It’s never easy being the new kid on the block. As the most recent addition to the Rolex catalog, the Sky-Dweller was always going to have work twice as hard as its more established sibling models to earn the widespread respect that Rolex believed it deserved. And, as time rolls on, it seems that a long-overdue acceptance of the Rolex Sky-Dweller might have occurred.
Today, the stainless steel Sky-Dweller with a blue dial is 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 Sky-Dweller to spread its wings?
Case Diameter: 42mm
Materials: 18k Gold (yellow, white, or Everose); White Rolesor (steel and white gold), Yellow Rolesor (steel and yellow gold)
Functions: Time +running seconds; annual calendar; dual-time display
Bezel: Ring Command Bezel
Movement: Rolex Caliber 9001
Strap / Bracelet: Oyster bracelet; Leather strap with gold fold-over clasp
Click here for in-depth instructions on how to use the Rolex Sky-Dweller.
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. It looked like a Rolex from the get-go, but for some reason, it did not receive the immediate love that the brand expected 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 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 their incredible complexity.
There are far more complicated watches in the world than either of these models, but for Rolex, 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 with the YMII.
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.
Rolex Sky-Dweller Options
When the Rolex Sky-Dweller was first introduced, it was available in either 18k yellow gold, white gold, or pink 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, unlike many of Rolex’s other watches, the Sky-Dweller is also only offered on either a 3-link Oyster bracelet or a leather strap. While some fans may ache for a Jubilee option, this has yet to be added to the mix.
Interestingly, unlike the Yacht-Master II, the Sky-Dweller’s Ring Command bezel is fluted and presented in solid gold — even on the stainless steel models (they are actually considered White Rolesor models since their bezels are 18k white gold). The Sky-Dweller’s advanced feature-specific movement and larger 42mm size also contribute to the feeling that this timepiece is a Professional series watch. However, its overall aesthetics are far more in line with Rolex’s Classic series. Overall, the Rolex Sky-Dweller could be considered to be almost like a cross between a GMT-Master II and a Day-Date President.
The Blue Dial Sky-Dweller
The release of the White Rolesor version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller (and an accompanying blue dial option) suddenly seemed to whet the appetite for collectors. The funniest thing about this addition to the collection was how it seemed to increase general interest in the older, previously-ignored models as well as the new Rolesor options.
Once again, this phenomenon is an example of the importance of context in watchmaking. Often, new designs are too radical to meet with initial acceptance. Usually, a new collection or aesthetic must feel somehow connected to the past. The simplified, baton indices and a logical price point of the Rolesor Sky-Dweller built a bridge between its predecessor and the Datejust/Day-Date models with which it is most clearly visually connected. As such, the Sky-Dweller — thanks to the addition of a mostly stainless steel option — suddenly fit. And while the earlier models had not been in demand as much as the later updates, they were suddenly seen as “cool” and as “throw-backs,” representing an important part of the brand’s history and the development of a model that will likely stick around for the long run.
What about the specs?
Now, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is unarguably a large watch. The case is 42mm in diameter, but what makes it wear larger than many of Rolex’s other sports watches (apart from the Deepsea Sea-Dweller, of course) is the thickness/height. The Rolex Sky-Dweller is 14.01mm. That’s an understandable thickness because of its complex movement (which we will explain in detail below). Additionally, the Sky-Dweller is (or, at least, can be) a relatively heavy watch too – Rolesor Sky-Dwellers tip the scales at 174.6 grams, while a full-gold Sky-Dweller weighs in at a truly significant 400 grams.
Buying Pre-Owned vs. New
As the Sky-Dweller is Rolex’s newest model and one that is not yet 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).
However, pre-owned Rolex Sky-Dweller watches are becoming more and more available. However, specific models – particularly the White Rolesor version with the blue dial – still carry a premium over their brand-new counterparts due to Rolex limiting the supply of these watches, resulting in demand far exceeding the number of available watches.
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.
With that in mind, the various solid 18k gold Rolex Sky-Dweller watches can typically be found at a significant discount on the pre-owned market compared to their original retail prices. The price difference between a stainless steel Sky-Dweller and its solid gold counterpart is more than $30,000 when purchased at retail. However, on the pre-owned market, the difference in cost shrinks by more than $10,000, making the prospect of opting for a solid gold Sky-Dweller significantly more attractive to buyers.
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 dial 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. However, its 42mm diameter (and 14.1mm thickness) means it is a much bigger proposition 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. 326138 swaps out the metal bracelet for a leather strap fitted with a solid gold fold-over clasp. Additionally, rather than being identical to the bracelet model just without a bracelet, the case of the reference 326138 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 smokey dial and $49,450 retail price, a true statement of luxury and a completely unmissable choice.
The reference 326135 is the Everose gold version of the reference 326938. Just like with the yellow gold model, the ref. 326135 swaps out the gold Oyster bracelet of the ref. 326935 for a leather strap with a gold clasp. With an official retail price of $40,350, it is nearly $10,000 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.
How Much is a Rolex Sky-Dweller?
Rolex Sky-Dweller watches start around the $15,000 mark for a new Rolesor reference 326934 and closer to $40k for a full-gold example. Check out the 2020 prices for all Rolex Sky-Dweller models still in the current collection below:
Ref. 326934 = $14,800 (available with black, blue, or white dial)
Ref. 326933 = $17,650 (available with black, white, or champagne dial)
Ref. 326938 = $46,650 (available with black, white, or champagne dial)
Ref. 326138 = $38,850 (available with black, white, or champagne dial)
Ref. 326935 = $49,450(available with dark rhodium or white dial)
Ref. 326138 = $40,350 (available with dark rhodium or white dial)
But now, let’s take a closer look at how these values change from new to the values on the secondary market. You can find examples of these references on Bob’s Watches (whenever they come available to us for sale). We’ll start with the current-production solid gold models first.
Yellow Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326938 (Oyster Bracelet)
Retail (MSRP): $46,650
Secondary Market: $37,000 – $44,000
Everose Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326935 (Oyster Bracelet)
Retail (MSRP): $49,450
Secondary Market: $39,500 – $49,000
Yellow Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326138 (Leather Strap)
Retail (MSRP): $38,850
Secondary Market: $31,500 – $36,000
Everose Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326135 (Leather Strap)
Retail (MSRP): $40,350
Secondary Market: $30,000 – $35,000
Rolex discontinued the white gold Sky-Dweller models around 2018, but the information below outlines what the retail prices were before production ceased compared to current prices on the secondary market.
White Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326939 (Oyster Bracelet)
Retail (Previous MSRP): $48,850
Secondary Market: $28,500 – $44,000
White Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326139 (Leather Strap)
Retail (Previous MSRP): $39,550
Secondary Market: $25,000 – $34,000
Perhaps the question most people interested in buying a Rolex Sky-Dweller want to have answered is how much the value of a White Rolesor Sky-Dweller shifts between new and pre-owned.
In 2017, Rolex unveiled two new editions of the Sky-Dweller: a two-tone yellow gold and stainless steel (Yellow Rolesor) Sky-Dweller and a stainless steel Sky-Dweller with a white gold fluted bezel (White Rolesor). Both editions are fitted with matching Oyster bracelets.
Thanks to the use of stainless steel on both models, the cost of entry into the Sky-Dweller owner’s club dropped significantly. However, you will notice something unusual about the secondary market prices in comparison to these Rolesor models’ all-gold counterparts.
(Yellow Rolesor) Two-Tone Sky-Dweller ref. 326933
Retail (MSRP): $17,650
Secondary Market: $16,000 – $20,000
(White Rolesor) Stainless Steel Sky-Dweller ref. 326934
Retail (MSRP): $14,800
Secondary Market: $17,000 – $26,000
You will no doubt notice right away that the stainless steel Sky-Dweller 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 value on the pre-owned market.
In short, the quick answer to our initial question about the cost of a Rolex Sky-Dweller is as follows. For gold Sky-Dweller models expect to pay $25,000 to $49,450, but for Rolesor models, the prices start at $14,800 and top out around $26,000.
Rolex Sky-Dweller features and how to use them
Beating away inside the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the Caliber 9001 movement. A blue Parachrom hairspring ensures that timekeeping will be affected as little as possible from exposure to magnetic fields. 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 jump in one-hour increments), the reference time (the 24-hour disc), along with the date and month of the annual calendar.
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 all models. 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 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 which 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 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 calendars 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 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. Each month is 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. 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. But here’s the thing — the Rolex Sky-Dweller is by far the most technologically advanced watch in the brand’s arsenal. 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.
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. 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, which means there is something for all tastes. So what are you waiting for?