Rolex opened the Baselworld 2017 edition with a series of changes that seem to draw away from the relatively austere tradition of the brand. Is the King ready to abandon the conservative crown to become an assertive innovator? The collection launched this year seems to confirm this hypothesis.
For Rolex, predictability has always been a form of virtue.
As soon as the brand discovered its role as an industry benchmark, its prestige was built precisely upon its reticence to innovate. Each change to its classic models came slowly and quietly, after long years of rigorous research and testing, and this is how the brand attracted millions of fans. After each Baselworld edition, the other part of the audience, i.e. the Rolex newcomers, could easily start an “Odd-one out” game, trying to pick out the newest model.
At Baselworld 2017, however, the Swiss watchmaker seemed to embrace change more enthusiastically than ever. From a brand new Sea Dweller model, bigger and more solid, to the radical design change of the classic Daytona, Rolex makes it clear that its conservatory role and limited developments could be left behind for the sake of new generations of customers. Besides, the launch of new versions in 904L stainless steel – the Rolex standard alloy – could lead to an even higher increase in the number of brand followers.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The monobloc ceramic bezel used on Cosmograph Daytona was all the rage in the industry last year at Basel. The watch instantly became the favourite of the collectors and the media, but also the enemy of some of the enthusiasts, even though Rolex had managed to subtly include the reference in the retro series of models with a black bezel. This year, the Cosmograph not only confidently flaunts its shiny black bezel, but it adds a rubber strap to the change list as well. This way, Daytona Cosmograph becomes the second model in the entire Rolex series (besides Yacht-Master) to benefit from the comfort of the Oysterflex strap. The Rolex technicians have designed the accessory with a structure based on small elastomer blades, which ensure a perfect match with the wearer’s wrist, but also a greater comfort on warmer days, when the skin needs to breathe. Cosmograph Daytona 2017 is available in three versions – yellow gold, white gold and rose gold – and it is powered by the 4130 caliber, a mechanical masterpiece, whose precision was calculated to an impressive rate of +/-2 seconds per day.
Rolex Sea Dweller
2017 is a special year for Sea Dweller, which has just turned the venerable age of 50. For the anniversary, Rolex prepared a special set of developments that breathe energy into the movement. The 43mm case validates it as the largest Sea Dweller ever made, while the Cyclops lens applied over the date aperture is another first assumed by Rolex. Inside, the 3235 automatic movement has become more reliable and more economical with the energy used for operation, so that the watch can now easily reach 70-hour power reserve without winding.
Rolex Yacht-Master II
As its very name implies, Yacht Master only feels at ease near the sea, on the wave-washed deck of race sailing boats. This is why the 2017 model also comes equipped with a special chronograph, especially adapted to keep the precise timing during a regatta. The watch will be available for sale in the stainless steel version, but the most appealing version by far is the mixed steel and 18-carat rose gold version, marked by the colored links on the metal bracelet, as well as by the color accents on both the pushers and the crown.
Rolex Datejust 41
It was often called an “old-fashioned watch” or one of the “living classics” of horlogery. And, of course, at its 72nd anniversary, Rolex Datejust fully deserves many of these attributes. However, this “old grandpa” is far from showing its real age. This year’s model enjoys all the design developments inherited from its 2016 predecessor. The lugs are smaller now, the case profile is visibly slimmer, and the markers were narrowed to make room for the matte glow of the blue dial. The Datejust case was cut from a single sheet of 904L stainless steel, a clear (and less expensive) change from the usual combination of alloy and precious metals favoured by the watchmaking house in the past. 13mm smaller than the men’s version, the new Datejust for ladies can pride itself on a power reserve increased to over 55 hours and a technical innovation called Syloxi, which is associated with the hairspring. Like the men’s model, Lady Datejust will be available in a steel-only version, at a more affordable price for lovers of both mechanics and watchmaking beauty.
Rolex Cellini Moonphase
The new Cellini is a genuine demonstration of legibility drawn on the enamel dial in a style that is typical of Rolex. The dial is made up of several concentric circles, indicating in turn, from the outside to the inside, the date (the blue indicator), the minutes in a five-unit progression, while the hour markers are made of gold and are easily readable from a distance. The only eccentric dial is also the most important: responsible with the Moon phases, it can only be read in relation with the triangular marker placed at 12 o’clock. When the marker points to the Moon disc – crafted of real meteorite material – the reader will know that the Moon is in its full phase. The movement uses a certified chronometer caliber, on whose accuracy one can count for another 122 years, without the watchmakers’ intervention.
Sky Dweller continues to be one of the favourite watches of long-distance travellers. The two timezones are divided between the central area, where one can read the local time, and the lower half of the dial, where one can read the second timezone. The second timezone is indicated by means of a rotating dial, which allows the time to be set according to the specific area on the Globe where the wearer travels. The indicators have also undergone a series of changes – they are now longer, while the markers are rather square, a shape accentuated by the luminescent Chromalight display which helps to read the hour in the dark. Inside the case, there is a 9001 self-winding mechanical antimagnetic movement, which reaches an impressive 72-hour power reserve. The same movement has the power to control the winding crown, without compromising the integrity of the caliber.