Amid the fanfare of Watches & Wonders and the clamorous cries of desire directed toward the latest (and supposedly last) stainless steel Patek Philippe Nautilus, Rolex quietly did what Rolex does very, very well.
Yes, there were calls for more from the brand we know and love so well, but when does the Crown ever seem to listen to the masses? Rolex is as enigmatic as a watch brand can be, which is surely no small part of why it is the world’s most recognizable watch brand. There is such mystery surrounding its inner workings that everything the brand does, whether it feels radical or radically safe, is pulled off with the kind of swagger we all wish we had.
While the main focus will be on the yellow Rolesor new Rolex Explorer 2021 model release, the barely perceptible (but rather welcome in this writer’s opinion) updates to the Explorer II, and the simply sensational meteorite dial Daytona on the Oysterflex band, the industry’s hero, the Rolex Datejust, received a few new references that are very much worth discussing.
There will be plenty of people that don’t get or like the new “palm” dials we’ve seen fitted to references 126200 (green dial with an Oystersteel case and bracelet), reference 126233 (Yellow Rolesor), and reference 126231 (Everose Rolesor). Still, they are exactly the kind of seemingly half-baked funky nonsense that grows on Rolex lovers over time and has every bit the potential to become a classic capsule collection in years to come.
Obviously, Rolex gets a lot more praise than most brands. A lot of it is very due, but some of it feels like smoke. Similarly, however, the brand comes under fire from all sides for all things almost all of the time. Rolex is constantly criticized for being too conservative and for taking itself too seriously.
Last year, Rolex wowed us all with ultra-bright dials for the Oyster Perpetual collection, apparently putting to bed once and for all that the brand didn’t know how to have fun. Instantly, critics called the move childish or even contrived (which never made much sense to me).
Now Rolex shows its willingness to push the boat out once more in a weird and unexpected way. No, this is not as exciting as a new model, and, yes, the palm motif is printed rather than hand/laser engraved or applied, but it is radically different from anything else we have in the men’s collection right now. It is flamboyant, yes, but quite serenely so. These models will certainly not be for everybody, but should they not become hotcakes, at least that means those who love them (and there are some who love them) should be able to pick them up from authorized dealers at some point in the near future.
The Real Classic(s)
However, the controversial palm dials were not the only releases we saw this year, oh no. A charming, yellow Rolesor Datejust with an intriguing fluted dial has emerged. This reference (also 126233) has the looks of a future classic. It, like the other three, comes in 36mm and looks all the better for it. The brilliantly versatile size is at once classic and contemporary. This dial looks like something you’ve seen before on the set of Goodfellas or Pulp Fiction, but it isn’t. It is entirely new. And it looks amazing. If only it came in blue…
Surprise! It does! Even though Rolex neglected to mention it in the press release, there is also a blue fluted dial option. It is available in either a white Rolesor (126234) or Oystersteel case (126000). It is a really nice option and not at all what anyone was expecting. Is it wild? No. But it is a wildcard choice for the best Rolex novelty this year.
Don’t Forget To Shine
Rolex did not neglect its female customers this year. Rather, the Crown decided to lavish its ladies with a show-stopping, diamond-dripping, all-gold masterpiece, otherwise known as Reference 279458RBR. This 28mm 18-karat yellow gold beauty is possibly the most extravagant Rolex I have ever seen (and I haven’t forgotten the “Tiger King” Daytona). The bracelet alone boasts 596 diamonds. The dial? Another 291. The bezel is adorned with 44 stones. The case and lugs? More than one hundred more… In total, this model boasts 1,089 brilliant diamonds. It is, quite simply, remarkable and, in all seriousness, perhaps the real star of this year’s novelties from Rolex.