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Watches and Wonders, the world’s biggest exhibition of new timepieces, kicked off today at the Palexpo in Geneva. We are on site at the show to cover the most exciting and significant new releases from some of your favorite brands. Appropriately, we usher in Day One of the week-long festivities with a roundup of new watches from Rolex, now in its third year as a headlining Watches and Wonders exhibitor.
The Background: In 1962, Rolex became official timekeeper of the Daytona 500, and one year later it released the Ref. 6239 Cosmograph, nicknamed the “Daytona” after the famous Florida racetrack, its now-famous racing-inspired chronograph watch. The watch was notable for its three-register dial and engraved tachymeter bezel. The Daytona, which rose to unprecedented heights of fame and desirability after it became associated with actor and racing driver Paul Newman, has been produced in various versions year after year ever since, forever linked to the high-performance world of motorsport and consistently one of the most coveted watch models in the world. Throughout its history, the Daytona has housed an ever-advancing series of calibers, including Rolex’s own souped-up version of the Zenith El Primero. Most recently,, it contains the in-house Rolex Caliber 4130, with a column-wheel chronograph mechanism and a host of Rolex-patented technical details including a hairspring made of blue Parachrom, an antimagnetic alloy.
What’s New: In 2023, the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona celebrates its 60th anniversary and marks the milestone with a host of subtle but significant refinements to the case and dial as well as a new automatic movement, Caliber 4131, which now features côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges along with a cutout oscillating weight. The profile of the 40mm Oyster case has been reworked with new light-catching highlights. The subdials are even more harmoniously balanced, and the tachymeter bezel in Cerachrom now has a metal ring on its periphery that matches the case material. The new models are in Oystersteel, with a white lacquer dial; in yellow gold with a golden dial and black counters; and in platinum with a chestnut brown cerachrom bezel and an ice-blue dial. The platinum version is the only one outfitted with a sapphire exhibition caseback to show off the movement, whose rotor is made of solid gold in this model only.
The Background: The GMT-Master II (introduced in 1954 but actually hitting the market in 1955) is one of the most coveted luxury travel watches on the planet, and basically established the motif that has inspired other dual-time zone timepieces for more than half a century. The original Rolex GMT-Master, Ref. 6542, was the first watch capable of displaying the time in two separate time zones thanks to the its fourth, central 24-hour hand and bidirectional rotating 24-hour bezel. The initials in the watch’s name signify “Greenwich Mean Time,” the system of world timekeeping based on the calculation of mean solar time from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The modern versions of the watch are equipped with Rolex’s in-house Caliber 3285, which boasts no less than 10 patent applications and includes proprietary innovations like the antimagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and the energy efficient Chronergy escapement. Its “Superlative Chronometer” certification speaks to the movement’s astounding -2/+2 seconds per day of precision, even stricter than those for COSC chronometer certification.The GMT-Master has become famous for its colorful nicknames, which come from the color combo on the bicolor bezels, including the original red-and-blue “Pepsi,” the black-and-blue “Batman,” and last year’s yet-to-be-named green-and-black.
What’s New: Two new versions of the GMT-Master debut this year, one in 18k yellow gold, the other in Rolex’s “Rolesor” bimetal construction, which combines yellow gold with steel. These models mark the return of yellow gold to the GMT-Master collection. The Cerachrom GMT bezel features an entirely new color combo, black and gray (we’re anxiously awaiting the inevitable nickname). Both models have Oyster cases measuring 40mm in diameter and both are equipped with the in-house Caliber 3285. Both are mounted on a Jubilee bracelet, the five-link wristlet that Rolex created specifically for its Datejust model back in 1945. The black dial has the “GMT-Master” script in powdered yellow. The scratch-proof sapphire crystal has a Cyclops lens over the 3 o’clock date display.
The Background: The original Yacht-Master, launched in 1992, inaugurated the only Rolex watch family to emerge from the 1990s. Initially only offered in yellow gold, the Yacht-Master was visually similar in many regards to the Submariner, with the same geometric hour markers, Mercedes hands, screw-down crown, and Oyster-style case and bracelet. Its rotating bezel was executed more luxuriously, in the same gold as the case and bracelet with a relief-engraved scale, which signified this nautically inspired model as more upscale than the sportier dive watch that it emulated. Inside the modern versions is an in-house movement with COSC chronometer certification, the Rolex Caliber 3235, packing a 72-hour power reserve and all the patented technology that Rolex fans have come to expect and demand.
What’s New: The Yacht-Master 42 launched at Watches and Wonders 2023 is the first version of the nautical icon to use a case made of RLX titanium, a strong, corrosion-resistant, and very lightweight alloy, with a technical satin finish that lends it an intriguing, grained texture. High-sheen and polished finishing appears on other facets of the case, which has been milled from a monobloc of the alloy. The dial is in Rolex’s “intense” black, with its own grained texture. The bracelet is made of titanium as well, with ceramic inserts, and is fitted with Rolex’s Easylink extension system for wearing comfort.
The Background: Rolex’s rugged timepiece for mountaineers was launched back in 1953, and became famous when it joined Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their historic summit of Mount Everest that same year. With its simple, legible three-handed dial and modest dimensions, the Explorer is the closest thing Rolex offers to a classic field watch, albeit one firmly in the luxury sector. As of the most recent versions in 2021, the Explorer is even available in its original 36mm case size and is outfitted with the Rolex in-house Caliber 3230, packed with the expected array of up-to-the-minute Rolex-patented technologies, a “Superlative Chronometer” certification for accuracy, and a 70-hour power reserve. The dial’s hands and hour markers glow a bright blue in the dark thanks to generous coatings of Rolex’s proprietary Chromalight lume.
What’s New: Rolex has introduced a 40mm version of the Explorer in Oystersteel, reaching out to prospective owners of the quintessential adventure timepiece who found the 36mm version a bit too dainty. The dial is black lacquered; the movement remains the Superlative Chronometer Caliber 3230, powering the simple three-hand time display on the classical 3-6-9 dial.
The Background: The Oyster Perpetual is the culmination of two momentous contributions to watchmaking by Rolex and its visionary founder, Hans Wilsdorf. In 1926, Rolex launched the first Oyster case, whose innovative “two-shell” design combined a threaded, hermetically sealed caseback and a crown that screwed securely into the side of the case for a water resistance never before achieved in watches. The first Oyster watches, released that year (example above), took their name from the groundbreaking invention. The first Rolex “perpetual” movement followed in 1931. This patented, self-winding movement was distinguished by a weighted mass that wound the mainspring via the motion of the wearer’s arm, keeping the watch constantly running as long as it was being worn. The combination of Oyster case and Perpetual movement finally occurred in 1945, with the first Datejust. Today, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, with its understated three-hand design, is the essence of Rolex’s sport-luxury simplicity
What’s New: Rolex brings a new level of playful color to the normally monochromatic dial of the Oyster Perpetual with the so-called “Celebration” models (in 31mm, 36mm, and 41mm sizes). The lacquered dials feature overlapping multicolored bubbles — or perhaps party balloons, hence the name — on a field of candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, coral red or green. The cases are in Oystersteel and water-resistant to 100 meters, even in its smallest iteration. The 31mm case houses the Caliber 2232 movement; the other two contain the ubiquitous Caliber 3230. All are mounted on three-link Oyster bracelets.
The Background: The Rolex Day-Date, introduced in 1956 with Ref. 6510 and 6511, was the first wristwatch that displayed both the date (in the now-familiar 3 o’clock position under the Cyclops lens) and the day of the week (in a curved window above the Rolex logo at 12 o’clock). The Day-Date’s 36mm gold Oyster case had the fluted bezel emblematic of its stylistic predecessor, the Datejust, and housed the automatic Caliber 1055. The Day-Date has been famously nicknamed the “President” since at least the 1960s when President Lyndon B. Johnson wore one regularly in office.
What’s New: The Day-Date 36 models for 2023 feature new stone dials with diamond-set hour markers and Roman numerals at 6 and 9 o’clock. The model in Rolex’s proprietary Everose gold has a green aventurine dial (above) with a crystallized surface. Another model in 18k yellow gold has a dial made of Carnelian, an orange-hued mineral with a variety of surface patterns, and a third in a white-gold case features a natural-veined turquoise dial. All three have 52 brilliant-cut diamonds on their bezel and are fitted with a President bracelet and attach with Rolex’s concealed “Crownclasp.” The 36mm case houses the in-house Caliber 3255.
The Background: The Sky-Dweller is Rolex’s newest product family, introduced in 2012. It is an annual calendar watch with a cleverly designed in-house movement, Caliber 9001, which employs an off-center, rotating 24-hour disk to indicate a second time zone. The local time, indicated by the central hands, can be adjusted quickly when you change time zones by setting the hour hand forward or backward in one-hour increments without affecting the other indicators. Like other annual calendars (Rolex calls its version a Saros calendar), it’s designed to require adjustment only once per year, at the end of February.
What’s New: The latest Sky-Dweller models include one with an 18k white gold case, a black dial, and an Oysterflex bracelet; another in white-gold-and-steel Rolesor with a mint-green dial, previously found only on Datejust models; and an 18k Everose gold version with an blue-green dial. The cases all measure 42mm and are presented on Oyster bracelets. The movement has been upgraded, with the Caliber 9001 from the first-generation Sky-Dweller superseded by the new Caliber 9002, which adds Rolex’s patented Chronergy escapement that has debuted since the original Sky-Dweller’s launch. It also boasts the Superlative Chronometer designation that characterizes pretty much all of Rolex’s in-house calibers these days.
The Background: It was in the year 1908 that Hans Wilsdorf renamed Wilsdorf & Davis, the watchmaking firm he’d founded with his partner, as Rolex Watch Company Ltd., a name that came to the founder on a carriage ride through London. In that same year, the formerly London-based company was registered in Geneva, Switzerland, where it has been based ever since.
What’s New: The Perpetual 1908, executed in the style of Rolex’s stylishly dressy Cellini collection, is a tribute to the elegant watches of Rolex’s early 20th Century days. Its 39mm case in yellow gold or white gold features a bezel with a domed top edge and finely fluted sides, along with curved, chamfered lugs. The dial is in either white or black, with applied Arabic numerals at 3, 9, and 12 and faceted index markers at the remaining hour positions. The hour hand has a circle tip; the minute hand is sword-shaped. The new movement inside, Caliber 7140, is chock full of modern Rolex innovations including the Chronergy escapement and the antimagnetic Syloxi balance spring. It’s also on display behind a sapphire caseback, boasting an array of haute horlogerie finishing. It’s one of the few new Rolexes on an alligator leather strap, one made specifically for this model, the first of a new Perpetual collection.
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