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An Overview of Rolex's New Releases

April 18, 2023

From exhibition casebacks to RLX titanium to an entirely new collection, Rolex's latest Watches and Wonders releases did not disappoint.

Rolex just made some massive changes at Watches and Wonders, the annual Geneva trade show where top watch companies announce their novelties. This year's event brought the introduction of a completely novel collection, a redesigned Daytona, the discontinuation of the Milgauss and Cellini, and several new models in the GMT Master II, Explorer, Yacht-Master, Sky-Dweller, Oyster Perpetual, and Day-Date lines. Considering Rolex's dominant ~29% share of the Swiss watch market (2021), it's no surprise that the watch world had been eagerly waiting for the brand's next move. As we'll soon see, the releases met and possibly even exceeded expectations.

The 1908: A New Chapter in Rolex Dress Watches

traditional-imagesPerhaps the biggest Rolex release of this year's Watches and Wonders was the 1908, a dress watch that effectively replaces the now-discontinued Cellini (more on that later). Named for the year the brand changed its name to Rolex, the very traditional 1908 is quite different from anything the brand has ever produced. The model seems positioned to compete with high horology dress watches from the likes of A. Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin, and Breguet. This intention is first evident in the design; inspired by an Oyster Perpetual from 1931, the clean dial features numerals at three, nine, and twelve, a classic railroad minute track, and a recessed small seconds sub-dial. Then there's the case–at 39 millimeters, the size is just right for a modern dress watch. Pricewise, the 1908 is on par with a Saxonia or Patrimony, retailing for $22,000 in yellow gold and $23,300 in white gold.

Notably, the 1908 is uncharacteristically thin; Rolex claims that the case is thinner than other watches in the Oyster Perpetual collection by a third. The reduction in height is mostly thanks to the brand-new caliber 7140, which is viewable through a sapphire crystal caseback. This feature marks another big change, as the last Rolex I can remember having a clear caseback is a Cellini Prince from over a decade ago. The movement leans into the 1908's high horology appeal. Most Rolex calibers, while executed well, are utilitarian in their finishing. Here, the brand has done its best to make the new caliber 7140 look attractive; the bridges are adorned with Rolex Côtes de Genève (differentiated from normal Côtes de Genève by a polished ridge between each stripe), and even the gold rotor is skeletonized. On the technical side of things, the new movement has been fitted with a Chronergy escapement, which provides magnetic resistance and reduces energy loss, and Paraflex shock absorbers, which protect the oscillator from shocks.

An Updated Look (and Caseback) for the Daytona's 60th Anniversary

traditional-images2023 marks the sixtieth year since the Cosmograph Daytona's introduction. To mark the occasion, Rolex has updated the entire collection. First of all, many Daytona references are discontinued, including all meteorite dial models and the green dial "John Mayer" (116508). In their stead, the brand has added five new references. For the new generation models, Rolex has slightly tweaked the sub-dials, added a new metal band separating the bezel from the crystal for models using the Cerachrom bezel, and revised the case. The bezel now appears a tad wider, though the diameter stays at 40 millimeters.

The new models also come equipped with an updated movement, the caliber 4131, which replaces the 4130. The 4131 incorporates Rolex's Chronergy escapement, Paraflex shock absorbers, and an optimized ball bearing. The power reserve has also increased to 72 hours. The movement additionally features the updated finishing techniques found on the 1908's caliber. Excitingly, for the first time on a Rolex sports watch, this enhanced movement is now viewable through a sapphire crystal caseback on the platinum 126506.

The Cellini and Milgauss Are Discontinued

traditional-imagesIn sadder news, the entire Cellini and Milgauss lines have been discontinued. There was a great deal of speculation regarding whether Rolex would update these collections or get rid of them entirely; the brand obviously took the latter route. This move makes sense–the Cellini and Milgauss, while gaining somewhat of a cult following, were two of Rolex's least popular collections. The discontinuation of the Cellini also makes way for the brand to break into more traditional high horology with the aforementioned 1908.

The First Wearable Titanium Rolex

traditional-images Rolex just released a Yacht-Master in RLX Titanium (a grade 5 titanium alloy). Previously, the only other Rolex to be made in the material was the gargantuan 50-millimeter Deepsea Challenge, a watch that was met with widespread criticism when it was introduced last year. At 42 millimeters in diameter, the new Yacht-Master is far more versatile and mostly retains the collection's original design. The case and bracelet, however, are notably darker and almost completely satin-brushed. The announcement of the RLX titanium Yacht-Master is major news for Rolex collectors as it perhaps foreshadows more titanium releases in the future.

A New "Celebration" Dial Pays Tribute to the Pastel Oyster Perpetuals

traditional-images Introduced in 2020, the pastel dial Oyster Perpetual models remain very popular. In celebration of these models, Rolex has released the 41-millimeter Oyster Perpetual 124300. The defining characteristic of the watch, the dial, features a number of "bubbles" in green, candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, and coral red. The availability of this model remains to be seen but given that the dial's most prominent color is turquoise blue, the watch will likely be very hard to obtain at retail–after all, the frenzy over the original so-called "Tiffany blue" dial Oyster Perpetual is yet to fully die down.

A 40-Millimeter Explorer

It was only two years ago that Rolex discontinued the Explorer 39 in favor of the 36. Now, Rolex is bringing a larger size back to the collection with the release of the 40-millimeter 224270. Given the recent upsizing of the Submariner and the general trend towards larger watches in the industry, the move didn't exactly come out of nowhere. Luckily for collectors, the 36-millimeter wasn't replaced this time like it was in 2010.


Six New Day-Date Models with Colorful Dials

traditional-images The Day-Date 36 is now available with three striking new decorative stone dials: a bright orange carnelian paired with yellow gold, a shimmering green aventurine with Everose gold, and a pale blue turquoise dial paired with white gold. The three models also include bezels and numerals set with diamonds.

The other three releases came as complete surprises owing to their downright wacky dials.traditional-images Adorning the dials are multicolored puzzle pieces against a blue or orange backdrop. They also feature 10 baguette cut sapphires in rainbow colors. In place of the day and date, Rolex has opted for seven inspirational words (like "happy" and "gratitude") and 31 emojis. The new puzzle dial Day-Dates will be available in white, yellow, and Everose gold. With the release of these models and the pastel "celebration" dial Oyster Perpetual, it would seem Rolex is taking itself a bit less seriously, marking a fairly significant departure from the brand's modus operandi.

A Black and Gray GMT Master II

traditional-images The GMT Master collection sees two new additions: the two-tone 126713GRNR and yellow gold 126718GRNR. Both models pair a black dial with a black and gray bezel and are available exclusively on a Jubilee bracelet.

Three New Sky-Dwellers

The Sky-Dweller line has received three new additions: a mint green dial with a Rolesor (steel and gold) case and bracelet, a traditional-images blue-green dial paired with Everose gold, and a black dial with a white gold case on an Oysterflex bracelet. The caliber 9001, which is one of Rolex's most complicated movements, has been updated with new technology. The latest generation Sky-Dwellers now feature the caliber 9002, which, like the 4131 in the Daytona, make use of the Chronergy escapement, Paraflex shock absorbers, and an improved ball bearing.

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