Rolex Developments, Introductions, and Innovations in the 2000s
After the quieter decade that was the 1990s, Rolex unleashed a slew of developments, introductions, and innovations in the 2000s. This was the decade that the company unveiled new materials like Cerachrom (Rolex’s proprietary ceramic alloy), Everose gold (Rolex’s proprietary rose gold alloy), and the blue Parachrom hairspring (Rolex’s proprietary hairspring used in its movements for greater resistance to magnetism). There were also some brand new models, which were all quite large in size, reflecting the market demands for bigger men’s watches. And finally, a new in-house chronograph movement made way for a fresh direction for the Daytona collection. Let’s find out all the details about one of Rolex’s most productive decades.
New Rolex Models Introduced in the 2000s
In the 2000s, Rolex introduced five new models—two of which are still part of the current catalog while the other three are no longer in production.
Rolex Launched the Day-Date Masterpiece in 2000
An often-overlooked model, Rolex introduced a special version of the Day-Date in 2000 with the debut of the Day-Date Masterpiece. The Day-Date Masterpiece combines a precious metal 39 mm Oyster case, a dial with the day and date windows, a precious metal Pearlmaster bracelet, and plenty of gems.
While Rolex did not produce the Day-Date Masterpiece collection for very long, there were plenty of versions to choose from. Some key ones are the yellow gold Day-Date Masterpiece ref. 18948, the white gold Day-Date Masterpiece ref. 18949, and the platinum Day-Date Masterpiece ref. 18946. There were also some Tridor (the combination of three shades of gold on one Rolex) versions and ultra-lavish editions with gems on the bracelet.
Rolex Launched the Yacht-Master II in 2007
Following the Yacht-Master release in the 1990s, Rolex introduced the brand new Yacht-Master II model in 2007. While they share almost identical names, the Yacht-Master II is not only considerably more complicated than the Yacht-Master but it is also significantly larger.
The Yacht-Master II sports a 44 mm Oyster case fitted with an Oyster bracelet. Rolex launched two models in 2007: the yellow gold Yacht-Master II ref. 116688 and the white gold Yacht-Master II ref. 116689. The yellow gold version is fitted with a blue Cerachrom ceramic bezel while the white gold version has a platinum bezel.
The bezel of the Yacht-Master II, called the “Ring Command”, controls the movement inside the watch in a way that allows the user to flip through what functions they want to set. Rolex debuted the Yacht-Master II with a new Caliber 4160 inside (later upgraded to Caliber 4161), which was the company’s most complex modern movement at that time. The Yacht-Master II boasts a regatta chronograph, complete with a programmable countdown feature (1 – 10 minutes) and mechanical memory.
Rolex Launched the Deepsea in 2008
In 2008, Rolex introduced a special version of the Sea-Dweller called the Deepsea. Water resistant to an incredible 3,990 meters (12,800 feet), the stainless steel Deepsea ref. 116660 is Rolex’s biggest dive watch to date. It sports a 44 mm Oyster case that’s 17.7 mm thick—including a 5mm-thick domed sapphire crystal without a Cyclops lens. The Oyster bracelet has two extension systems: the Glidelock clasp permits the bracelet to extend to 20 mm in 2 mm increments while the Fliplock extension allows the bracelet to extend by an extra 26 mm.
As a modern Rolex diver, the Deepsea ref. 116660 is fitted with a black Cerachrom ceramic bezel, Caliber 3135, a helium escape, and a black “Maxi Dial” with lume-filled indexes and Mercedes-style hands.
Rolex Launched the Day-Date II in 2008
Since its inception in 1956, the Rolex Day-Date President watch featured a 36 mm case size (the Day-Date Masterpiece we outlined above is not technically a “President” since it comes with a Pearlmaster bracelet). This changed in 2008 when Rolex introduced the Day-Date II with a larger 41 mm Oyster case and a bigger “Super President” bracelet. Adhering to the codes of the Rolex President collection, the Day-Date II watches naturally include the pair of calendar windows on the dial the model takes its name from, powered by the then-new Caliber 3156.
In terms of metal choices, as is tradition, Rolex offered the Day-Date II in a range of precious metals. There’s the yellow gold Day-Date II ref. 218238, the white gold Day-Date II ref. 218239, the Everose gold Day-Date 218235, and the platinum Day-Date II 218206. The Day-Date II was a short-lived collection only lasting until 2015.
Rolex Launched the Datejust II in 2009
Not to be outdone by its more expensive sibling, the Datejust collection also welcomed a new model in the form of the Datejust II in 2009. Yet again, Rolex fitted these new models with larger 41 mm Oyster cases and paired them all with Oyster bracelets (no Jubilee bracelets). Just like the classically sized 36 mm Datejust watches, the Datejust II dials include the characteristic date window at 3 o’clock, along with the customary Cyclops magnification lens on the sapphire crystal. The Datejust II watches run on Caliber 3136, fitted with a Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers.
The first two references all featured fluted bezels: the stainless steel and white gold Datejust II ref. 116334 and the two-tone steel and yellow gold Datejust II ref. 116333. However, Rolex did eventually also offer the full stainless steel Datejust II ref. 116300. Similar to the Day-Date II, the Datejust II collection was also in production for a mere seven years, eventually coming to an end in 2016.
New Rolex References Introduced in the 2000s
Thanks to new materials, milestone anniversaries, and one very important new caliber, Rolex released a whole host of new references in the 2000s. This is the decade that most reference numbers switched from five digits to six digits, where Rolex simply added an extra “1” at the beginning of the new reference numbers.
New Rolex Cosmograph Daytona References Launched in the 2000s
Prior versions of the automatic Daytona watches ran on Caliber 4030—a modified Zenith El-Primero chronograph movement. However, in 2000, Rolex announced the brand new Caliber 4130, which was developed and built entirely in-house. This landmark movement ceased the production of the “Zenith Daytonas” and paved the way for a whole new collection of Daytona references.
The first three references that debuted the new Rolex Daytona collection were the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116520, the two-tone Daytona ref. 116523, and the yellow gold Daytona ref. 116528. They were very similar in style to preceding automatic Daytona watches—40 mm Oyster cases, screw-down chronograph pushers, Oyster bracelets, and tachymeter scales engraved on the metal bezels. However, the dial layout changed slightly (the running seconds subdial now sits at 6 o’clock and the 12-hour subdial sits at 9 o’clock instead of the other way around) to accommodate the new movement.
Throughout the 2000s, Rolex introduced other Daytona models in different metals. For instance, in 2005, the full white gold Daytona ref. 116509 and the white gold Daytona ref. 116519 with a leather strap joined the collection. Then in 2008, Rolex added the Everose gold Daytona ref. 116505 to the catalog.
New Rolex Day-Date 36 References Launched in the 2000s
Also in 2000, Rolex unveiled a new generation of the Day-Date President collection, with six-digit reference numbers. The watches stayed true to the traditional Day-Date watches, keeping the 36 mm Oyster cases, the duo of calendar windows, and the President bracelet. However, the cases were ever so slightly redesigned to be moderately broader, the lugs were now polished (instead of brushed), and the bracelets noticeably heavier, complete with solid end links. What’s more, over the next few years, Rolex modified the clasps of the Day-Date 118xxx to be more solid in structure.
The new Rolex Day-Date references included the yellow gold Day-Date ref. 118238 (fluted bezel) and Day-Date ref. 118208 (smooth bezel), the white gold Day-Date ref. 118239 (fluted bezel) and Day-Date ref. 118209, the rose gold Day-Date ref. 118235 (fluted bezel) and Day-Date ref. 118205 (smooth bezel), and the platinum Day-Date ref. 118206.
When Rolex introduced Everose gold in 2005, all the rose gold Day-Date watches switched to that proprietary metal going forward.
New Rolex GMT-Master II References Launched in the 2000s
On the occasion of the GMT-Master’s 50th anniversary in 2005, Rolex introduced a brand new generation of its famed pilot’s watch collection. The very first reference was the yellow gold GMT-Master ref. 116718 with the option of a black dial or a green anniversary dial.
It is not an understatement to say that this particular release was a milestone for Rolex because it debuted so many new design elements that would pave the way for future Oyster Professional watches. First, there was the ultra-modern Cerachrom ceramic bezel that replaced the aluminum bezel inserts of yesteryear. Then there was the redesigned “Super Case,” which did retain the 40 mm diameter but in reality, it looks larger due to the fatter lugs, beefier crown guards, and larger Triplock winding crown. Furthermore, the new “Maxi Dial” included larger lume plots and bigger Mercedes-style hands. Also new to the 2005 GMT-Master II was the Caliber 3186 inside the watch fitted with a Parachrom hairspring.
The following year, the two-tone yellow gold and stainless steel GMT-Master II ref. 116713 joined the lineup. And in 2007, Rolex added the steel GMT-Master II ref. 116710. Also in 2007, Rolex presented some precious bejeweled white gold GMT-Master II ref. 116759 and ref. 116769 references with gem-set bezels.
In the 2000s, Rolex only made the Cerachrom ceramic bezels in monochromic color options; black across all metals and the option of blue for the gold and two-tone models. Gone were the days of bi-colored bezels for the GMT-Master II…until the following decade.
New Rolex Date & Datejust References Launched in the 2000s
Around 2005, the Datejust family of watches also graduated from five-digit to six-digit references. Similar to the Day-Date watches, the new Datejust watches had slightly redesigned 36mm cases. They also had improved bracelets with solid end links, an updated clasp, and polished center links. Caliber 3135 remained inside the Datejust watch to power the time and date functions, but it was now fitted with the Parachrom hairspring.
Design and metal options include the steel Datejust ref. 116200 with a smooth steel bezel, the steel Datejust ref. 116234 with a fluted white gold bezel, the two-tone Datejust ref. 116233 with a fluted yellow gold bezel, and the Datejust ref. 116203 with a smooth yellow gold bezel.
Rolex also introduced new references in the Datejust “Thunderbird” lineup including the steel Datejust ref. 116264 with a white gold Turn-O-Graph bezel and the two-tone Datejust ref. 116263 with a yellow gold Turn-O-Graph bezel.
Along with the men’s Datejust sizes, Rolex also launched a new batch of men’s Date models, midsize Datejust models, and Lady-Datejust models during the decade. Some of the new features on the Date 34 included a slightly redesigned 34 mm case with wider lugs and an improved clasp on the Oyster bracelet. The two new Date 34 references that joined the Rolex lineup in the 2000s were the full stainless steel Date ref. 115200 and the stainless steel Date ref. 115234 with a white gold fluted bezel.
The midsize Datejust watches featured 31 mm cases and a new Caliber 2235 inside the watch. Some notable references that Rolex launched during this time include the full stainless steel Datejust 31 ref. 178240, the steel Datejust 31 ref. 178274 with a white gold fluted bezel, the two-tone Datejust 31 ref. 178243 with a smooth bezel, and the two-tone Datejust 31 ref. 178274 with a fluted bezel.
The Lady-Datejust watches that joined the Rolex catalog in the 2000s retained the same 26 mm case size as previous models. And just like the midsize Datejust models, the new batch of ladies’ Datejust references were also fitted with new generation Caliber 2235. Some key ladies’ Datejust references launched in the 2000s include the full stainless steel Lady-Datejust ref. 179160, the steel Lady-Datejust ref. 179174 with a white gold fluted bezel, the two-tone Lady-Datejust ref. 179163 with a smooth bezel, and the two-tone Lady-Datejust ref. 179173 with a fluted bezel.
New Rolex Oyster Perpetual References Launched in the 2000s
Rolex’s entry-level Oyster Perpetual collection also underwent a refresh with a lineup of new models with revamped cases and improved bracelets. The new men’s Oyster Perpetual watches with 36 mm cases included the stainless steel Oyster Perpetual 36 ref. 116000 and the steel Oyster Perpetual 36 ref. 116034 with a white gold fluted bezel.
The new midsize Oyster Perpetual watches with 31 mm cases included the full stainless steel Oyster Perpetual 31 ref. 177200 and the steel Oyster Perpetual 31 ref. 177234 with a white gold fluted bezel.
Finally, the new ladies’ Oyster Perpetual watches with 26 mm cases included the full stainless steel Oyster Perpetual 26 ref. 176200 and the steel Oyster Perpetual 26 ref. 175234 with a white gold fluted bezel.
New Rolex Submariner References Launched in the 2000s
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Submariner in 2003, Rolex launched the stainless steel Submariner Date ref. 16610LV. The “LV” in the reference number refers to the green bezel (Lunette Verte in French) on top of the Oyster case and as a result, the Submariner ref. 16610LV is often nicknamed the “Kermit.”
However, the biggest change to the Submariner collection came in 2008 when the famed dive watch followed in the footsteps of the new GMT-Master II. The first two references of the newest generation of the Sub were the yellow gold Submariner ref. 116618 and the white gold Submariner ref. 116619. In 2009, Rolex introduced the two-tone steel and yellow gold Submariner ref. 116613 to the collection.
These new versions also had the redesigned 40 mm “Super Case” with wider lugs, stockier crown guards, and broader bezels. Of course, those bezels were now fashioned from Cerachrom ceramic. The yellow gold Submariner comes with the option of a blue (116618LB) or black bezel (116618LN), while the white gold Submariner ref. 116619—aka the “Smurf”—is exclusively available with a blue bezel and a matching blue dial. Other changes included the bolder “Maxi Dials” with bigger hour markers and hands, a redesigned bracelet with polished center links and the user-friendly Glidelock extension clasp.
New Rolex Milgauss References Launched in the 2000s
In 2007, Rolex surprised onlookers by resurrecting the antimagnetic Milgauss watch—almost two decades after discontinuing it entirely. The then-new Milgauss ref. 116400 sports a 40 mm steel Oyster case and matching steel Oyster bracelet. Its dial, available in either black or white, is a modern approach to Rolex’s scientist watch, but dotted with some vintage inspiration. For example, Rolex brought back the lightning bolt seconds hand but this time, in a bright orange shade and added plenty of other orange details to the time-only dial too. Living up to its name, the Milgauss is resistant to 1,000 gauss because of the ferromagnetic shield protecting the Caliber 3131 inside the case.
Rolex also released the intriguing Milgauss ref. 116400GV reference, where “GV” (Glace Verte in French) refers to the green sapphire crystal fitted onto the case. Rolex dubbed this the Milgauss Anniversary model and paired the green crystal with a black dial.
New Rolex Air-King References Launched in the 2000s
Rolex also introduced a new Air-King reference in 2007 with reference numbers 114xx. The previous series was not chronometer-rated, however, for this generation, Rolex did get a COSC certification for the Caliber 3130 powering the then-new Air-King models. The watches retained their 34 mm steel Oyster cases, steel Oyster bracelets, and no-date dials.
The different references within this collection included the Air-King ref. 114200 with a smooth steel bezel, the Air-King ref. 114210 with a steel engine-turned bezel, and the Air-King ref. 114234 with a white gold fluted bezel. Rolex discontinued the Air-King collection in 2014 only to bring a completely new version two years later.
We have come to the end of our investigation of the Rolex developments, introductions, and innovations in the 2000s. However, there is still one chapter left in this series. Stay tuned for the next installment where we will outline all the new things Rolex offered in this very decade, the 2010s.
— Featured Photo Credits: BeckerTime’s Photo Archive.