30th anniversary of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore: Tourbillon plus Chronograph Models
To conclude my overview of complicated Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshores (ROO), here is a very special combination of complications: chronograph and a tourbillon. These outstanding ROOs have not really been the focus of public interest and, in my opinion, experts have not given them the attention they deserve.
Although the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph collection has only been around for thirteen years, it already counts seven generations. So, it has taken me quite some time to gather and categorize all the information needed to cover this topic in sufficient detail, and I have to admit to having enjoyed the process.
The first ROO Tourbillon Chronograph was released in 2010. Then, as now, this watch looks extremely remarkable and spectacular thanks to the combination of rose gold case and black forged carbon fiber composite bezel. That was the first generation of the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph, designated Ref. 26288OF.
The hand-wound caliber 2912 powers the first generation of the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph. It is the result of the development of a series of movements beginning with the exceptional Royal Oak Tradition d’Excellence Cabinet No. 4 Tourbillon Chronograph 10-Days, which was produced in 2004 in a limited edition of 20 pieces.
This development was then adopted into the Royal Oak Concept collection and was given a double large barrel, an impressive power reserve of almost ten days (237 hours to be exact), a classic one-minute tourbillon at 9 o’clock, and a traditional chronograph mechanism with lateral clutch and column wheel.
Although the ROO has a different style to the Royal Oak Concept, the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph nevertheless reflects Audemars Piguet’s characteristic fusion of conceptual design and traditional watchmaking mechanics, which is particularly evident in the Royal Oak Concept collection.
In the first generation ROO Tourbillon Chronograph, this feeling is evoked by two black anodized aluminum bridges on the back of the movement, a forged carbon fiber composite bezel, and a black ceramic crown and chronograph pushers.
Incidentally, the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph from 2010 features both the first hand-wound movement and the first tourbillon in the history of the Offshore collection.
In 2014, the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph was modernized for the first time and a second-generation tourbillon chronograph caliber was created.
The two new models were produced in black and grey tones based on black ceramic, titanium and platinum. The watches were fitted with rubber straps, which later became the standard option for the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph.
The new caliber 2933, based on the previous caliber 2912, has a new design for the bridges on the back: instead of two bridges, there is a symmetrical arrangement with four bridges, also made of black anodized aluminum.
The platinum model has a blue grooved dial, while the Ref. 26387IO.OO.D002CA.01 watch in titanium has a silver dial, also with the fluting, and impressive Arabic numerals with lume that glows green.
In addition, a special edition of 15 ROO Tourbillon Chronographs in titanium with white ceramic and a white rubber strap (Ref. 26387IO.OO.D010CA.01) was launched in 2014 for Audemars Piguet boutiques in the USA.
A surprise awaited us next. The two new ROO Tourbillon Chronographs presented in 2017 in yellow gold (Ref. 26407BA.OO.A002CA.01) or titanium (Ref. 26407TI.GG.A002CA.01) were not, as one might expect, another version of the tried-and-tested 10-day movement, but the caliber 2943, a new movement for ROO with 3-day manual winding, that is mainly used in watches from the Royal Oak and Jules Audemars collections.
One of the possible reasons for this decision is the desire to have the tourbillon in the classic position at the bottom of the dial. For the third generation of the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph watch, the design of a skeletonized movement with openworked and angular bridges and mainplate was chosen, which harmonizes very well with the brutal design of the ROO collection.
The ROO Tourbillon Chronograph, launched in 2019, is the latest iteration of the third generation of the watch and is still powered by the hand-wound caliber 2943. It is also the first in the series to feature a ceramic case, while the protective shoulders around the winding crown and chronograph buttons, the caseback, and the pin buckle of the blue rubber strap are made of titanium.
Perhaps an even bigger surprise was the release of the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph with a unique configuration in 2017, commissioned by the Ali Bin Ali company from Qatar.
For this, a skeletonized caliber 2936 (hand-wound, 72-hour power reserve), previously used in Royal Oak and Jules Audemars watches, was used in a titanium ROO with a black ceramic bezel proposing the unique skeletonization pattern.
The surprise remained a surprise – only 20 examples of the ROO “Ali Bin Ali”, the fourth-generation tourbillon chronograph, were produced.
The 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore collection was celebrated with the release of two special anniversary models of the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph 25th Anniversary, representing the fifth generation of ROO Tourbillon Chronographs. The watch proved to be extremely remarkable; a new case design was developed for it that had never been used before or since in the ROO collection.
One of the main differences from the models of previous generations is immediately noticeable – this is the mounting of the movement inside the case. The main thing in the new design is obvious: it is the screws for fixing the bezel, a structural and design element of the RO invented by Gérald Genta, which have now been given a different function – to hold the caliber.
What was outside is now inside. The screw heads, which are hexagonal on the front of the case and round on the back, are located under the crystals protecting the dial and caseback. The formerly wide bezel of the ROO becomes very thin here and shifts the focus from the massive case of the ROO to the complicated and skeletonized movement.
The simplification of the case design goes hand in hand with the complex shape of the two crystals, which now repeat the shape of the ROO bezel – watch manufacturers rarely opt for such a complex design, which incurs additional costs.
The hand-wound caliber 2947, the movement of this watch, is based on the same caliber 2912 tourbillon chronograph of the first-generation ROO Tourbillon Chronograph, but the power reserve has been reduced by about a quarter compared to 2912 to a guaranteed 173 hours.
The redesigned case makes the skeletonized movement appear to float in the case, further enhancing the impression of this ROO, one of the most extraordinary and unusual members of the collection.
Now we come to a very interesting branch of the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph series. It began in 2011, just one year after the presentation of the first model in the series, when Audemars Piguet announced the development of a new caliber 2897 with tourbillon, chronograph and a peripheral automatic winding system.
The use of such a system in complex mechanical watches is very welcome, as the peripheral rotor does not obstruct the view of the complex and usually very impressive movement.
Moreover, the movement’s developers placed the peripheral, ring-shaped rotor not on the caseback side, but on the dial side, literally under the dial.
The first prototype of the ROO Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph did not go into production (apparently it took the decision of the then new CEO François-Henry Bennahmias to restart the project in 2014) was very interesting.
With its self-winding mechanism hidden under the dial, the prototype turned out to be the most modest of the ROO Tourbillon Chronographs, as if it were a Royal Oak (not Offshore!) Tourbillon Chronograph, but with a dash of steroids, just a dash.
The difference is obvious and manifests itself in the Ref. 26550AU.OO.A002CA.01, the first ROO Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph launched in 2014. Although this confuses the chronology, I refer to this watch as the sixth generation due to its development timeline.
It took three years to refine, test and finalize the design of the automatic ROO Tourbillon Chronograph, and the watch was finally officially presented to the public in the summer of 2014.
The most important change compared to the prototype is the partially openworked dial, the upper part of which has a window showing the bridge for the transmission wheel of the automatic winding mechanism.
The shape of this bridge is reminiscent of the escape wheel bridge found in high-end pocket calibers from the early 20th century from the Vallée de Joux, and so looks fittingly beautiful. The hidden allusion to history as well as the bevel with a clear inside corner are astonishing.
In addition, the chronograph’s two fan-shaped bridges evoke another historical association: the characteristic bridges of the Jean-Antoine Lépine caliber.
The first ROO Tourbillon Chronograph with a black and grey gamma was followed in 2016 by the Ref. 26540OR, which was released in a non-limited boutique edition. The watch is powered by the same self-winding caliber 2897. Rose gold case and bezel, silver dial, white ceramic crown and chronograph buttons, white rubber strap – there is not a single dark part on this watch. The summer theme had proven to be infectious.
Following the special boutique edition of the ROO Diver Chronograph from 2016, four models of the new “Summer” edition in bright, eye-catching colors were introduced in 2017.
Stainless steel, colored dials, colored rubber straps and high-quality Swiss watch mechanics – as time has shown, this extravagant combination completed the ROO Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph line with a peripheral self-winding system.
In this context, a logical question arises: is it possible to overcome the difficulties of implementing a peripheral self-winding system when even Audemars Piguet cannot offer a technical solution that satisfies the brand itself and its customers for watches as complex and expensive as the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph?
Giulio Papi reported in a personal interview that a peripheral winding is good if it is executed at a high level that incurs high costs. According to him, such costs make it impractical to use a peripheral winding system in a relatively inexpensive ‘simple’ watch. However, in a watch with a tourbillon, a high-quality peripheral winding system can be used as it does not significantly increase the already high price.
Nevertheless, the question remains: What is the reason for Audemars Piguet discontinued production of the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph with peripheral winding caliber?
Audemars Piguet declined to use a peripheral winding caliber for the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph and instead offers the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph, the representative of the seventh generation of the line, which was launched in 2021.
This watch has received a caliber 2967, which is a new development – the changes compared to the previous versions are so significant that one cannot speak of a mere modernization. Just look at its features: a new automatic winding system with a centrally mounted rotor; a new cantilever (so-called flying) tourbillon – a first for ROO; a chronograph with flyback function, also a first for ROO.
The original version of this movement, with a different design but with the same basic technical characteristics, was tested a year earlier in the Code 11.59 Flying Tourbillon Chronograph watch, where it was given the designation 2952.
The unusual appearance of the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph edition 2021 is due to the fact that the 43 mm titanium case is no longer brushed and polished, as is usual for ROO, but sandblasted, which creates a darker, matte metal tone.
Finally, this ROO received a new system for quickly changing the strap, and with it a new page for selecting a strap quickly appeared on the Audemars Piguet website.
The ROO Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph in titanium was sold out or discontinued until 2023. Now Audemars Piguet is offering three new seventh-generation models, all with black ceramic cases, in monochrome or with colored accents. The brand is not offering any other versions of the ROO Tourbillon Chronograph.
Nonetheless, this is an impressive final chord for the history of ROO Tourbillon Chronographs and another episode of Offshorepedia.
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