As a man once said, “You can have any color, so long as it’s black.” While Henry Ford may have been referring to his cars, it’s also a philosophy followed by many watch enthusiasts when they’re searching for that new addition to bolster their collection.
As well as the black dial models being the most versatile, understated, masculine, and, let’s just get it out of the way, sexy examples in any watchmaker’s catalog, and none more so than Rolex. They also make the best investment.
The go-with-anything appeal of the black dial watches means they generally enjoy a higher resale value over the range of more unorthodox colors that are subject to the whims of fashion. Even white dials can’t match their allure if you decide you want to trade your Rolex in for another model at some point down the line.
Here are three black Rolex watches that will go perfectly with anyone’s outfit.
With the exception of the Yacht-Master II, a black dial version is found on every watch in the Rolex lineup. An obvious choice for the tough-as-nails sports collection, they also add a new, more discreet element to the dress watches.
As well as creating a completely different aesthetic, a black dial color conveys its own, very distinct, message. Below, we’ve laid out some of our own personal favorites from among the Rolex family.
The Explorer II ref. 216570
Everyone loves an underdog. Born in 1971, the Explorer II struggled to attract much of a following when it first arrived. Being aimed at cave explorers, perhaps the niche-est of all niches for watchmakers to target, it was left trailing in the wake of the all-conquering Submariners and GMT-Masters. Even its highly debatable association with Steve McQueen failed to make much of a dent in sales figures.
The Explorer II is a black dial Rolex watch that truly captivates and conquers.
But, as is the fickle nature of these things, and Rolex fans in particular, the Explorer II is now enjoying a well-deserved resurgence in popularity. The more nostalgic collectors cite the latest version, with its no-nonsense utility and absence of some of the more modern elements like ceramic bezels, as the watch that has stayed truest to Rolex’s tool-like roots.
The Rolex Explorer ref. 216570, released in 2011 for the watch’s 40th anniversary, paid just enough homage to that first ‘Steve McQueen’ Explorer to set connoisseurs hearts fluttering, while managing to avoid being labeled a tribute. Also available with a white face, known as Polar, it’s the black dial version that really brought together all the elements most sought after by lovers of the original. While the case size may have conformed to convention and increased significantly to 42mm, making it one of the brand’s larger offerings, Rolex resisted the urge to produce the Explorer II in a precious metal version, as they have done with most of their other sports collection. It remains a watch for the serious professional with a job to do rather than a status symbol.
There is another iteration of this reference with a white dial called “Polar.”
But, most importantly, the ‘Freccione’ is back. The orange, arrow-tipped GMT hand was first seen on the inaugural ref. 1655 but had gone missing on all subsequent revamps, replaced by one in a much less distinctive red. Its return, and the phantom effect created by painting its base black, along with the hour and minute hand, is a fitting accolade to one of Rolex’s unsung masterpieces.
Sky-Dweller ref. 326139
2012 marked the first time in a generation Rolex released an entirely new creation out into the world. Along with being an almost once in a lifetime event, the Sky-Dweller was also the most complicated watch to ever emerge from the Geneva headquarters.
Since its launch, the Rolex faithful have been split down the middle by the controversial styling but there’s no argument that, as an example of pure watchmaking virtuosity, it remains a work of art.
A brilliant combination of technological complexity and simple, intuitive functionality, the Sky-Dweller first appeared in a choice of yellow, white or Everose gold with a range of dial colors. Now available in more than a dozen different configurations, it has an appeal across the board, no matter how extroverted or understated your tastes lie.
One of the more discreet variations, the Sky-Dweller ref. 326139 hits a pleasing balance between the unusually eye-catching and the modestly restrained. Crafted in white gold, the satin black dial and ivory white GMT disc version was released in 2014. One of the very few watches in the Rolex lineup to do away with Oyster and Jubilee bracelets, the sober design is perfectly suited to the formality of its black leather strap. With it, the watch loses much of its sportier feel, swapping it for something you would more expect to find waiting in the first-class lounge.
The monochromatic face is given just the subtlest pops of color in the red outline of the inverted triangle above the sub dial, and in the month indication apertures around each of the hour markers.
The Sky-Dweller is an exquisitely engineered timepiece; one of the most eagerly anticipated, and expensive, additions to the Rolex line, with all the makings of a classic waiting to happen.
Cosmograph Daytona ref. 116520
If 2017 has a buzzword in horology circles, it’s Daytona. The upcoming auction of Paul Newman’s personal example of the ultimate chronograph is causing a frenzy of speculation, with some experts now predicting the 45-year old watch will change hands for upwards of $10 million.
If it comes true, actually if it only makes half of that, it will become the most expensive Rolex ever sold. With numbers that high, you could be forgiven for imagining the Daytona series is out of reach for those of us with more modest finances—but you’d be mistaken.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116250 is a very popular model with a black dial.
You can, theoretically, walk into an Authorized Dealer and buy a new steel model for less than $15,000.
Except you can’t. The waiting list for the ref. 116500LN will take you comfortably into the next decade. The first steel Daytona to sport a Cerachrom bezel is currently the hottest prospect on the market.
Its predecessor, however, is far more attainable and represents an interesting slice of Rolex history in its own right. Released in 2000, the ref. 116520 became the Daytona that introduced a completely in-house movement. Rolex are fanatical about producing every component that goes into their watches themselves, even down to forging the gold in their personal foundry.
So taking nearly 40 years to come up with a chronograph movement of their own was unprecedented, but the Cal. 4130 was worth the wait. Regarded as perhaps the most robust and accurate caliber ever made, it is still used in the newest versions of the watch. In fact, apart from the ceramic bezel and a few dial tweaks, the only difference between the two is the waiting list, which is what makes the 116520 such an attractive pre-owned option.
Where would you take this Rolex Daytona 116520?
Only available with white or black dials, it’s the black that makes a more subdued statement. It has a sophistication that means it’s never out of place, even matched with formal wear; a rarity in a sports watch. While the white dials draw more attention and have the subliminal look of a chequered flag, which is apt under the circumstances, the black dials have an understated aesthetic.
With its silver-ringed sub dials, engraved bezel and the legendary name picked out in red, the Rolex Daytona 116520 is a must for any serious watch collection.
Those are just three of our all-time favorite black dialed Rolexes. But, much like you can’t go wrong with a little black dress, it’s a color that suits pretty much any watch and any situation.
Do you have a personal preference among the Rolex range? Let us know in the comments section.