Rolex at Watches & Wonders 2023 -

Rolex at Watches & Wonders 2023

Each March, the nerd-a-palooza that is Watches & Wonders, formerly known as SIHH, rolls into Geneva, trailing dozens of the world’s leading horology brands in its wake.

The trade show of the watch and jewelry industry, it has become the El Primero event on the circuit, and is now the largest expo of its kind anywhere on Earth.

Bringing together media, retailers, collectors and the general public, this is where the most important manufactures get to show off their latest creations.

This year there were 48 exhibiting watchmakers, including the likes of Patek Philippe, A Lange & Söhne, Cartier, Chanel, IWC and, of course, Rolex.

Watches & Wonders now acts as the annual showcase for Rolex to display its handiwork following the demise of Baselworld, and the brand makes up one third of the Watches & Wonders Geneva Foundation, a non-profit organization set up in 2022 along with the Richemont Group and Patek. The WWGF promote watchmaking excellence around the world by organizing online and onsite exhibitions both in Geneva and internationally.

What Did Rolex Bring to the Party?

The leadup to any big reveal involving Rolex is always preceded by countless rumors on innumerable horology websites, futilely trying to predict what the crown might have come up with over the past year.

2023 was no different, except that with not one but two brand legends hitting some significant milestones this year, the internet guesses were a little more educated than usual.

Without further ado, let’s see what Rolex gave us.

The New Daytona

The first of the birthday boys was Rolex’s famed chronograph, the Daytona. Originally released in 1963, this year is its 60th anniversary, an event marked by a fresh collection featuring a number of subtle design tweaks and a new movement.

The latest ref. 126XXX series includes a total of 32 watches, with all three flavors of gold accounted for, along with Rolesor, two hyper-desirable steel models and a further pair of top-of-the-range platinum pieces with a never-before-seen inclusion.

The Daytona has long been the most diverse member of Rolex’s Professional Collection, and this generation is no different.

As well as the full complement of metals on offer, there is a smallish selection of dial colors to choose from (plenty more will be added soon, certainly) and each of the gold pieces are available with bezels in either the same metal as the case or crafted from Cerachrom.

On top of that, the yellow, white and Everose gold models can be had with the option of the traditional Oyster bracelet or the sporty Oysterflex.

Up front, the dial has been given smaller and thinner hour markers and sub dial rings and the case has similarly been rejigged, with smoother edges and a more sophisticated silhouette. On the Cerachrom watches, the bezel now has a metal outer ring as well.

Inside, the Cal. 4131 takes over from the Cal. 4130, bringing with it Rolex’s own Chronergy escapement and Paraflex shock absorbers, and a self-winding system mounted on ball bearings.

The rotor has been skeletonized and now receives Côtes de Genève Rolex finishing, as do the bridges. If you’re wondering, that differs from regular Côtes de Genève by including a polished groove between each wave.

But perhaps the most exciting addition in the whole collection can be seen only on the platinum models. Here, for the first time in living memory, Rolex have fitted a sapphire display case back to allow wearers to watch all that engineering in action.

As you might expect, the manufacture hasn’t gone crazy updating the Daytona because, well, why would they? But this new collection is pretty much guaranteed to generate waiting lists of immense scope, so get your call in to your AD sooner rather than later.

The New Explorer 40

A model even older than the Daytona, the Explorer celebrated turning 70 this year with another new chapter in its continuing size story.

Sticking rigidly to its 36mm dimensions for the first five decades or so of its life, Rolex replaced it with a fairly short-lived 39mm in 2010, discontinued it in 2021 in favor of returning to 36mm, and now have supplemented the range with a wholly unexpected 40mm.

This is the one many fans have been clamoring for, in fairness. The ideal size for a modern take on one of the longest-serving names in the catalog, it retains all of the elements which made it such a success in the first place. All steel, beautifully proportioned, jet black dial with the iconic 3/6/9 indexes, and no crown guards give it the perfect blend of sporty and formal. It also receives the Cal. 3230 found in the 36mm piece, from Rolex’s latest generation of in-house calibers.

Arguably the brand’s most exquisitely unembellished creation, the Explorer has hit its 70th in style.

The New GMT-Master II

Rolex’s fabled GMT-Master II will also be celebrating a birthday soon, when 2024 marks its 70-years as the world’s favorite travelers’ watch.

As for this year, the brand presented two new models to tide us over till then.

The ref. 126718GRNR and the ref. 126713GRNR are solid yellow and yellow Rolesor versions respectively, but you might have noticed the letters in their references are some we haven’t seen before.

These letters always represent the colors on the watch’s bezel, the single most identifying characteristic of the GMT going all the way back to the 1954 original.

In this case, the NR stands for Noir, or black, as you will no doubt know from the Batman’s number. The GR, on the other hand, is for Grey and this is the first time the shade has been used on the model’s surround.

Compared to the other twin color combinations in the present collection, the GRNR arrangement is by far the most subtle. Rolex have clearly included it to take the place of the all-black bezel which we haven’t seen for a few years and which was always something of a fan favorite, regardless of the fact that it made discerning between the AM and PM hours (the reason for the two colors in the first place) that much more difficult. In some lights, it does indeed seem to be one solid black bezel.

Elsewhere, power comes from the Cal. 3285 as with the rest of the series, and this new pair are available exclusively on the wonderfully supple Jubilee bracelet.

As mentioned, the GMT-Master is officially 70 next year. However, even though it was launched in 1954 with the ref. 6542, Rolex unveiled the 50th and 60th anniversary editions in 2005 and 2015, so don’t be surprised if we have to wait until 2025 for the next big shakeup.

There were a number of other Rolex offerings released at Watches & Wonders in March, and I’ll cover those in the next post.

— Featured Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive & Pixabay (cc).

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