Platinum Rolex Watches
Although platinum was officially discovered by Spanish explorer Antonio de Ulloa in the 18thcentury, the use of the precious metal as a decorative component can be traced back as far as ancient Egyptian times.
Its unique properties and lustrous shine have long been sought after, and its extreme rarity leads to it being among the most valuable elements on earth. One of the heaviest and densest of all metals, it is also exceptionally malleable, and that, combined with its gleaming brilliance, makes it the ideal material for jewelry of any kind, and watches in particular.
Unlike the various colors of gold, platinum is not affected by short-lived trends; it is so highly regarded, with such an appealing neutral aesthetic, that it has always been in fashion. However, most watchmaking brands restrict its use to only their very highest of high end pieces, usually with correspondingly impressive price tags.
Rolex, as you might expect, have their own proprietary platinum alloy, created in their dedicated foundry in Geneva. As the metal in its purest form is remarkably soft, second only to gold in pliability, it is melded with 5% ruthenium, another element in the same group of the periodic table. The result is known as 950 platinum, a metal that retains the same unmistakable vibrancy but with an added stability that makes it durable enough for normal wear.
That means its use doesn’t have to be restricted to just the brand’s selection of dress watches, and it can also be found across several of the more tool-like offerings on which Rolex first made their name.
Of course, a platinum timepiece from the world’s most successful watchmaker is still something worn more on special occasions rather than just thrown on with abandon, so below we have picked out a few of our favorite pieces crafted from the noblest of all metals.
The Rolex Daytona
One of only two chronographs in Rolex’s portfolio (and we’ll come onto the other one later) the Daytona represents the most incredible rags to riches story in modern horology.
Originally launched in 1963, the initial use of a manually winding caliber led to it being an unmitigated failure for the first quarter century of its run.
When it graduated to a self-winding movement, first with a heavily-reworked version of Zenith’s wonderful El Primero in 1988 and then an even more impressive homegrown effort, the Cal. 4130, from 2000 onwards, the Daytona’s fortunes were transformed out of all recognition. Today, it stands as the single most popular and identifiable chronograph of all time, with the possible exception of the Omega Speedmaster. (It’s hard to compete with the one that’s been to the moon after all).
That esteem has led to Rolex issuing their racer’s watch in the widest range of getups of any in the Professional Collection. Alongside models forged in yellow, white and red gold, as well as Rolesor versions, the contemporary range also has a pair of platinum pieces which are truly stunning.
Released in 2013 as Rolex wished the Daytona a very happy 50thbirthday, the ref. 116506 arrived with a never-before-seen rich brown Cerachrom bezel, and the exquisite ice blue dial the brand reserves exclusively for their platinum models.
It was offered in two variants, the first with the outer rings of the trio of sub dials picked out in the same chocolate color as the bezel, the other with them the same shade as the rest of the face for a more monochromatic look.
It is fair to say their entrance caused something of a storm. An anniversary model was very much anticipated, but brand followers were expecting (and hoping for) a new steel watch with the ceramic surround. Instead, they were given an instant collector’s item, out of reach of all but the top 1%.
Nevertheless, the sheer opulence of the platinum case and bracelet, coupled with the unorthodox but alluring palette, meant the 116506 immediately became the most aspirational edition of not only Rolex’s most lusted after watch, but that of just about any manufacturer in the business.
You might need the bank balance of the average oligarch to secure one for yourself, but the platinum Daytona is a true masterpiece.
The Rolex Yacht-Master II
Rolex’s other chronograph, as promised, is also one of their most complicated watches to date. The brand only rarely dips its toes into the murky waters of extra functionality, preferring instead to offer watches that are the pinnacle of simplicity, elegance and minimalism.
The Yacht-Master II came along relatively recently in 2007, sharing a name but virtually nothing else with its original namesake from 1992. While the first Yacht-Master was basically a Submariner in a nice suit, offering very little to aid professional sailors in their endeavors, the follow-up was stuffed full of features to make life on the ocean waves that much easier.
It became the first watch ever made to include a programmable countdown with a mechanical memory, utilities designed to help precisely coordinate the convoluted starting procedure of a sailing regatta. It gave skippers the ability to synchronize their own watches with an event’s official timers, and the chronograph’s flyback function meant they could restart the procedure instantly should they find themselves out of position.
It was released in two versions to begin with, a yellow gold piece with a bright blue bezel which ranked high on the bling-o-meter, and the ref. 116689, a much more reserved white gold model, topped by a platinum bezel.
It wasn’t the first time Rolex had combined platinum with other metals. In 1999, they introduced a new blend, ironically on the original Yacht-Master, with a similar surround on a stainless steel case, and called the result Rolesium.
The ref. 116689 is still part of the modern lineup of the Yacht-Master II, the exterior of the latest watches almost identical to the ones debuting in 2007. Inside however, the movement was given an update in 2013. The Cal. 4160 of the earlier versions took the Daytona’s Cal. 4130 as its base, while the current versions have been driven by the Cal. 4131 developed exclusively for the model.
With some 360 parts, it is Rolex’s most component-heavy movement and is directly linked to what they call their Ring Command Bezel. The rotatable surround acts as an on/off switch; turning it through 90° unlocks the watch’s countdown function, which is adjusted via the crown, and returning it to its start position locks and memorizes the setting. The chronograph can then be activated with the top pusher as normal, but should the wearer need to restart it to coordinate with the formal regatta timekeeper, pressing the lower pusher causes the central seconds hand to return to its start position and begin again straightaway.
It might not be something many of us have to deal with too often in our lives, but there is no denying the Yacht-Master II’s performance is incredibly impressive. Even the detractors, those who were somewhat taken aback by its particularly non-Rolex appearance when it was unveiled, will admit that the movement is a work of pure watchmaking artistry.
With four models in the current lineup, it is the subtle, shimmering tones of the platinum topped piece which offers the most versatility—a more go-anywhere option beyond the yacht club.
The Rolex Day-Date
As the flagship offering from Rolex, the Day-Date, otherwise known as the President, was always going to be a prime candidate for the platinum treatment.
The watch that has symbolized success and achievement more than any other since its inception in 1956 has only ever been available in precious metals, with its elegant curves never sullied by anything as workaday as stainless steel, even in a Rolesor version.
Platinum has been an option, and a pricey one at that, throughout the more than sixty years since its debut. In fact, only the Lady-Datejust has anything like the same number of different models in the silvery white shell.
Although its twin calendar complications might seem quaint by modern standards, back in the 50s they represented something of a revolution. The President was the first automatic wristwatch to display both the date and the day of the week spelled out in full, with Rolex building on the similarly groundbreaking Datejust from a decade before.
Today, a platinum Day-Date is still just about as prestigious as you can get and the current roster is crammed with examples of every description. The selection of different permutations is enormous, with dial colors ranging from the beautifully understated to the garishly outlandish. In addition, there are numerous gemstone enhanced pieces, with diamonds either subtly accenting hour indexes or else washed across the entire face for the ultimate in showmanship.
Similarly, the bezels are offered with the traditional fluted design of all classic Day-Dates, with smooth polished surrounds or set with even more precious stones. And, just as we saw with the Daytona, 2015 introduced an ice blue dial into the mix which quickly became one of the must-haves for the elite.
Just as with all the core family at Rolex, the Day-Date you can buy today is visually comparable to one you could buy generations ago. Nothing but a gentle aesthetic evolution has taken place during its run, the biggest change by far occurring in 2008 when the Day-Date II put in a short-lived appearance. Bumping up the dimensions to 41mm was a move welcomed from almost every corner of Rolex fandom, but with the extra mils came a widened bezel and thicker lugs, losing much of the finesse of the time-honored 36mm. It lasted just seven years before its was discontinued and replaced by the Day-Date 40, losing a fraction in size but regaining the ratios to its elements that have been so admired for so long.
With more options in platinum than just about any watch from any manufacture, the Rolex Day-Date remains what it has always been—the definitive luxury dress watch.