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While Rolex is most famous for its Oyster Perpetual range of watches that includes icons such as the Datejust, Submariner, Day-Date, GMT-Master, Daytona, Explorer and others, the legendary Swiss watchmaker also produces another, somewhat lesser-known, collection of timepieces called the Cellini. The Rolex Cellini collection is the brand's line of elegant dress watches that are crafted from precious metal, where design and aesthetics take precedence over durability and purpose-built specifications.
Many Rolex watch collections are characterized by their enduring designs that hardly change throughout the years, but that is not true for the Cellini. Rather than sticking to a specific design blueprint from one generation of watches to the next, the Rolex Cellini range has evolved over the years to reflect different fashion trends and design sensibilities throughout the decades. As a result, the Cellini collection has included an eclectic assortment of designs from classic slim round cases to avant-garde and asymmetric silhouettes with integrated bracelets.
Depending on the specific model and the era during which it was produced, Rolex Cellini watches can be found with a wide variety of different movements. Past models have been powered by manual-wound movements, quartz movements, and automatic movements. However, what has remained constant throughout the history of the Rolex Cellini collection is the exclusive use of precious metals and the topnotch quality that we’ve come to expect from all Rolex timepieces.
The mid-20th century was a boom time for the creation of Rolex tool watches. From the Explorer adventure watch and Submariner dive watch to the GMT-Master pilot watch and Daytona motorsport chronograph, Rolex filled its catalog with timepieces built to serve specific needs, which offered features and complications that were specifically tailored for a particular sport or environment.
Prior to this, the concept of 'tool watches' - models built for specific tasks - was a foreign concept, and as purpose-built watches became an increasing percentage of Rolex's offerings, the brand's catalog took on a more utilitarian overall aesthetic. Perhaps recognizing the need to remind clients that the company still made slim and dressy gold watches alongside its range of robust and waterproof stainless steel Oyster watches, Rolex began building the Cellini collection in the mid-1960s.
Slim gold dress watches were not new to Rolex by any means (vintage references like 4364 from the 1940s or the 9659 from the 1950s are great examples) but what was new was the “Cellini” name, taken after the famous Florentine sculptor and goldsmith, Benvenuto Cellini. The name began appearing on dials of select Rolex watches in the mid-1960s and the Cellini collection grew over the ensuing decades.
Along with classic round cases, watches in the Rolex Cellini collection come with all sorts of non-rounded case shapes too including oval, rectangular, cushion, tonneau, octagonal, and asymmetrical. Regardless of the shape, all Rolex Cellini watches are always craft from either gold or platinum.
Additionally, not only does the Cellini collection include models for men and women, but throughout its history, Rolex has also used quartz, manual-wind, and automatic movements to power them. The use of different movements and non-Oyster cases has allowed certain watches from the Rolex Cellini collection to have an appearance that is unlike any other models from the brand's archives, and that would not be possible with Rolex's traditional case architecture.
Some notable Cellini models that Rolex has since discontinued include the King Midas, Prince, Danaos, Cestello, and Cellinium, although there are countless others that have existed throughout the years. Generally speaking, it the Rolex Cellini watches that were produced from the 1970s through the 1990s that offer the most unusual aesthetics, with the more recent models offering a more traditional overall appearance.
In 2014, Rolex revamped the Cellini collection to be more aligned with classical watchmaking design codes and traditional decorative techniques. The current-production Cellini collection includes Time, Date, Dual Time, and Moonphase models. Regardless of model or complications, all current- production Rolex Cellini watches feature round cases constructed from 18k gold, and are fitted with leather straps.
The current 2023 prices for the Rolex Cellini watch can vary based on the model, complications, and precious metals used. Prices are similar for 18k white gold and Everose models with the same features, but prices increase incrementally for the date-displaying, dual-time, and moonphase models.
disc. = discontinued
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While previous generation of Cellini watches offered yellow gold and platinum case options, all current-production Rolex Cellini watches are exclusively available in 18k Everose gold or 18k white gold.
Contemporary Cellini watches can be found for substantially less on the pre-owned market. Given that not as many people are aware of this particular Rolex collection, discontinued pre-owned models offer fantastic value on the secondary market - especially when taking into consideration the use of precious metals and high-grade mechanical movements.
On the pre-owned market, used Rolex Cellini watches are significantly more affordable, and can often be found at a significant discount compared to retail can often be found for current-production models. Some of the smaller pre-owned Cellini models in solid 18k gold sell for a bargain compared to other models. Given that all Rolex Cellini watches are crafted from precious metals, this makes them an incredibly strong value proposition for any luxury watch - especially one from a brand as prestigious as Rolex.
When shopping for a used Rolex Cellini, a budget of around $10k will open the door to most models outside of the current production collection of Cellini watches. Most solid gold models will cost significantly less than this, and there are a number of solid 950 platinum references from the previous generation that will also come in under budget for the ultimate expression of a luxury-oriented Rolex dress watch.
In the mid-1960s, Rolex unveiled an unusual asymmetrical pentagon-shaped watch fitted with an integrated bracelet called the King Midas. Rumored to be designed by Gerald Genta (of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus fame), the King Midas (ref. 9630) was at the time the heaviest and most expensive gold watch on the market. Despite its heft, the watch is quite slim thanks to its manually-wound movement. In an unconventional move for Rolex, the King Midas was a limited-edition model of only 1,000 pieces with each example engraved with its unique production number (Elvis Presley owned No. 343 and John Wayne owned No. 557). In the 1970s, Rolex released another limited King Midas model (ref. 3580) and a limited Queen Midas (ref. 3581) model for the ladies.
These watches were not part of the Cellini collection originally, however (also in the seventies) Rolex launched non-limited Midas watches featuring cases and unique designs inspired by the original model. These were also powered by manual-winding movements.
The Cellini Classic models are those with round gold cases, time-only dials, leather straps, and manual-wind movements. This style has been around since the late 1960s/early 1970s, but it’s likely that the "Cellini Classic" name was only officially introduced in the 1990s with references like the men's manual-winding 5112, 5115, and 5116, and the ladies' quartz-powered 6110 and 6111.
In the 1990s, Rolex introduced the vintage-inspired Danaos collection, featuring rounded cushion-shaped cases and leather straps. Dial options within the Danaos collection were varied and one of the most popular was the bull’s-eye style dials - also sometimes referred to as tuxedo style dial if in black and silver.
Around 1999, Rolex launched the Cestello, with ultra-thin 36mm cases topped with flat bezels and fitted with hinged lugs to hold leather straps. Available in yellow gold (ref. 5330/8), white gold (ref. 5330/9) or rose gold (ref. 5330/5), the men's versions of the Cestello are powered by manual-wound movements.
The women's Cellini Cestello watches included similarly styled cases with the hinged lugs but smaller in diameter at 26mm. Furthermore, the women's Cestello collection offered the option of manual-wind versions (ref. 5310) or quartz-powered versions (ref. 6311, 6321). Additionally, some of the ladies' models came fitted with leather straps while others were sold with solid gold brick-link bracelets.
The ladies' Cellissima quartz watches are characterized by their ornate hooded lugs, and Rolex offered two types of case silhouettes: round or oblong. The watches come with either leather straps or brick-link bracelets, and many of them are further adorned with diamonds.
The quartz Cellini Orchid range was a particularly lavish series of ladies' watches with bubble-like cases embellished with diamonds and other precious gems on the bezel. Some versions even came with diamond-set bracelets.
In 2005, Rolex introduced the Cellini Prince as a faithful reissue of the vintage Rolex Prince from 1928. Perhaps the most un-Rolex of all modern Rolex watches, the Prince sports an Art Deco rectangular case, two subdials on the dial (one for hour and minutes and one for the running seconds, a leather strap, and a sapphire caseback for a view of the manual-wind movement inside. Made in yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, and platinum, the Cellini Prince references include ref. 5440 ,5441, 5442, and 5443.
Launched in the early 2000s and only remaining in production for around five years, the manual-wound Cellini Cellinium features a round case made from 950 platinum. Rolex made two sizes of the platinum Cellinium, one with a 35mm case (ref. 5240) and one with a larger 38mm case (ref. 5241/6) - both ultra-slim due to the manual-wind movement powering the watches. While Rolex fitted the Cellinium with a few different dial colors, the glacier blue dial is the most coveted since this is a color exclusively reserved for platinum Rolex watches
In 2014, Rolex unveiled the brand new Cellini line featuring 39mm cases, guilloché dials, and leather straps. The first three models that kicked off the revamped collection line were the Cellini Time, Cellini Date, and Cellini Dual Time. All three of these models are available in either 18k white gold or 18k Everose gold.
In 2017, the Cellini Moonphase (only available in Everose gold) joined the collection, which was the first time since the 1950s that Rolex added a moon phase complication to one of its watch models.
Aside from the new sizes, the new Cellini case features a completely new style with a double bezel that combines both smooth and fluted finishes. The guilloché dials are home to slim hand-applied stick indexes, which are cut through by a circular minute scale.
A significant difference between the new Cellini watches and the older ones are the movements. While vintage and discontinued models ran on either manually-wound or quartz movements, all four new models are automatic watches.
Below is a list of all the reference numbers that make up the current-production Rolex Cellini collection. With that in mid, there are countless discontinued Rolex Cellini references that have been produced over the course of the last half century, and some have boasted truly unusual and innovative designs.
All Rolex Cellini watches are characterized by their precious metal cases, and elegant designs. Today, all Rolex Cellini watches are crafted from solid 18k gold (either Everose or white), fitted with leather straps, and powered by self-winding automatic movements. However, in the past, the Rolex Cellini collection was home to a vast assortment of unusual and refined designs, with some offering quartz and manual-wind movements, along with a number of unique bracelet styles that are unlike anything else that Rolex has ever put forward.
Today, Rolex segments all of its watches into two main ranges: Cellini and Oyster Perpetual (not to be confused with the Oyster Perpetual watches, which is Rolex's entry-level collection). So what exactly is the difference between a Rolex Cellini watch and a Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch?
As its name implies, Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches sport Oyster cases and run on Perpetual movements. An Oyster case (invented in 1926) is the name Rolex gives to its water-resistant cases, characterized by screw-down winding crowns and screw-down casebacks. Modern Oyster cases have a minimum water-resistance rating of 100 meters and can go up to 300 meters for Submariner watches, 1,220 meters for Sea-Dweller watches, and 3,900 meters for Deepsea watches.
On the other hand, Cellini watches do not have Oyster cases. Since the collection is more focused on aesthetics than durability, water-resistance is not a priority, and modern models are only rated to 50 meters. The main difference between Oyster Perpetual watches and Cellini watches is that the former includes water-resistant Oyster cases while the latter does not.
Additionally, except for some of the earliest Rolex Oyster watches from the 1920s and 1930s, all Oyster watches have round cases while Cellini watches have donned a bevy of different case shapes over the years. Also, unlike Oyster Perpetual watches, there are no Cellini watches in stainless steel.
A Perpetual movement (invented in 1931) is the name Rolex gives to its automatic calibers, characterized by a bidirectional self-winding rotor. Modern Cellini watches do run on Rolex Perpetual movements; in fact, the contemporary time-only models run on the Caliber 3132, which is the same movement found inside the current Rolex Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual 39 models. However, vintage and discontinued Cellini references were equipped with manual-winding movements and quartz movements, rather than self-winding Perpetual movements.
If you look closely at a Cellini dial, you'll notice that it almost always says "Rolex Geneve" under the crown logo while ones from the OP range will typically have "Rolex Oyster Perpetual" - even if there is additional text below signifying a specific model. Finally, another difference between Cellini watches and Oyster Perpetual watches is the types of straps and bracelets that are used on them.
Oyster Perpetual watches frequently use metal bracelets like the Oyster, Jubilee, President, or Pearlmaster (there are select models within the greater OP rage with rubber Oysterflex bracelets or leather straps). Conversely, all current Cellini watches only come fitted with leather straps. Within the assortment of vintage and discontinued references, you will also find ornate full gold bracelets in various styles including mesh, weave, brick-links, and integrated.
The Cellini may not be as well known as other Rolex models but it is still a watch we’ve spotted on the wrists of celebrities, professional athletes, and other notable figures.
In the 1974 James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun, actor Christopher Lee had on a yellow gold King Midas whilst playing the villain, Francisco Scaramanga.
Lefty golf champ (and Rolex brand ambassador), Phil Mickelson is one of the few pro golfers that keeps his watch on during play and his Rolex of choice is more often than not an older model Rolex Cellini Danaos. Fellow Rolex ambassador and opera star Plácido Domingo also wears a Cellini, but opts for the current-production Rolex Cellini Time in Everose gold.
Actor Russell Crowe famously auctioned off many of his belongings post-divorce, including a platinum Cellinium he bought himself during the shooting of American Gangster in 2007. Both Kevin Hart and Nicolas Cage have been seen wearing the new Moonphase model in Everose gold. President Barack Obama wears the new Cellini Time in white gold and the watch is even included in his official portrait that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery's Hall of Presidents.
Focusing on elegant lines and sophisticated dials, the Rolex Cellini series as we know it today is quite different from the somewhat avant-garde and flashy Cellini collection that debuted decades ago. While collectors still seek out vintage models, such as the all-gold King Midas, the newer generation seems to be trending among modern collectors.
The modern Cellini is still luxurious, albeit slightly tamed down and more suitable for business, formal, or even daily wear. It's also powered by an impressive family of self-winding Rolex movements, making the current lineup of Cellini watches hard for many collectors to resist.
Popular references that are currently in production include the Everose ref. 50535 with a Moonphase complication, the Everose ref. 50505 with a time-only dial, the white gold ref. 50519 with a sub-dial displaying the date at 3 o'clock, and the Everose ref. 50525 with a second time zone shown at 6 o'clock.
The Cellini collection is Rolex’s line of dress watches. Crafted from precious metals and often set with various gemstones, the Rolex Cellini collection features elegant designs and often omits the Oyster cases that are characteristic of many Rolex watches in favor of thinner and more refined case shapes.
Virtually all Rolex watches hold their value incredibly well, and this includes timepieces from the Cellini collection. In addition to the inherent desirability that accompanies the Rolex brand, all Cellini watches are crafted from either solid gold or platinum, giving them an additional level of intrinsic value due to their precious metal construction.
The Rolex Cellini Moonphase ref. 50535 is crafted from solid 18k Everose gold and featuring a moonphase display that is adorned with a slice of genuine meteorite. The reference 50535 is the most expensive Rolex Cellini watch currently available.
While Rolex Cellini watches are water-resistant, it is not advisable to get them wet. Most Cellini models do not have Rolex’s waterproof Oyster cases and are fitted with leather straps. Although modern Rolex Cellini watches are water-resistant to 50 meters (165 feet), this resistance is really intended to be just a safeguard against incidental contact with moisture.