Watches and Wonders 2023: Rolex
With a new Daytona and Explorer as well as a new collection in the Perpetual 1908, Rolex is rolling with the times.
It’s a big year for Rolex. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Daytona and the 70th anniversary of the Explorer and Submariner. And while Rolex often introduces green dial models to mark anniversaries, this year, it’s gone a little further and introduced whole new products that celebrate its relevance to modern times. We’re not just getting straight-laced, formal watches that everyone expects, and that’s both bewildering and curiously exciting. Let’s break it all down.
Celebration and Mindful Dials
We’ll start with the references that everyone inside and outside of the industry is talking about. The Oyster Perpetual Celebration Dials are based on the boldly coloured candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, coral red, and green lacquered dials that came before in 2020. But they are now wildly exuberant, with 51 lacquered bubbles in five different sizes and four colours on the dial and available in three case sizes of 31mm, 36mm, and 41mm. The play on numbers and colours is intuitively interpreted by the brain.
Each dial is different, as the combination of different coloured bubbles varies. The coloured lacquers are applied in different stages, going from lightest to darkest, with a final black lacquer that outlines each bubble. It’s called a celebration dial, maybe because the bubbles sort of remind one of graduation celebrations with balloons cascading from the ceiling.
The watches are housed in Oystersteel and equipped with Calibre 2232 for the smallest 31mm model, while Calibre 3230 is used in the 36mm and 41mm sizes. The 2232 movement uses a Syloxi hairspring with paramagnetic escape wheel in nickel phosphorous and offers a power reserve of 55 hours. Calibre 3230 has a Chronergy escapement with Parachrom hairspring and can sustain itself for up to 70 hours.
But the real surprise comes in the Day-Date 36mm with enamel dials. Rolex rarely produces enamel dials – the last was in 2017 with the Cellini Moonphase in blue grand feu. The new Day-Date models come in two champlevé enamel dial variations in white, yellow, and rose gold cases.
The enamel dials feature multi-coloured jigsaw puzzle pieces in the same pop colour hues as the celebration dials that represent key moments in life fitting together in the puzzle of life. On the dial, a day and date window at 12 and 3 o’clock feature emojis and inspirational words such as ‘Eternity’ and ‘Gratitude’ instead of the days of the week and the date. It’s a Day-Date that doesn’t tell the day or date.
On the dial, 10 hour markers are represented by baguette sapphires in the same hues as the puzzle pieces, with hour, minute, and seconds hands in rose gold. To say the watches have been controversial is an understatement. On the first day of the fair, people wondered online if these were real or a Midjourney AI-generated image hoax.
While the watches have been largely a hit among buyers and collectors, it must surely come as a shock to many that a brand that has always held itself very seriously has released a thoroughly whimsical collection. Yet, interest lists are already piling up, showing that a Rolex watch, even one as unusual as these, still sells.
The Cosmograph Daytona
The entire Daytona range has been updated across the whole range, with a minor facelift in various aspects of its design. The Oyster case has been redesigned with a slightly slimmer middle, and the rings of its counters are now narrower than before. Hands are also slightly thinner, and the Cerachrom bezel models now have a thin metal band encircling the ceramic ring.
The biggest change to the Daytona is on the inside. Gone is Calibre 4130, now replaced by Calibre 4131. It features the brand’s Chronergy escapement with a Parachrom hairspring and has fewer components, which increases its reliability. They’ve also introduced a new decorative detail called the Rolex Côtes de Genève, which features an additional groove between each band of the standard Geneva stripes.
The Chronergy escapement is made of highly anti-magnetic nickel phosphorous, and the Parachrom hairspring is shaped with a Rolex overcoil that ensures its isochronism. The balance wheel is mounted on the Paraflex shock absorbers, and the improved efficiency of the watch brings the movement’s power reserve to 72 hours, ample for the weekend.
Another shocker is that Rolex has introduced an exhibition caseback on the platinum case, ice-blue dialled Daytona. This is the first time the brand has introduced a see-through caseback since the Cellini Prince in 2005. The steel and Rolesor models feature a white lacquer dial, and an intense black dial is used on the Everose gold model. In addition, the watches are fitted with three-link Oyster bracelets in matching material.
The yellow gold model comes with an Oysterflex bracelet, which is now equipped with the Oysterlock folding clasp. These feature a Glidelock extension system, while the Oyster bracelets have the Easylink comfort system for quick bracelet length adjustments. The Everose gold and platinum models have bracelets with ceramic inserts for better flexibility. These models are all Superlative Chronometer-certified, with an accuracy of +/- 2 seconds per day.
The Explorer 40mm
Rolex has added a new case size of 40mm to the Explorer for its 70th anniversary. This replaces the 39mm model and sits alongside the 36mm reference. The watch has an Oystersteel case and bracelet, and it’s the second collection under the Professional banner to have watches with multiple case sizes. The other is the Yacht-Master.
The hands and hour markers are filled with blue Chromalight for maximum legibility. Chromalight has a long-lasting glow in the dark, ideal for the mountaineering conditions with which the Explorer is often associated.
It’s powered by Calibre 3230, which offers a Chronergy escapement and Parachrom hairspring. These ensure the watch is highly precise, shock-resistant, and reliable even in extreme conditions. The efficient escapement enables the movement’s power reserve to reach a maximum of 70 hours. Like always, it’s paired with an Oyster bracelet.
The Perpetual 1908
Rolex has discontinued the Cellini and introduced a new collection, the Perpetual 1908. This watch memorialises Hans Wilsdorf’s founding of the company and is based on the designs of early Rolex models, updated with today’s technical innovations.
There’s much that’s similar between the Perpetual 1908 and the Cellini, but also a lot that’s different. The Cellini housed a few complications, specifically moonphase models. The Perpetual 1908 eschews complications for a purist design, even throwing out the date window. The fluting on the bezel is also finer, which gives the watch a much more sophisticated look. The bezel is slim, giving more prominence to the dial.
The dial features a small seconds counter and slim hour markers in gold, with Arabic numerals at the quarters. The fonts are also based on the design of early Rolex watches but applied and filled in instead of outlines. It is the second watch from this year that features an exhibition caseback.
Rolex has created a new movement currently only used for the Perpetual 1908. Calibre 7140 combines Rolex’s Chronergy escapement with the Syloxi hairspring for the first time. This has been patented by the brand. While the watchmaker has had both innovations for some time, it’s been testing them internally for the better part of a decade before incorporating them on one of its watches. The movement’s bridges are finished with Rolex Côtes de Genève.
The Perpetual 1908 is housed in a 39mm case and available in white or yellow gold, with an alligator leather strap in black or brown. The yellow gold model has dials in a matte white or black, with a brown strap for the former and black for the latter. It has a Dualclasp folding clasp for securing the watch on the wrist. This new clasp design is specially developed for this watch model.
There are minor updates to other models: the GMT-Master II’s all-black bezel has been replaced with a black-and-grey bezel and now falls in line with the remainder of the other GMT-Master II models. A new Yacht-Master 42 has also been introduced with an RLX titanium case and bracelet, rendering the watch much lighter to wear.
Finally, the Sky-Dweller now features a Chronergy escapement movement, Calibre 9002. It also comes with an Oysterflex bracelet in the white gold version from now on, a first for the line. This has a mint green dial, while the Everose gold model has a blue-green dial.
While critics are rejoicing that Chronergy is now expanded to more movements, collectors are likely bemoaning the changing of models, which means interest lists will be cancelled and restarted. Good luck to all.
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