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2023 Reactions to Top Watches & Wonders Releases

Paul Altieri

Watches and Wonders 2023 is off to an exciting start in Geneva, Switzerland.  Dozens of the industry’s top brands have gathered at Geneva’s Palexpo convention center to unveil their latest innovations, including Rolex, Omega, Tudor, Cartier, and Panerai.  We’ve seen some expected discontinuations and several showstopping new releases, each of which will shape the direction of the industry for the coming year.  As you can imagine, Watches and Wonders is an important week for the watchmaking industry.  To help you navigate the hottest new releases, I’ve put together my top Watches and Wonders reactions.

Rolex GMT Master II: Return of Yellow Gold and the Jubilee Bracelet

As of Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023, we once again have a full yellow gold and two-tone Yellow Rolesor edition of the GMT Master II, and they’re both on the Jubilee bracelet.  As you might recall, Rolex replaced yellow gold in the GMT lineup with Everose and Everose Rolesor and paired both watches with the flat-link Oyster bracelet, which disappointed many GMT purists.  Finally, Rolex again has a precious metal GMT Master II on a stylish Rolex Jubilee bracelet.

Both yellow gold watches have all the same specs as the rest of the GMT Master II lineup, including a 40mm case, Chromalight on the dial, a Triplock waterproof screw-down crown, and the caliber 3285 movement with a 70-hour power reserve.

It’s everything we’ve always wanted and nothing we don’t need.  Rolex opted for a relatively muted design set, all things considered, pairing the yellow-gold finish with a subtle black and grey bezel insert that almost appears all-black from the photos I’ve seen so far.  Keen-eyed collectors will also notice that the GMT hand is in yellow gold to match the rest of the hands.  Compare this to some of the Rolex GMT-Master ii watches in our buying guide. No over the top design choices here, just the classic yellow gold GMT Master II on the iconic Jubilee bracelet.  This Rolex will absolutely fly off the shelves and become one of the hottest Watches and Wonders 2023 releases. It could mean big things for the rest of the industry as other brands pivot to include similar offerings in their own catalogs.

Shop the Rolex GMT-Master II collection

Tudor Black Bay GMT: New Opaline Dial

Move over Pepsi Rolex, the new opaline dial Black Bay GMT is stealing the spotlight this year.  Reference M79830RB is like its black dial counterpart with the same 41mm case, Pepsi GMT bi-directional bezel, and stainless steel finish.  Only now, we also have the option for a creamy opaline white dial with a galvanic finish and what appears to be grey-trimmed Super-LumiNova.  Just like the black dial and S&G models, you also have your choice of the watch on a fabric strap or a stainless steel rivet link bracelet.  

The Pepsi Tudor is important for many reasons, but mostly because it fills a gap in the market for collectors who want to invest in the Pepsi Rolex GMT Master but don’t want to pay Rolex prices or wait years to purchase one at retail.  However, now the new model stands apart from its Rolex cousin with a striking new galvanic finish dial.

The thought on many collectors’ minds is that the white dial is outstanding. It even evokes a stylish vintage aesthetic with its flat appearance in photos circulating the web since Watches and Wonders opened its doors.  However, many were disappointed that Tudor didn’t take the opportunity to scale down the Black Bay GMT’s proportions. As we mentioned in our Tudor Black Bay GMT buying guide, the brand has made huge strides in establishing itself as a top player. With that said a new 39mm model with a slightly thinner profile would have been nice.  But for now, the new opaline dial is an exciting 2023 Tudor release that I can’t wait to see in the metal.

View the Tudor Black Bay collection

Rolex Explorer: New 40mm Model

From 36mm to 39mm, then back to 36mm again.  Now, as of Watches and Wonders 2023, the Rolex Explorer is also available in 40mm.  But fret not. The catalog still includes the option for a 36mm case in either Oystersteel or Yellow Rolesor. 

Both models are nearly identical, including the caliber 3230 Perpetual movement hard at work inside the case and even the dial layout.  You’ll notice that the Explorer and Rolex logos are still located just below the 12-hour marker, and the 3/6/9 Arabic numerals are still filled with Chromalight to match the batons.

It’s the minimalist Explorer we know and love, but now in 40mm.  It’s interesting to see the no-nonsense mountaineer’s tool watch finally join the ranks of the rest of the 40mm-and-up Rolex professional series. Still, I wonder how the new case size stacks up against the recently discontinued 39mm model. Either way, it feels like a necessary move by Rolex, as many collectors have found the Explorer 36 too small on the wrist.  For now, it fills a gap in the Explorer’s lineup and brings the collection up to par with the rest of the brand’s professional series.  Will we see a two-tone option next?

Shop Rolex Explorer watches

Overall Watches and Wonders Reactions and Trends

The Geneva Watches and Wonders 2023 show produced a lot of exciting new watches from the top brands we carry here at Bob’s Watches, most notably Rolex.  While the Big Crown always beats to the sound of its own drum, it seems to be embracing certain trends as of late, such as a resurgence of yellow gold watches and larger case sizes.  We even saw their first full-titanium model via the Swiss-made Rolex Yacht-Master 42 watch ref. 226627, a metal finish that has been a reoccurring trend for the past several years.  While we haven’t seen Rolex embrace the heritage watch movement currently taking over the industry yet, we have seen several vintage-inspired design elements on modern Rolex watches, such as the orange Freccione arrow hand on the Explorer II and the red Rolex Sea-Dweller logo.

Initial Reactions to Watches and Wonders this year have generally been positive.  There were a lot of colorful and playful dials, a bevy of neo-vintage watches, and new movements, including Grand Seiko’s first in-house mechanical chronograph and the shiny new Rolex Daytona caliber 4131. I think we’ll see more brands embrace the heritage trend in the coming year and that we’ll see more titanium watches.


The return of the Rolex GMT Master II in gold and on the Jubilee bracelet was easily one of the most-talked-about releases of the show, followed closely, in my opinion, by the new Daytona movement.  Of course, we also can’t forget several other noteworthy innovations by Vacheron, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Zenith, and many others.  With all eyes on Watches and Wonders, the emerging luxury watch platform is quickly becoming one of the most influential industry tradeshows of the year.  One that will undoubtedly influence the industry as the top watchhouses continue to reveal their newest offerings at the show exclusively.  It will be interesting to see what our favorite brands have in store for us at next year’s event.

Paul Altieri
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