In the last 116 years since the first Rolex arrived, the brand which symbolises prestige, luxury and quality has kept innovation at its core
In the last 116 years since the first Rolex arrived, the brand which symbolises prestige, luxury and quality has kept innovation at its core

Luxury: The crown among the jewels

The king amongst watches showed how nothing impresses like innovation at a recent virtual global event
By Sarosh Mody
UPDATED ON APR 12, 2021 11:57 AM IST

When Hans Wilsdorf set the gears of the very first Rolex in motion way back in 1905, he could not possibly have foreseen the shape of his creations today.

How could he have? In the last 116 years since the first Rolex arrived, the brand which symbolises prestige, luxury and quality has kept innovation at its core. Though the iconic models seldom see any extreme alteration in aesthetics, they have constantly evolved thanks to technological advancements into watches Wilsdorf could not even have imagined then.

From the stars

This state of perpetual innovation was visible at the Watches & Wonders 2021 virtual global event hosted from Geneva, where Rolex, among other brands, showcased its new models for the year. Viewers and participants of the event noted that the Rolex dials – the face of every watch – not only sprang to life as light fell across their surfaces, but were imbued with other sources of unique, ancient energy.

There’s a new rendition of Rolex’s professional ‘tool’ watch, the Explorer, which has long been a reliable companion for explorers
There’s a new rendition of Rolex’s professional ‘tool’ watch, the Explorer, which has long been a reliable companion for explorers

One of these sources of energy comes from materials created deep within Earth. Another energy source has travelled to Earth from the outer reaches of our solar system. These energies add soul and personality to the already finely honed Rolex dials, created with the experience and knowledge of the brand’s artisans.

The new dials on the Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36 feature either a palm motif inspired by tropical forests, or a fluted motif that incorporates one of Rolex’s signature aesthetic styles. Olive green, silver or golden, they are made from age-old materials such as copper, zinc, nickel, chromium, titanium and silicon and have been combined with cutting-edge technology to create deep, vibrant metallic colours.

Though the iconic Rolex models seldom see any extreme alteration in aesthetics, they have constantly evolved thanks to technological advancements into watches
Though the iconic Rolex models seldom see any extreme alteration in aesthetics, they have constantly evolved thanks to technological advancements into watches

The new versions of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona are in 18 ct yellow, white or Everose gold. Their meteorite dials bear witness to the energy that journeys through time and space. This material displays patterns that were formed as the heart of an asteroid cooled slowly on its journey through the cosmos – a process that takes millions of years. Rolex selected this metallic meteorite according to very strict aesthetic criteria. Each fragment has a unique internal structure, making every Cosmograph Daytona with a meteorite dial truly one of a kind.

Materials were not the only notable elements among Rolex’s new models. Several models blazed with glory at the event, particularly the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36, which shone like the best jewellery. The Oyster case, including the lugs, lug caps, the bezel, the folding crown clasp and the dial, sparkled with a total of 756 diamonds and included a pop of colour via the enamelled index hour markers and the Roman numerals VI and IX with matching polished alligator straps.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 shone like the best jewellery
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 shone like the best jewellery

Blaze of glory

It was not all play and no work either. A new rendition of Rolex’s professional ‘tool’ watch, the Explorer, was also displayed. This watch has long been a reliable companion for explorers – those who climb mountain, investigate caves, take on the biting cold of the Arctic and endure the searing heat of volcanoes.

The Explorer was born at the top of the world – the Himalayas – and developed in collaboration with legendary mountaineers. The first Rolex Explorer watch, Ref: 1655, was introduced in 1971. A 40mm stainless steel instrument with a fixed bezel, it was a no nonsense watch, with clean and crisp legibility catering to the extreme conditions it was built for.

The new versions of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona are in 18 ct yellow, white or Everose gold
The new versions of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona are in 18 ct yellow, white or Everose gold

In 1985, the 16550 introduced an upgraded movement, making the Explorer II a dual time-zone watch, and in 1989 the Explorer II 16570 arrived with a new calibre and subtle evolutions such as the change from tritium to LumiNova and super LumiNova. Finally, a decade ago, Rolex introduced the 216570 with a maxi dial (42mm) and oversized luminous markers. This week, to commemorate its 50th anniversary, the crown has introduced the Explorer II with a new case without compromising its aesthetic heritage. The key upgrades here are on the movement front, with calibre 3285 that incorporates the Chronergy escapement and is fitted with an optimized blue Parachrom hairspring – a hairspring manufactured by Rolex in a paramagnetic alloy that makes it up to 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks. The blue Parachrom hairspring is equipped with a Rolex over-coil, ensuring the calibre’s regularity in any position and thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency, the power reserve of calibre 3285 extends to approximately 70 hours.

With over a million watches produced annually, the thirst for the acquisition of the crown remains, for quite a few people, unquenched. The mass hysteria over the steel sport models has even led to watches being sold for double their tagged value and even three times as much if ever there’s a rumour of a reference being discontinued.

Sarosh Mody is the Director of Luxury Watch Works - Independent After-Sales Service Centre for luxury watches and co-founder of The Hour Markers

From HT Brunch, April 11, 2021

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