30th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver’s Editions: Was Gérald Genta’s Diving Inspiration Finally Realized?
2023 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore collection. Although that wasn’t that long ago, Audemars Piguet has already been able to release quite a lot of interesting models.
Here I take a closer look at the ROO Diver watches, perhaps the most impressive and important non-chronograph design in the Offshore collection.
Mind you, there were also chronographs in the ROO Diver line… but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves before wee go back to 2005 when it all started.
It all began with an anniversary that, strangely enough, was not associated with the Audemars Piguet company, but with its German agent at the time, Wempe – today, the brand’s watches are no longer sold in Wempe stores.
In October 2005, Wempe celebrated the centennial of its watch manufacture, Wempe Chronometerwerke GmbH, which was founded in 1905 as Chronometerwerke GmbH and taken over by Herbert Wempe in 1938.
To mark the occasion, several special editions were ordered from watch brands including Audemars Piguet, IWC Schaffhausen and Panerai. Audemars Piguet developed a special watch for Wempe – the first men’s ROO watch without a chronograph function, with a standard case size of 42 mm.
Audemars Piguet developed the models in steel (limited edition of 175 pieces) and gold (35 pieces) according to all the rules of diver’s watchmaking, although the traditional Swiss watch brand had not produced any specialized diving watches at all until then.
The watch features a steel or gold case water-resistant to 300 meters with screw-down crowns and an additional inner rotating bezel for setting the 60-minute diving scale on the dial, a contrasting black dial with luminous hands and baguette markers, a black rubber strap with Audemars Piguet folding clasp, and a self-winding caliber 2325, a branded version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre 899.
By all rules of the art, the dial’s inner rotating bezel can only be turned counterclockwise; when the setting crown is turned in the opposite direction, the pawl is activated and the inner bezel stays in place.
The dive scale goes in minute increments, which makes it possible to set the planned duration of the dive to within one minute. Both the winding crown and the setting crown are covered with rubber. Ё
However, the correct technical specifications are complemented by artfully executed design details characteristic of Audemars Piguet products. The dial is fully decorated with the signature machine-carved relief enlarged tapisserie motif, and the caseback was adorned with a medallion with the engraved image of a galleon in relief.
On the dial there is the logo of Wempe Chronometerwerke – this was perhaps not the first, but certainly the last time that third-party symbols appeared on the dials of the Royal Oak.
It is interesting to note that the Royal Oak Offshore Scuba can be considered in some ways a realization of the original design inspiration of Gérald Genta, who created the classic Royal Oak design in 1972, inspired by the ammunition of the submariners he observed on the shores of Lake Leman in Geneva.
The classic Royal Oak was designed and marketed as a sports watch, but it was never really suitable for underwater use until 2005. The non-chronograph diving watch ROO looked very fresh and impressive due to the lack of counters on the dial and the presence of an inner rotating bezel with a diving scale, so the sequel followed almost immediately, a year later.
In 2006, the experience with a special edition of the ROO Scuba for Wempe was deemed successful, so a sequel followed. The Royal Oak Offshore Scuba ‘Boutique Special Edition’ in stainless steel remains one of the most military-influenced releases to date.
The vertically aligned Arabic numerals of the geometric sans-serif font are covered with a yellow-orange luminous material, which looks very impressive against the black background of the dial, which was newly developed especially for this watch.
It is easy to see that the dial of the special boutique “diver” is very similar to the dial of the first ROO ‘Barrichello’ from 2005 – there is also a large relief méga tapisserie motif in the central zone of the dial and a thin circular groove on the chapter ring that serves as a background for the numerals.
The hour and minute hands of this ROO Scuba retain the rounded Gérald Genta design of the original 1993 ROO wide hands, while the seconds hand has the ‘lollipop’ of the same shape, filled with a yellow-orange luminous material. Everything was made according to the rules of diver watchmaking, which require an indication of the function of the movement, which should be visible even in low-light conditions.
The Royal Oak Offshore Scuba ‘Boutique Special Edition’ of 2006 was limited to 300 pieces, which were distributed to boutiques without much fuss and could not even be found in the brand’s catalogs.
Also not found in the catalogs are the later ROO Scuba Boutique special editions of 2007 and 2008, which were produced in two limited editions of 300: Boutique ‘Blue’ with a blue inner rotating bezel with diver scale and Boutique ‘Red’ with a red ring.
The solid caseback of all three special Boutique ROO Scubas is again decorated with a relief image of the old Audemars Piguet Manufacture building in Le Brassus.
If Wempe’s message in its ROO Scuba could be decoded as, “Here is a galleon that could not sail the oceans without a precise marine chronometer on board,” then Audemars Piguet’s message in its boutique ROO Scubas should be, “Here is a watch manufacture capable of producing precision timepieces for modern explorers of the ocean depths.”
Unlike the Royal Oak Offshores from the Formula 1 line, which are clearly divided into futuristic and original styles, the ROO Scuba and ROO Diver watches – until now – have never progressed beyond the basic 2005 design, which was based on ROO from 1993.
One of the most radical steps within the basic design was the limited edition Royal Oak Offshore Scuba ‘Bartorelli’ (still Scuba, not Diver), released in 2008 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Bartorelli, Audemars Piguet’s representative in Italy.
All 50 pieces of the ROO Scuba ‘Bartorelli’ received a steel case with black PVD coating and a bronze bezel – for the first and also last time in the ROO diving watch line – that is, three years before the bronze Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo PAM382 made a splash. Compared to the PAM382, the ‘Bartorelli’ is much harder to find and the prospects for collectors are much better – at least due to the very small edition.
In 2009, the boutique special editions continued with the Royal Oak Offshore Scuba ‘Montenapoleone’ model, made for the Audemars Piguet boutique on Via Montenapoleone in Milan. This watch could be considered the rarest of all ROO diving watches, as only five pieces were made.
The reason for the small edition becomes clear at the first glance at the technical specifications: the watch case is crafted of platinum and the bezel is made of rose gold. There are only a few references in the series of ROO diving watches with a case made of precious metals, and they always attract hot interest.
“No longer Scuba, but Diver” – such a slogan should have been on Audemars Piguet’s banners in 2010, when the new basic Royal Oak Offshore Diver collection was launched – then as a single reference 15703ST.OO.A002CA.01 in stainless steel without a single design option.
In 2010, however, the ROO Diver made its first official appearance in catalogs and has been in the public eye ever since.
It is given the rights of a legitimate segment of the Royal Oak Offshore collection with all the attributes it deserves, such as presence in the catalog, website, marketing, advertising and PR brand activities. Limited editions and special editions continued to be issued, which made the offer pleasantly varied.
As mentioned above, unlike ROO F1, where the development of the collection followed two parallel paths, futuristic and basic design, ROO Diver took the basic design as a model from the very beginning. The appearance and design of the case remained unchanged, the materials used in the manufacture of the watch varied, and there were different versions of the caseback and dial design.
Regarding the latter, it should be noted that in the basic version of 2010, Audemars Piguet developers found the only dial design that has remained unchanged to this day: the signature méga tapisserie relief decoration in nine rows, wide skeletonized and latticed hour and minute hands, very similar to those of the first ROO “Montoya” of 2004.
The baguette ‘lollipop’ with rounded sides that marked the central seconds hand of the previous ROO Scuba has been replaced by a circle, which is also filled with luminescent material, on the 2010 ROO Diver.
Instead of militaristic Arabic numerals, which I miss, there are elongated, faceted baguette indices, again like ROO ‘Montoya’. The 2010 ROO Diver was the first to introduce a date window with a black background and white numerals in a collection – previously watches with black dials had date displays with black numerals on a white background.
On the dial of the ROO Diver 2010, abundant luminous material was used to mark the hands, including the seconds hand – namely its round ‘lollipop,” the hour markers, and the rotating inner bezel with the 60-minute dive markers (not only the triangular zero marker, but also the complete set of five-minute markers), so that – in keeping with the technical characteristics of the watch – literally the entire dial glowed in the dark, providing comprehensive information about the current time, the operating status of the caliber and the remaining dive time.
At this point, it should be particularly emphasized that the Royal Oak Offshore Diver watch has retained and still retains its diving amateur status, as it is not equipped with a helium valve. However, if we consider the very respectable water resistance of up to 300 meters, its use in deep sea diving is quite acceptable, unless the diver has to work in a controlled atmosphere with helium.
The 42mm case of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver is based on the design of the first ROO from 1993, which is apparently why it can be seen here and there on the secondary market – but rarely! – The watch is offered on a steel offshore chronograph bracelet, solid, thick and beautiful.
Of course, the bracelet attachment is the same for ROO Diver and 42mm ROO Chronograph, you should always keep that in mind. Models with bracelets are very rarely offered for sale and, in principle, could turn out to be a very interesting collector’s item, if there are official papers confirming exactly such a configuration.
However, the chances of obtaining such a paper are vanishingly small, as no official information on the existence of watches with such a configuration has been found. With a single exception, almost all models in the ROO Diver collection were and are equipped with a rubber strap.
However, in 2010 there was a significant change in the configuration of the straps: before that, the watches were necessarily equipped with a proprietary double folding clasp, and since 2010 – with a standard solid metal buckle with a wide, accentuated curved pin. In addition to the rubber strap, a crocodile (alligator) strap was also offered as an option.
As we can remember, the pin buckle was first used in ROO racing watches in 2010, namely in the Royal Oak Offshore ‘Grand Prix’.
It should also be noted that in 2010, the ROO Diver received for the first time an in-house self-winding caliber 3120, which replaced the previous generation caliber 2325, an Audemars Piguet personalized version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber used in the early ROO Scuba models.
The time of open casebacks has not yet come for the ROO Diver; for the 2010 model, a new basic version of the ROO caseback (second generation) with a raised “Royal Oak Offshore” lettering on a grained background was used.
in 2012, a new reference appeared in the ROO Diver collection with a case ring made of forged carbon fiber using a patented technology and a black ceramic bezel. The caseback is made of titanium and is a second-generation design.
The first fifteen-minute segment of the rotating diver’s scale on the inner bezel is painted yellow on this watch, and the minute hand is the same color (this design is very well done from an ergonomic point of view in a diver’s watch), as is the round “lollipop” of the central second hand.
The rubber strap of the forged-carbon ROO Diver was fitted with a pin buckle made of titanium. Due to the combination of unusual materials, this watch should be recognized as one of the most spectacular and avant-garde in the collection.
Unfortunately, the reference is no longer produced. But perhaps I should have said ‘fortunately’, the model is no longer manufactured, meaning that it’s time to think about finding a suitable example on the secondary market for your collection.
Also in 2012, a rare version of the forged-carbon ROO Diver was released – a Royal Oak Offshore Diver ‘Spain European Champion’, made in honor of the victory of the Spanish team in the UEFA European Football Championship and offered to the members of this team.
A total of 31 pieces were produced. I think that the team members really appreciate these watches, because I have not found a single watch from this series on the secondary market. The solid titanium caseback of the second generation was engraved with the player’s name and team number.
As you can see, since the introduction of the collection, the ROO Divers are equipped with a solid caseback. This is unfortunate because Audemars Piguet movements deserve to be admired by the watch owner.
However, we did not have to wait long for the ROO Diver with a transparent caseback – already in 2015, in the eighth year of the ROO Diver’s existence, a model with a sapphire caseback appeared in the collection. This is a boutique special edition of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver Ref. 15707CE.OO.A002CA.01 in black ceramic.
The case ring, bezel, winding crown and setting crown of this watch are made of high-tech black ceramic; the orange fifteen-minute segment of the diver’s scale, the minute hand and the seconds hand stand out in contrast against the black background of the dial.
It is the impressive combination of an all-black appearance and orange accents that makes this watch distinctive at first glance.
The titanium caseback (not blackened, as you might expect) features a sapphire window that reveals – finally! – in-house caliber 3120 with the familiar engraved all-gold rotor of the automatic winding mechanism.
In 2014, a white ceramic design was released alongside the ROO Diver in black ceramic. For the first time in this collection, a watch appeared in a normal, non-jewelry version, which could be called a ladies’ watch. The white ceramic chosen for this watch, to which the brand paid special attention, was superior to the black zirconium ceramic (usually referred to as high-tech), which is already considered standard in the industry.
The composition of the white ceramic, which Audemars Piguet did not disclose and referred to as “super ceramic”,” ensured that the surface hardness of the material was excellent, about 40% higher than the Vickers hardness of high-tech ceramic and about nine times higher than that of standard watch industry 316L stainless steel. Both ceramic models were intended for sale in Audemars Piguet boutiques only.
Also in 2014, a very interesting limited collector’s edition of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver ‘QE II Cup 2014’ was released as a special Queen’s Cup watch. The occasion for the edition was the race of English racehorses for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup of England, which was established in 1975 in honor of Her Majesty’s visit to Hong Kong.
Since then, this event has been held annually, since 1999 also with the support of Audemars Piguet, which usually produces a special limited edition for this event.
In 2014, the ROO Diver was released in an unusual and hitherto unique design with a tantalum case ring and caseback, a rose gold bezel and a gray alligator leather strap – this is the only ROO Diver to date that comes standard with a non-rubber strap.
Audemars Piguet is one of the few watch brands that regularly uses tantalum, a rare precious metal, in the watches in its collection. Usually, Audemars Piguet combines tantalum with rose gold, which brings out the greyish and slightly bluish hue characteristic of this metal. Therefore, this combination was used in the development of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver ‘QE II Cup 2014’ Limited Edition.
The tantalum case has a grey dial with a black fifteen-minute segment of the diver scale on an inner rotating bezel and a black minute hand. The tantalum caseback is engraved with a commemorative inscription to commemorate the occasion, and a horse’s head is metalized on the sapphire crystal of the caseback.
After several years of trying models made of carbon fiber composite, ceramics and even tantalum, Audemars Piguet’s developers returned to the basic steel design in 2015. The time had come for modernization, and it bore fruit.
So what did we get as a result? It should be clear from the outset that the upgraded steel models for 2015 were Ref. 15710, replacing the previous Ref. 15703, which was introduced in 2010 and production that ceased in 2015.
In addition to the standard black dial version for the stainless steel ROO Diver, a version with a ‘white’ dial (in reality, it’s silver-plated) was also released in 2015. Of course, no one thought to abandon the signature méga tapisserie relief decoration.
As for the dial color scheme, the tradition introduced at the 2010 collection was maintained – for the watches with black dial, the date window background was also black, and for the model with silvered dial, it was white accordingly.
The dark blue luminous material used to mark the silvered dial of the 2014 white ceramic ROO Diver – this was the first ROO Diver with a white dial – was replaced with black lumi on the silvered dial of the 2015 ROO Diver. The minute hand has also been changed to black.
As a result, the watch looks unexpectedly imposing, mainly due to the contrasting markers of the silvered dial.
The main technical change from the 2010 design is that the steel ROO Diver finally has a sapphire caseback, which makes the watch case slightly (imperceptibly) thicker – 14.1 mm instead of 13.9 mm as on the previous model.
The switch to an open caseback follows a similar move with the updated base version of the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, which was launched a year earlier in 2014.
The next year, 2016, began for Audemars Piguet with a great premiere in the ROO Diver collection: the first chronographs appeared in it. In an unusual and perhaps unprecedented move, this version used a movement based on the in-house automatic caliber 3120 (referred to here as 3124) with the Dubois Dépraz chronograph module 3841, which is standard on all Royal Oak Offshore automatic chronographs.
This is a truly unique version of the caliber: the counters of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph are arranged horizontally. Also, the watch has no hour counter and no date window.
Interestingly, the use of a much more complex movement in the ROO Diver Chrono has had little effect on case thickness, compared to the simpler automatic ROO Diver: with a standard diameter of 42 mm, the ROO Diver Chrono is 14.75 mm thick, just 0.65 mm more than the 2015 steel ROO Diver, and the chronograph also has a sapphire caseback.
Bright, eye-catching colors have entered the collection with the 2016 ROO Diver Chronographs, which is why the company has named the entire series “Funky Colour’.
A total of four references with stainless steel cases were produced in limited editions, sold exclusively in Audemars Piguet boutiques: a watch with blue dial and rubber strap and yellow accents (400 pieces), with yellow dial and black accents (375 pieces), with orange dial and black accents (375 pieces), and finally the rarest model with green dial and black accents, limited to only 50 pieces and presumably sold exclusively in the brand’s Geneva boutique.
Like the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, which was redesigned in 2014, the diving chronographs feature screw-down crowns and pushers in black ceramic.
The spectacular debut of the colored diving chronographs undoubtedly made an impression, so the sequel soon followed. In 2017, the basic steel version of the ROO Diver was given a colorful color scheme. As a result of this experiment, no less than five new models appeared in the collection, all of which were released as special editions, meaning that they are either available in Audemars Piguet boutiques or sold only through the brand’s retail partners in certain markets, with the release of all five references being unlimited.
The most serene design, closest to the classic base version, is found in the white and blue dial versions; the first has blue accents, the second yellow.
The rest of the ROO Divers from the 2017 collection lives up to its Funky Color name. They come in lemon yellow, lime green and tangerine orange, all with blue accents.
The “white” and “lime green” versions are marked as boutique specials. Note that the minute hand is painted yellow only on the watches with blue dials; the markers on the inner rotating bezel are also yellow.
The 2018 collection continued the ‘Funky Color’ series of colorful ROO Divers. In addition to the bright colors of the previous series, there are new color versions with dials and rubber straps in muted tones such as turquoise blue, light beige, khaki and violet, all available exclusively at Audemars Piguet boutiques. For the first time, rubber in the same shade as the strap is used to coat the two crowns.
The rubber coating of the two crowns, the winding crown and the setting crown of the inner rotating bezel with a 60-minute diving scale is a legacy of the original ROO Scuba watch produced for Wempe.
Audemars Piguet did not, of course, indicate at the time how long the ROO Diver would continue to be produced in this configuration, but developments in other segments of the collection increasingly pointed to a new generation of basic designs with both crowns in high-tech ceramics, as a transition to the use of ceramics had already taken place in the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph collection.
A sign of the upcoming modernization of the basic models was the appearance of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver ‘Japan’ Limited Edition watch in the 2018 collection with a rose gold case and titanium bezel. Its winding and setting crowns are made of grey ceramic, which gave a taste of the upcoming collection, which, as it turned out, wasn’t unfounded.
The ROO Diver ‘Japan’, which debuted at SIHH 2018, “was a new, rare bimetallic ROO Diver design in rose gold and titanium. This watch appears to be a sort of reversal of the color scheme of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver ‘QE II Cup 2014’, with the tantalum replaced by titanium.
Interestingly, this version is commonly referred to as ‘Japan’, although I’ve not found a reliable answer as to why? The main reason for this moniker seems to be the fact that the first 150 of 500 limited edition pieces were delivered to the brand’s Japanese boutique.
The modern Royal Oak Offshore Diver Ref. 15720 appeared in 2021, and a new reference number means updated technical specifications – and it was. Ref. 15720 retains the standard 42mm size of the original Royal Oak Offshore Scuba from 2005, as well as a special double crown design.
From its predecessor 15710, Ref. 15720 inherited the sapphire crystal caseback, water resistance to 300 meters, and the classic time and date functions with three hands and date. What has been improved?
First, the engine: the watch has a new in-house 4Hz caliber 4308 with a power reserve of 60 hours – slightly less than the industry-preferred 72 hours, but for a self-winding movement, 60 hours is more than enough. Watches made of steel are perceived as technical, so the 22k gold rotor has been carefully blackened so that the golden luxury doesn’t stand out.
Still, who would believe that the ROO Diver is a necessity and not a luxury?
Second, an updated dial with fat – almost square – baguette indexes and a 12-hour index that looks suspiciously like a zero. The new branding is obvious: only the “AP” logo in gold on the dial, rather than the full brand name as on previous versions of the ROO Diver.
Third, the watch has a newly developed quick-change strap system – this is one of the trends in the modern luxury watch industry that Audemars Piguet simply had to follow. And it has done so.
And yes, the watch has ceramic winding and setting crowns.
The 2021 ROO Divers were available in Trailblazing Khaki, Navy Blue and Pristine Grey versions from launch. Each version has a steel case and offers a replacement strap so owners can take advantage of the new quick-change strap system – the third innovation for the latest ROO Diver generation.
It’s been two years since the latest generation of ROO Diver was launched by Audemars Piguet, but I could only find only one limited edition.
It is quite remarkable. François-Henri Bennahmias, the brand’s CEO who is leaving his post at the end of this year, is known for his aversion to special limited editions, although he was involved in the launch of some highly acclaimed titles, most notably ROO ‘End of Days’ and ‘Pride of Russia’.
By the end of his career at Audemars Piguet, however, he had largely abandoned the collection of limited edition models that had made the range and the collection itself much more diverse. Royal Oak Offshore Diver Limited Edition Ref. 15720CN.OO.A002CA.01 seems to be the only limited-edition ROO Diver of the latest generation.
This watch has an unusually understated black and white appearance. The white gold case has a black ceramic bezel and matching rubber strap, while the black dial and inner rotating bezel are decorated with “Old Radium” lume, which gives the watch a nice nostalgic touch.
Finally, I would like to point out the design variations that were never implemented in the Royal Oak Offshore Diver collection. There were and are no non-limited gold models. There was and is no titanium version, the existence of which would be very logical given the bulky dimensions of the watch and its technically specific purpose. Especially logical would be the appearance of a titanium version with a titanium bracelet.
The Royal Oak Offshore Diver collection never fully realized the futuristic design that was so successful in the ROO F1 racing series. Obviously missing from the collection are watches with a steel or titanium bracelet, or perhaps even a diver-designed ceramic bracelet i.e., with an extension system (useful if the watch needs to be worn over a wetsuit) and a device to quickly adjust the length of the bracelet (useful when diving, as the neoprene layer of the wetsuit gets thinner as the pressure increases, and the bracelet of the watch worn over the sleeve before diving should be reduced in depth so that the watch fits tighter).
As we can see, there is so much unfinished and unrealized that might be done with the Royal Oak Offshore that it would take at least several years. Perhaps part of the appeal of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver is the desire to see ideas that have never been realized in metal, ceramic and rubber?
These watches clearly do not strive to show all facets of the special character that Gérald Genta and his successor designers talent put into them.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/com/en/collections/royal-oak-offshore.html
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