look back at the limited and special editions of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore collection, which turned 30 in 2023. Here I explore another side of ROO’s history: watches dedicated to vintage and classic car rallies.
It should be noted that in the models reviewed here, we do not find high-tech designs like the ROO F1 line and in particular, the ‘Montoya’, ‘Barrichello II’, ‘Barrichello III’ and ‘Schumacher’ models, which I’ve already covered in 30th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore: ROO F1s, High Octane Fairy Tales of Super Star Racing Drivers.
Racing Offshores, such as vintage and classic car rallies, tend to be conservative compared to the high-tech ROO F1 models. Perhaps that is why the classic original design of the ROO Ref. 25721 in its second militarized version with vertically aligned large luminous Arabic numerals on the dial prevails in this line. But even with this classic design, there are some design twists that I was very happy to see.
The most striking example is the rare embossed Royal Oak bezel, which certainly makes a difference.
But first things first.
The eye-catching racing style, aggressive sporty character, and bright color accents of the ROO F1 line blended harmoniously with the design language of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore collection.
In 2008, Audemars Piguet decided to complement its ROO F1 racing series with watches dedicated to classic and vintage car rallies. At that point, the brand had entered into a partnership with the Tour Auto rally.
The Tour Auto rally series, which includes both a competition and regularity class, has been held in France since 1992 in honor of the famous Tour de France Automobile road race, which took place from 1899 to 1986.
In 2006, Audemars Piguet participated in the Tour Auto for the first time as the official timekeeper, and in 2008 released a dedicated limited edition Royal Oak Offshore ‘Tour Auto 2008’.
The steel-cased ROO ‘Tour Auto 2008’ features a black mega tapisserie dial with white counters and a red central seconds hand and counter hands. As you would expect, the watch is fitted with a black racing-style leather strap with fine perforations and contrasting white stitching.
The caseback is engraved with the “Tour Auto” logo and the inscriptions “Royal Oak Offshore” and “Série Limitée”.
The Royal Oak Offshore ‘Tour Auto 2008’, produced in 2008 in an edition of 100 pieces, was followed in 2009 by the new ROO ‘Tour Auto 2009’, also limited to 100 pieces.
The mega tapisserie dial of this watch was made in red and black, reversing the color scheme compared to the ROO ‘Singapore Grand Prix’: Red counters are on the black background of the dial.
The use of a black molded rubber bezel, as on the ROO ‘Rubberclad’ line, further enhances the black and red contrast.
The crown and chronograph pushers have a red rubber coating, just like on the ROO ‘Singapore Grand Prix’ (Ref. 26190OS.OO.D003CU.01). Perhaps in the ROO collection, only these two models have such a rare feature; at least, I could not find any other references that have a crown and chronograph pushers with a red rubber coating.
The Royal Oak Offshore ‘Gstaad Classic 2009’ has a chronograph start button with red rubber coating, which seems to be the only trick of this kind Audemars Piguet has allowed itself.
Two other ROO ‘Tour Auto’ editions were released in 2010 and 2012. The 2010 model is also in red and black, but only the outlines of the running small seconds and the 30-minute counter sub-dials on the dial are marked in red. However, that’s not the main thing that draws my attention to this design. Rather, it is two other features.
First, take a closer look at the case of this ROO: It has a very unusual “technical” embossed bezel. This is quite a rarity, no less than the red rubberized crown and chronograph pushers.
The bezel with the same design is also seen on two other models from the same 2010 vintage rally line, namely ROO ‘Gentleman’s Driver’ and ROO ‘The National Classic Tour 2010’.
Second, look at the outer inclined ring of the dial used for the tachymeter scale. There you’ll find an unusual tachymeter scale whose interval from 0 to 11 seconds is marked with a motor racing-style checkerboard pattern, which is unique to this ROO line.
The same design can be found on the ROO ‘Gentleman’s Driver’ and ROO ‘The National Classic Tour 2010’ models.
Audemars Piguet launched all these watches in 2010, so we can assume that all three editions were produced in a single batch – which makes perfect sense for cost reduction reasons.
The Royal Oak Offshore ‘Tour Auto 2012’ was the latest in a series produced in collaboration with the organizers of the Tour Auto classic rally.
It is interesting because the supercharged red and black livery was replaced with the white, blue and red color scheme of the French flag.
For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that 2011 was not left out either: That’s when Audemars Piguet decided to launch not the Royal Oak Offshore, but the Millenary, namely the Millenary Chronograph ‘Tour Auto 2011’ in stainless steel (limited edition of 150 pieces).
The series of racing ROOs was not limited to the models launched for the Tour Auto rally. In 2008, Audemars Piguet introduced the Royal Oak Offshore ‘The National Classic Tour 2008’, produced in a small edition of 20 pieces to celebrate the National Classic Tour, the classic car rally in Belgium. This stainless-steel ROO has a blue dial, white counters and luminous Arabic indexes.
The watch has a special caseback engraved with the National Classic Tour logo. A blue racing style leather strap with fine perforations and contrasting white stitching matches the color of the dial.
The National Classic Tour 2008 was followed in 2009 by the Royal Oak Offshore ‘The National Classic Tour 2009’ in titanium with black rubber-coated bezel, white grande tapisserie dial with luminous Arabic numerals, blue counters and red counter hands.
The watch is fitted with a Royal Oak Offshore rubber strap with embossed stripes, replacing the racing-style leather strap of the previous models.
Another limited edition of 40 Royal Oak Offshores ‘The National Classic Tour 2010’ was released in 2010. Here we find a rare design with an embossed bezel, just like ROO ‘Tour Auto 2010’ and ROO ‘Gentleman’s Driver’.
This watch comes with a black racing style leather strap with fine red perforations and contrasting white stitching.
The line expanded in 2009 with the release of the Royal Oak Offshore “Gstaad Classic 2009” limited edition, dedicated to the vintage car Gstaad Classic rally held in the Swiss mountain town of Gstaad, the luxury ski resort. Audemars Piguet took on the role of title sponsor of the event.
Audemars Piguet outfitted this Royal Oak Offshore in a standard 42mm titanium design with a black rubber-coated bezel, red chronograph hands, a red rubber-coated start chronograph push-piece and a perforated black racing-style leather strap with contrasting red stitching.
The ‘Gstaad Classic 2009’ and were offered in a sports car filler style box, as was the ‘National Classic Tour 2009’ watch.
.We conclude this review of Royal Oak Offshore dedicated to vintage and classic car rallying with an unusual watch from 2010, the Royal Oak Offshore “Gentleman’s Driver” It is a version of ROO ‘The National Classic Tour’ and ROO ‘Tour Auto’ from the same year 2010, but with orange dial accents instead of red.
Unusually for the ROO classic rally line, the ROO “Gentleman’s Driver” is a non-limited edition and was to be sold exclusively in Audemars Piguet boutiques.
However, the lack of limitation did not contribute to the high circulation of this model, as the brand produced it only in 2010. Besides the orange accents, the ROO “Gentleman’s Driver” is distinguished from its two siblings by the design of the caseback, which does not bear a commemorative engraving, but is a standard caseback with a medallion in the center that features the Royal Oak Offshore logo in relief and a finely hammered background.
This caseback may be an important part of this model’s appeal to collectors, as the caseback of this design falls within a very short transition window from the original ROO flat full metal caseback with engraved Royal Oak Offshore logo to the sapphire caseback.
There are only a few references where caseback of this kind occurs. These are mainly after 26170 but before 26237: for example, 26176FO.OO.D101CR.02 ‘Bumble Bee’, 26178OK.OO.D002CA.01 ‘Rubberclad’ in rose gold, several ladies’ versions of the Royal Oak Offshore (26231 and some other references).
The ROO ‘Gentleman’s Driver’ and its two siblings are all the more interesting as collectibles because only they have an unusually embossed bezel that gives the watch a unique look.
According to some observers, the reason for the appearance of such a bezel was a request from the brand’s customers. They wanted a design that would make scratches on the bezel less noticeable, as they inevitably occur on a wide, flat metal bezel of a ROO.
The fact is that the classic wide, flat bezel of the large, 15 mm high ROO case is prone to scratches, which cause the owner some concern.
After the introduction of ceramic bezels, this problem has become less important, so ROOs with an embossed bezel seem to be an interesting design option, an exception to the rule, which is why the watch is perceived as an attractive collector’s item.
Perhaps one day the embossed bezel will return to the collection, for example in a ceramic version. It is also worth noting that in the 30-year history of the Royal Oak Offshore, there have only been two other models with an embossed bezel – the ROO ‘Montoya’ from 2004 with a carbon insert bezel and the ROO Survivor from 2008.
Another design detail that connects the ROO ‘Gentleman’s Driver’, ROO ‘The National Classic Tour’ and ROO ‘Tour Auto’ from 2010 is the outer inclined ring of the dial used for the tachymeter scale. It has a special design where the sector from 0 to 11 seconds is made up of black and white checkerboard markings, reminiscent of the checkered flag used by the judge or guest of honor at a car race or rally to honor the winner.
So, my question is, did the classic car rally Royal Oak Offshore win the historic race for watches? Technically, no, because the brand produced this line for only 5 years, from 2008 to 2012, and then discontinued it.
From the point of view of emotional value – undoubtedly yes, because all these ROOs have their own history, and a watch with history inevitably remains in our memory. At least, in my memory.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/com/en/collections/royal-oak-offshore.html
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