First launched in 2012, the Rolex Sky-Dweller watch collection holds the distinction of being the most complex and technologically advanced model in the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer’s entire catalog. Although it possesses a somewhat similar overall aesthetic to many of the traditional models in Rolex’s catalog such as the Datejust and Day-Date, the model offers unparalleled functionality and combines an innovative annual calendar complication with true GMT functionality to create the ultimate luxury travel watch.
Despite the fact that the collection is only now just about a decade old, it has already undergone a number of small updates and refinements, with a handful of references joining and leaving the collection over the years. Additionally, while it took a little while to catch on with the general public, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is now finally starting to experience the appreciation that it deserves, as an increasing number of collectors and enthusiasts become aware of its advanced functionality and the remarkably clean and ultra-legible way that it is able to present all of its information. If you have been thinking about adding one of these ultra-capable luxury travel watches to your collection, then read on as we go over everything you need to know about the model, including its history, the various different options available, and how much it will cost to add one to your watch box.
Rolex Sky Dweller
Sky Dweller Key Features:
– Year of Introduction: 2012
– Case Diameter: 42mm
– Materials: 18k Gold (Yellow, White, or Everose); White Rolesor (Steel & White Gold), Yellow Rolesor (Steel & Yellow Gold)
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, Month Indicator, GMT Functionality, Annual Calendar
– Dial: Multiple Options Available
– Bezel: Ring Command, 18k Gold, Fluted Style
– Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/Cyclope Lens)
– Movement: Rolex Caliber 9001
– Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 330 Feet
– Strap / Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet; Jubilee Bracelet; Oysterflex Bracelet; Leather strap (Discontinued)
– Approx. Price: $14,800 – $49,450 (New); $22,250 – $70,000 (Pre-Owned)
About the Rolex Sky-Dweller
It is hard to fault the Rolex Sky Dweller’s aesthetics. It is (and always has been) decidedly on-brand for a watch from The Crown. The Sky-Dweller looked like a Rolex watch from the get-go, but for some reason, it did not receive the immediate love that the brand likely expected that it would.
Some of Rolex’s most recent collection additions to the men’s side of its catalog have been the Yacht-Master II (2007), the Deepsea (2008), the Datejust II (2009), and the Sky-Dweller (2012). While the Datejust II was intended as a modernized take on the Datejust, and the Deepsea was designed to add a further dimension to the Sea-Dweller line, the Yacht-Master II and the Sky Dweller stuck out like sore thumbs for the incredible complexity of their features.
There are far more complicated watches in the world than either of these models, but for Rolex – a brand whose watches generally focus on performing simple tasks as effectively as they can be performed, this was something rather special. The Yacht-Master II boasted a complication so esoteric that even those for whom it was designed would probably have to take to the high seas with the instruction manual in hand for the first couple of regattas.
Meanwhile, the Rolex Sky-Dweller took a historically complex complication and made it far simpler to read and operate. And yet, despite this incredible effort, the initial response was mixed. While the technology housed within the Sky-Dweller was rarely sniffed at, the watch drew criticism upon its initial release for its arguably busy dial and the eye-watering price that one would expect from a solid 18k gold Rolex.
Over the years, the dial has been simplified and additional options have been added to the lineup. The stainless steel reference with a blue dial is now one of the most popular models in Rolex’s entire catalog, with pre-owned examples trading hands for significantly above their original retail price. With that in mind, given all the hype and widespread madness that typically surrounds the release of new Rolex watches, why did it take so long for the watch to spread its wings?
When it was first introduced, it was available in either 18k yellow gold, white gold, or Everose gold with the choice of either Arabic or Roman numeral hour markers on the dial. Several years later, Rolex added two-tone options to the collection and updated the dial to feature luminous batons for a more contemporary aesthetic.
Additionally, along with additional metal options and dial colors, Rolex has also added additional strap and bracelet options to the collection. Initially, the solid gold watch was available with either a 3-link Oyster bracelet or a leather strap with a matching gold fold-over clasp. However, the leather strap models have been entirely discontinued (along with the full 18k white gold references) and replaced by similar full-gold Sky-Dweller watches on rubber Oysterflex bracelets, while the iconic Jubilee bracelet was added as an option for the steel and gold ‘Rolesor’ models in 2021.
Interestingly, unlike the Yacht-Master II, the Rolex Sky-Dweller’s Ring Command bezel is fluted and presented in solid 18k gold – even on the stainless steel models (they are actually considered White Rolesor models since their bezels are 18k white gold). The advanced feature-specific movement and larger 42mm size also contribute to the feeling that this timepiece is a Professional series watch, but its overall aesthetics are far more traditional and Rolex does categorize it as part of its Classic collection. Overall, this watch could be considered to be almost like a cross between a GMT-Master II and a Day-Date President, with the added functionality of an annual calendar complication.
The Blue Dial
The release of the White Rolesor version (and an accompanying blue dial option) suddenly seemed to whet the appetite of collectors. The funniest thing about this addition to the lineup was how it seemed to increase general interest in all of the older, previously-ignored models as well as the new steel and gold Rolesor options.
Once again, this phenomenon is an example of the importance of context in watchmaking. Often, new designs are too radical to initially garner widespread acceptance. In many instances, a new collection or aesthetic must feel somehow connected to the past in order to not be regarded as too great a departure. The simplified, baton indices and a more accessible price point of the Rolesor Sky-Dweller watch built a bridge between their solid-gold predecessor and the Datejust/Day-Date models that offer a similar but simplified overall aesthetic.
As such, the Rolex Sky-Dweller – thanks to the addition of a mostly stainless steel option – suddenly fit in with the rest of the collection. And while the earlier models had not been in demand as much as the later updates, they were suddenly appreciated for their role as inaugural models that represent an important part of the brand’s history and the development of a model that will likely stick around for the long run.
Current Rolex Sky-Dweller References
The Sky-Dweller family is not the most expansive in the Rolex universe. In fact, thanks to the discontinuation of several early references, there are only six models left in the catalog (not including all the different dial and bracelet variations).
The entry-level model in the Rolex Sky-Dweller collection is perhaps most often seen with its handsome blue dial installed. Here we see a Rolesor fusion of Oystersteel and 18k white gold, which creates a clean and classic look suitable for the beach, the boardroom, and everything in between. For those who appreciate a more monochromatic display, the ref. 326934 is also available with a black or a white dial. This piece is mostly Oystersteel, with only the bezel, hands, and hour markers crafted from white gold. This means that it is quite a bit lighter than the full-gold models, and a little better at withstanding a daily beating.
The next step up in the luxury stakes sees yellow gold replace the white gold of reference 326934. This model is also available with three dial colors: black, white, and champagne. Like other Yellow Rolesor watches, the bezel, winding crown, hands, hour markers, and center links of the bracelet are all crafted from solid 18k yellow gold. Visually, it is perhaps the most reminiscent of the Datejust model to which the Sky-Dweller cannot help but be compared (especially when paired with the Jubilee bracelet). However, its 42mm diameter means it is a bigger presence than even the largest Datejust model in the collection. That said, the sympathetically sloped and fluted bezel makes this watch sit lower on the wrist than its specifications might indicate, and it does not look at all out of place in more formal settings where the yellow gold feels right at home.
The full yellow gold Rolex Sky-Dweller is perhaps the most iconic piece within the collection, especially since the update saw the more complex numerals shelved in favor of crisp and clean luminous batons, which add to the visual clarity of the piece as well as its low-light legibility. Every collection needs anchors, and this reference, along with the intensely popular blue dial White Rolesor reference 326934 provides just that.
While the reference 326938 features a solid 18k yellow gold case paired with a matching gold Oyster bracelet, the ref. 326238 swaps out the metal bracelet for Rolex’s innovative Rubber Oysterflex bracelet. Additionally, rather than being identical to the gold bracelet model just without a metal bracelet, the case of the reference 326238 features small lug hoods for a more integrated appearance where the strap meets the case.
Everose gold is more than just rose gold. Its hue and luster in real life is truly something to behold. While yellow gold is an incredibly classical material that works in certain situations better than others, Everose has a modern versatility that surely encouraged Rolex to make it a more central part of the brand’s offering. The full Everose Sky-Dweller on a bracelet is, with its slate dial and $49,350 retail price, a true statement of luxury and a completely unmissable choice.
The reference 326235 is the Everose gold version of the reference 326938. Just like with the yellow gold model, the ref. 326235 swaps out the gold Oyster bracelet of the ref. 326935 for a rubber Oysterflex bracelet with a matching 18k gold clasp. With an official retail price of $41,400, it is nearly $8,000 less expensive than the Everose gold version on a matching bracelet; however, it still represents a significant step up in price over either of the Rolesor models.
Discontinued Rolex Sky-Dweller References
Despite the fact that the Rolex Sky-Dweller collection has been around for less than a full decade, there are still a handful of models that have been discontinued during that time. This includes all of the full 18k white gold models, along with the various solid gold references fitted with leather straps.
The reference 326939 was a member of the first trio of solid 18k gold Sky-Dweller references that was released in 2012. Just like its siblings, the ref. 326939 featured a solid 18k gold case and a matching gold Oyster bracelet. However, it swapped out the yellow gold and Everose gold of the other two references for a full 18k white gold construction, which gave it a much more subtle overall appearance. The ref. 326939 remained in production until 2018 when Rolex discontinued all of the solid white gold Sky-Dweller references.
Also featuring a solid 18k white gold case is the reference 326139, which swaps out the matching white gold Oyster bracelet of its sibling for a classic leather strap with a gold fold-over clasp. Just like the models on Oysterflex bracelets, the ref. 326139 features lug hoods that extend from under the bezel to fill the gap between the side of the case and the edge of the strap.
The reference 326138 is the solid 18k yellow gold version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller that is fitted with a leather strap rather than a matching yellow gold bracelet. Just like the other leather strap models (along with those fitted with rubber Oysterflex bracelets), the ref. 326138 features lug hoods to give its strap a more integrated appearance.
Just like its yellow and white gold siblings, the reference 326135 is a solid 18k gold Rolex Sky-Dweller that is fitted with a leather strap instead of its matching gold bracelet. Similar to the other strap-equipped models, the ref. 326135 features lug hoods; however, it is entirely crafted from Rolex’s proprietary 18k Everose gold alloy that is specifically designed to retain its warm hue despite prolonged exposure to the elements.
How Much is a Rolex Sky-Dweller?
At a retail level, Rolex Sky-Dweller watches start out at around the $15,200 price range for a brand-new White Rolesor reference 326934 and closer to $50k for a full Everose gold example on a matching 18k Everose gold bracelet.
Below are the 2021 retail prices for all of the current-production Rolex Sky-Dweller models:
– Ref. 326934 = $15,200 (Oyster Bracelet); $15,450 (Jubilee Bracelet)
– Ref. 326933 = $18,200 (Oyster Bracelet); $18,800 (Jubilee Bracelet)
– Ref. 326938 = $46,750 (Oyster Bracelet)
– Ref. 326238 = $40,000 (Oysterflex Bracelet)
– Ref. 326935 = $49,350 (Oyster Bracelet)
– Ref. 326238 = $40,000 (Oysterflex Bracelet)
Naturally, the Oysterflex bracelet versions of the various solid 18k gold models cost substantially less than those with matching gold bracelets simply due to the fact that their construction requires quite a bit less gold. Additionally, the Jubilee bracelet configurations of the two Rolesor references come at a small premium compared to their Oyster bracelet siblings, although there is no difference in retail price for the different dial colors.
Buying Pre-Owned vs. New
As the Sky-Dweller is one of Rolex’s newest models and one that is not yet even ten years old, there is no such thing as a “vintage” Sky-Dweller. That is assuming we accept the general definition of vintage being something between 20 and 100 years old (older than 100 years would be classed as an antique in this instance).
It is getting easier to find pre-owned Rolex Sky-Dweller watches available for sale, but the prices for them have been going up significantly. Specific models – particularly the White Rolesor version with the blue dial and the new 18k gold models on Oysterflex bracelets – can carry steep premiums over their brand-new counterparts due to the limited supply of these Rolex watches at a retail level and the resulting multi-year waiting lists present at dealers.
When the stainless steel and gold versions were first announced, the waiting lists were predictably lengthy. Consequently, demand for pieces drove up the pre-owned prices overnight. In those days, White Rolesor models were trending for almost double their recommended retail price. And unlike some models that become more accessible after the initial hype cools down, the pre-owned price of a steel Sky-Dweller with a blue dial is still around twice what it costs brand-new.
Previously, it was possible to find a considerable discount on the two-tone and solid gold Rolex Sky-Dweller models but over the last couple of years, secondary market prices for virtually all models have picked up, with many now significantly exceeding their original retail values.
Rolex Sky-Dweller Prices
Like most Rolex watches, you can’t simply walk into a Rolex dealer or boutique and buy a Sky-Dweller that same day. Most models have lengthy waiting lists, and if you want the stainless steel model with a blue dial, it might be several years. Consequently, there exists a significant difference between the brand-new retail price of a Rolex Sky-Dweller and what you will actually have to pay to get one on your wrist today.
Yellow Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326938 (Oyster Bracelet)
Retail (MSRP): $46,750
Secondary Market: $52,500 – $63,750
Everose Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326935 (Oyster Bracelet)
Retail (MSRP): $49,350
Secondary Market: $63,500 – $70,000
Yellow Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326238 (Oysterflex Bracelet)
Retail (MSRP): $40,000
Secondary Market: $43,250 – $48,750
Everose Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326235 (Oysterflex Bracelet)
Retail (MSRP): $40,000
Secondary Market: $46,500 – $54,300
(Yellow Rolesor) Two-Tone Sky-Dweller ref. 326933
Retail (MSRP): $18,200 (Oyster Bracelet); $18,800 (Jubilee Bracelet)
Secondary Market: $22,250 – $27,350
(White Rolesor) Stainless Steel Sky-Dweller ref. 326934
Retail (MSRP): $15,200 (Oyster Bracelet); $15,450 (Jubilee Bracelet)
Secondary Market: $24,500 – $35,300
While most Rolex Sky-Dweller watches trade hands for values in excess of their original retail prices on the open market, this is especially true for the White Rolesor model. You will immediately notice that the stainless steel Sky-Dweller ref. 326934 is currently selling at a significantly higher price on the secondary market than its suggested brand-new retail price. This perfectly illustrates how the booming demand for stainless steel Rolex watches (of virtually all kinds) is driving up their resale value.
Sky-Dweller Features & How to Use Them
Beating away inside the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the in-house Caliber 9001 movement. A blue Parachrom hairspring ensures that timekeeping will be affected as little as possible from exposure to magnetic fields and temperature fluctuations. The movement is also fitted with Paraflex shock absorbers to guarantee a smooth ride for the escapement as it ticks its way through its ample 72-hour power reserve.
This fascinating movement’s setting system was inspired by Rolex’s previous foray into complicated sports watches with the Yacht-Master II from 2007. The key feature that distinguishes this system from most others on the market is the Ring Command Bezel. Using the bezel, it is possible to select the function of the winding crown. By shifting through the options, you can set the local time (which jumps in one-hour increments), the reference time (the 24-hour disc), or the date and the month of the annual calendar. With that in mind, before we get to the functionality of that calendar (and how to read it) it is worth mentioning that the fluted Ring Command Bezel is solid 18k gold on every single Sky-Dweller model. This, along with the center links of the Oyster bracelet on the Yellow Rolesor model, adds a nice weight to the overall wearing experience.
So what exactly is an annual calendar? There are several different types of calendar complications in mechanical watchmaking. The simplest and by far the most common are watches that just show the date of the month and that have to be advanced manually should that month have fewer than 31 days. At the other end of the scale (putting aside moonphase complications for the moment) we have perpetual calendars. These are the set-it-and-forget-it models that not only compensate for the differing number of days in a month but also automatically adjust for leap years too, leaving the wearer with nothing to do in order to keep all of the various calendar functions accurate.
In between those two is the annual calendar. These don’t recognize leap years but do surpass the standard variety in that they mechanically correct for the months with 30 and 31 days in them. As such, they only need manual intervention once per year — at the end of February. As the median option in terms of convenience, annual calendars are likewise right down the middle when it comes time to price. On average, they are certainly more expensive than the bare-bones calendar watches, but they are usually far cheaper than perpetual calendars, whose incredibly intricate inner workings generally come with an equally incredible price tag.
The really fascinating thing about this complication’s integration in the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the setting system used. To make things simple, the screw-down crown of the Rolex Sky-Dweller has just one setting position. Rotating the Ring Command Bezel unlocks access to the various other functions of the watch, which makes for a remarkably simple and straightforward setting process, despite the relatively large number of parameters that can be adjusted. Additionally, this intuitive system extends beyond the setting instructions and it could not be simpler to read. Happily, there are not only 12 hours in a single day, but also 12 months in a year, and each month is conveniently indicated by a window in the dial located on the periphery of the corresponding hour marker.
For example, when we are in February (the second month) the aperture that sits at the end of the 2 o’clock hour baton is highlighted red (or black). For March (the third month) the aperture next to 3 o’clock turns a different color. As such, it is incredibly simple to digest the information at a glance. This complex functionality and remarkable ease-of-use combine to create one of Rolex’s most intriguing options, which, after a few years of searching for its own strong identity and following among the Rolex community, finally seems to be getting the attention it deserves.
Does the Rolex Sky-Dweller Get the Respect it Deserves?
The Rolex Sky-Dweller can sometimes get a lot of hate – especially during the years immediately following its launch. The watch is busy – less so than a Breitling Navitimer or an IWC Chronograph, but still significantly more information-dense than the typical Rolex watch. However, here’s the thing — the Rolex Sky-Dweller is by far the most technologically advanced watch in the brand’s arsenal, and here are three excellent reasons why you should show a little more love to the future classic that is the Rolex Sky-Dweller.
This watch is gorgeous – plain and simple. The dial alone, although busy, is still perfectly readable. This is a tool watch at heart but boasts the understated elegance of a dress watch. Even though this watch comes in at 42mm, it wears much more like a 40mm watch. While it may not work for every possible wrist and occasion, it is certainly versatile and has the style and presence to speak to a wide range of people.
Innovative Ring Command Bezel
This is arguably the coolest thing about the Sky-Dweller: the Ring Command Bezel. That fluted bezel does more than just look good — rotating the bezel activates the watch’s functions and it is an ingenious and straightforward addition to the model. Rolex has long been a brand associated with advancements in design, but its history of technological innovation is too often buried by its wealth of heritage and excellent storytelling. The Ring Command Bezel puts Rolex firmly back on the map and hints at even more adventurous innovations in the future.
The metal options available for the Rolex Sky-Dweller are a huge reason why it deserves your respect. Until recently, the Sky-Dweller was only available in solid 18k gold. However, when Rolex rolled out the stainless steel Sky-Dweller with a white gold bezel, the entry price dropped significantly. All of a sudden, this made the Sky-Dweller one of Rolex’s more approachable models and additional bracelet options and dial colors have only made it more appealing to a wide range of collectors. The Sky-Dweller comes in a variety of metals, including yellow gold, Everose gold, stainless steel and white gold (White Rolesor), and a more classical stainless steel and yellow gold option (Yellow Rolesor). Discontinued options also include full-white gold models and leather strap versions, which means that there is quite literally something for all tastes.
So what are you waiting for?