Rolex Developments, Introductions, and Innovations in the 2010s
This particular decade that we are currently in has seen plenty of significant changes to Rolex’s lineup. Some standard favorite Rolex models have been revamped with new sizes and designs; two new in-house calibers have paved the way for a new batch of references, and some collections welcomed new metal options. As we approach the end of this decade, let’s look back at the Rolex developments, introductions, and innovations that took place in the 2010s.
New Rolex Models Introduced in the 2010s
Most of the new models that Rolex has released over the last ten years are based on already existing watches but with notable changes in sizes, designs, or movements. Rolex did also release a few never-before-seen models with some important technological advancements.
Rolex Launched the Explorer 39 in 2010
At the start of the decade, Rolex took one of its oldest tool watches and altered it to give us the brand new Explorer ref. 214270. The Oyster case size increased from its customary 36mm diameter to a noticeably larger 39mm—and signaled the end of the classically sized Explorer watch. Rolex also fitted the watch with an improved Oyster bracelet with solid end links and solid center links, complete with an enhanced Oysterlock clasp with the practical Easylink 5mm extension system. What’s more, the new Explorer 39 is equipped with a new-gen Caliber 3132 movement.
Aside from the larger case, the dial of the Explorer ref. 214270 has also been a point of discussion since its debut. The first version of the Explorer 39 included the familiar black dial, 3/6/9 numerals, and Mercedes-style hands layout. However, the handset was too short for the larger case (Rolex perhaps used the hands for the 36mm Explorer on the new Explorer 39 model) and the 18k white gold 3/6/9 numerals were not luminous. To rectify these design shortcomings, Rolex unveiled another Explorer ref. 214270 in 2016 (often referred to as 214270 “MKII”) with a redesigned dial. This time the watch includes better-proportioned hands and luminescence on the trio of Arabic numerals.
Rolex Launched the Explorer II 42 in 2011
One year after the revamped Explorer, Rolex took a similar approach with the Explorer II in 2011. That year—which was also the Explorer II’s 40th anniversary—Rolex introduced the brand new Explorer II 216570 model, also with a bigger case and a new movement. With the introduction of the Explorer II ref. 216570, Rolex said goodbye to the 40mm case and hello to a beefier 42mm Oyster case. Attached to that case is an upgraded Oyster bracelet with the sturdier solid end links and heftier solid center links. Plus, the Oysterlock clasp fitted with Easylink 5mm comfort extension link was a noteworthy improvement over preceding clasps.
Additionally, the dial (available in black or white) also underwent a face-lift to include a short and broad orange 24-hour hand (instead of a long red one)—similar to the very first Explorer II from 1971. To accommodate the larger case size, Rolex also broadened the dial details including the Mercedes-style hands and hour markers. The new Caliber 3187 came equipped a Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers for improved resistance to magnetism and accidental knocks.
Rolex Launched the Sky-Dweller in 2012
In 2012, Rolex introduced an entirely new model in the form of the Sky-Dweller. One of the most complex modern Rolex watches to date thanks to Caliber 9001, the Sky-Dweller combines an annual calendar complication and a dual time zone. The months are displayed via small rectangles adjacent to the hour markers and the date is in its traditional 3 o’clock position. These two calendar functions adjust automatically to differentiate between 30 and 31 days. The only time the wearer has to manual set the calendar window is once a year (hence the “annual calendar” name), when February turns into March. The second time zone is indicated on an off-center 24-hour subdial.
Looks-wise, the Sky-Dweller sports a 42mm case topped with a fluted bezel and, depending on the reference, is fitted with either an Oyster bracelet or a leather strap. The first versions were exclusively made in precious metal: the Everose gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326935, the yellow gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326938, and the white gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326939. Since then, Rolex has rounded out the collection with the two-tone Sky-Dweller ref. 326933 and the stainless steel Sky-Dweller ref. 326934 with a white gold fluted bezel.
Rolex Launched the Day-Date 40 in 2015
Taking over from the short-lived Day-Date II model, Rolex introduced the Day-Date 40 collection in 2015. As its name implies, the new Rolex President watch features a 40mm case—which was 1mm smaller than the Day-Date II. Aside from the slightly smaller diameter, the watches also had thinner bezels and slimmer lugs, resulting in a more elegant take on Rolex’s larger Day-Date option rather than the sportier Day-Date II lineup.
The biggest change, however, was inside the case; Rolex debuted the new-generation Caliber 3255 automatic movement in the Day-Date 40 watch. Boasting 14 patents, Caliber 3255 offers an increased power reserve of 70 hours, twice the precision rate of chronometer standards, and an improved escapement efficiency of 15%.
Similar to all Rolex President watches, Rolex makes the Day-Date 40 exclusively in precious metals. There’s the yellow gold Day-Date 40 ref. 228238, the white gold Day-Date 40 ref. 228239, the Everose gold Day-Date 40 ref. 228235, and the platinum Day-Date 40 ref. 228206.
Rolex Launched the Oyster Perpetual 39 in 2015
While the Oyster Perpetual has been a part of the Rolex catalog for the better part of eight decades, a brand new Oyster Perpetual 39 model was added to the collection in 2015. The largest Oyster Perpetual option to date, the watch includes a 39mm stainless steel case fitted with a stainless steel Oyster bracelet.
Just like all the OP models that came before it, the Oyster Perpetual 39 is a time-only Rolex (powered by Caliber 3132) featuring a simple dial with three hands and lume-filled indexes. However, Rolex did furnish the collection with some colorful dial options, such as bright blue and red grape, to sit alongside more neutral dial tones.
Rolex Launched the Pearlmaster 39 in 2015
In 2015, Rolex launched the new generation Caliber 3235 movement in a brand new model called the Pearlmaster 39. While the Pearlmaster had been around since 1992, the Pearlmaster 39 was the first time the model came fitted with a larger 39mm case. Caliber 3235 is the latest version of Rolex time and date automatic movement, set to replace the long-standing Caliber 3135. It offers an increased power reserve of 70 hours and an improved precision rating of -2/+2 seconds per day.
Identical to all other Pearlmaster models, the 2015 Pearlmaster 39 models were all fashioned from precious metals. Rolex supplied these particular models with fancy colored baguette-cut sapphires on the bezels too. The range includes the yellow gold Pearlmaster 39 ref. 86348 with blue to green gradient sapphires or orange to yellow gradient sapphires and the white gold Pearlmaster 39 ref. 86349.
Rolex Launched the Lady-Datejust 28 in 2015
2015 saw the end of the popular Lady-Date 26 in favor of a slightly larger new model, the Lady-Datejust 28. As its name implies, the Lady-Datejust watch features a 28mm case—along with the new Caliber 2236 inside—and in true Rolex fashion, there is a wide assortment of metals, dial styles, and bracelets to choose from.
The main models from the collection include the steel Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279160, the steel Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279174 with a white gold bezel, the two-tone yellow gold and steel Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279173, and the two-tone Everose gold and steel Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279171. Rolex also makes full gold versions like the yellow gold Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279178, the white gold Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279179, and the Everose gold Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279175.
Rolex Launched the Yacht-Master 37 in 2015
2015 was also a big year for the Yacht-Master collection. Rolex unveiled a brand new bracelet dubbed the Oysterflex and debuted it the Yacht-Master. The rubber-like Oysterflex bracelet is constructed with a titanium/nickel metal alloy blade at the core, which is then enveloped with black elastomer. Rolex paired the Oysterflex bracelet with two new Yacht-Master models: the Everose gold Yacht-Master 40 ref. 126655 and the Everose gold Yacht-Master 37 ref. 268655. Both watches sport Oyster cases in Everose gold (in 40mm or 37mm sizes), black Cerachrom ceramic bezels with raised numerals, and black dials with rose gold details.
It’s important to note that this was the first time Rolex offered a Yacht-Master 37 model, essentially replacing both the previous ladies’ Yacht-Master with a 29mm case and mid-size Yacht-Master with a 35mm case. Since that year, Rolex has rounded out the Yacht-Master 37 collection with other material options including the two-tone Everose gold and stainless steel Yacht-Master 37 ref. 268621 and the stainless steel and platinum Rolesium Yacht-Master 37 ref. 268622.
Rolex Launched the Air-King 40 in 2016
The brand new Air-King presented in 2016 surprised just about everyone interested in Rolex watches. The collection was quietly shelved in 2014, but little did everyone know, it was because Rolex was working on a completely new design for one of its oldest watch models.
The Air-King ref. 116900 is unlike any older model that shares its name. First, it features a 40 mm Oyster case — which is significantly larger than the previous 34mm and 35mm cases once standard to the collection. Furthermore, the black dial of the new Air-King ref. 116900 is dramatically different than the simple Air-King dials we’ve become accustomed to. The dial includes a mix of Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, (just like the Explorer) as hour markers, in addition to minute numerals displayed as 5, 10, 20, 25, and so on. Finally, the Air-King 116900 is anti-magnetic, able to withstand 1,000 gauss (just like the Milgauss) thanks to Caliber 3131’s protective shield. The watch is exclusively available in stainless steel and it is fitted with an Oyster bracelet.
Rolex Launched the Datejust 41 in 2016
Following the same path as the Day-Date, the Datejust 41 model arrived in 2016 to replace the Datejust II collection. Although the Datejust 41 and the Datejust II have the same official 41mm dimension, the newer Datejust 41 model has a slightly slimmer profile, leaner lugs, and a thinner bezel.
Naturally, as a new model, Rolex equipped the Datejust 41 with the latest movement, Caliber 3235. While the first few models that launched the Datejust 41 collection were two-tone versions, Rolex soon added steel editions too.
The lineup includes the two-tone yellow gold and stainless steel Datejust 41 ref. 126333 (fluted bezel) and Datejust 41 ref. 126303 (domed bezel), the two-tone Everose gold and stainless steel Datejust 41 ref. 126331 (fluted bezel) and ref. 126301 (domed bezel), and the stainless steel Datejust 41 ref. 126334 (fluted white gold bezel) and ref. 126300 (domed steel bezel).
Rolex Launched the Sea-Dweller 43 in 2017
Since its inception in 1967, the Sea-Dweller always came fitted with a 40mm Oyster case. Yet, that all changed in 2017 when Rolex introduced the new Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 with a 43mm case.
Aside from the bigger dimensions, the watch also included a Cyclops lens on the crystal to magnify the date—a detail that the Sea-Dweller never had before. The dial kept the same layout as preceding editions, however, the SEA-DWELLER label on the dial was now in red, just like the very first model from 1967. Akin to all recently released Rolex time and date watches, inside the Helium Escape Valve-equipped case of the Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 is the new Caliber 3235.
Rolex Launched the Yacht-Master 42 in 2019
Continuing on the trend of offering bigger case sizes, Rolex introduced the Yacht-Master 42 at this year’s Baselworld, which happens to be the largest Yacht-Master ever made (not including the Yacht-Master II model). The Yacht-Master 42 ref. 226659 has a 42mm case in 18k white gold, a black Cerachrom ceramic bezel, a black dial, a black Oysterflex bracelet, and runs on Caliber 3235. It must also be said that this is the very first white gold Yacht-Master model too.
It would be safe to assume that Rolex will add new material options to the new Yacht-Master 42 lineup in the near future.
New Rolex Metal Options Introduced in the 2010s
In this decade, Rolex has focused on expanding its current catalog of watch models with more material options, particularly Everose gold and two-tone options.
Rolex Introduced New Yacht-Master II Metal Options in the 2010s
When Rolex first debuted the Yacht-Master II in 2008, the model was only available in full yellow gold or full white gold editions. However, Rolex introduced the two-tone stainless steel and Everose gold Yacht-Master II ref. 116681 in 2011 and the stainless steel Yacht-Master II ref. 116680 in 2013, both fitted with the signature blue Cerachrom ceramic bezel and an Oyster bracelet.
In 2017, Rolex updated the entire Yacht-Master II collection (but kept the same reference numbers) with modified dials to include Mercedes-style hands instead of pencil ones and a mix of triangular, square, and rectangular hour markers rather than just square ones.
Rolex Introduced Platinum Daytona Models in the 2010s
In 2013, Rolex presented the very first Daytona chronograph in platinum with the Daytona ref. 116506. On top of the 40mm platinum case is a brown Cerachrom ceramic bezel while the dial color is ice blue—a shade reserved for platinum Rolex watches. Adding to the heft of the Daytona ref. 116506 is the full platinum Oyster bracelet and powering the watch is the familiar in-house Caliber 4130 automatic chronograph movement.
The following year, Rolex presented a lavish diamond-set version with the platinum Daytona ref. 116576. In addition to the full diamond pavé dial, the Daytona 116576 also boasts a baguette diamond-set bezel.
Rolex Introduced Everose Yacht-Master Models in the 2010s
As we mentioned earlier, Rolex introduced the Everose gold Yacht-Master 40 ref. 126655 in 2015, which was the first time the company made this particular model in rose gold. The following year, Rolex introduced the two-tone Yacht-Master 40 ref. 116621, bringing together Everose gold and stainless steel on one watch. However, unlike the Oysterflex bracelet, this Rolesor model features a two-tone Oyster bracelet.
Rolex Introduced Everose GMT-Master II Models in the 2010s
Everose gold was also prominently used in new GMT-Master II models that Rolex launched in 2018. This is the first time Rolex uses rose gold in the GMT-Master II lineup. There’s the full Everose gold GMT-Master II ref. 126715CHNR, followed by the two-tone Everose gold and steel GMT-Master II ref. 126711CHNR. In addition to the new metal options of the GMT-Master II, both watches also feature a brand new black and brown colorway on the Cerachrom ceramic bezels.
Rolex Introduced the Two-Tone Sea-Dweller in the 2010s
On the heels of the stainless steel 2017 Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 release, Rolex also announced the yellow gold and stainless steel Sea-Dweller ref. 126603 in 2019—yet another first for the SD collection.
As a professional saturation dive watch, Rolex has always crafted the Sea-Dweller in robust stainless steel. However, Rolex has now given us a more luxurious iteration of the watch. The Sea-Dweller ref. 126603 has a 43mm steel case fitted with an 18k yellow gold winding crown and an 18k yellow gold and ceramic bezel. What’s more, the Oyster bracelet with the double extension system features 18k yellow gold and stainless steel links.
New Rolex References Introduced in the 2010s
Rolex has been hard at work this decade, releasing a big batch of new references within many of its collections.
New Rolex Datejust References Launched in the 2010s
In the 2010s, Rolex added new references to the Datejust collection, across most sizes. For instance, in 2010 Rolex introduced the new Datejust 31 ref. 178341 in two-tone Everose gold and steel, ref. 178274 in steel with a white gold fluted bezel, and ref. 178383 in two-tone yellow gold and steel with a diamond-set bezel.
The following year in 2011, Rolex unveiled new Lady-Datejust 26 models with the ref. 179383 in two-tone yellow gold and steel with a diamond-set bezel and the ref. 179384 in steel with a diamond-set bezel. As previously mentioned, the Lady-Datejust 26 collection ultimately came to an end in 2015 with the introduction of the new Lady-Datejust 28 models.
In 2018, Rolex presented new Datejust 31 references, with a slightly resigned case and lugs, along with the new Caliber 2236 powering the watches. The three watches shown at Baselworld were the white gold Datejust 31 ref. 278289, the yellow gold Datejust 31 ref. 278288, and the Everose gold Datejust 31 ref. 278285—all fitted with diamond-set bezels.
Finally, also in 2018, Rolex revealed the newest generation of the Datejust 36 collection, carrying the 126xxx reference numbers. Equipped with the latest Caliber 3235 and available in an assortment of materials, bezels, dials, and bracelets, the main references of the new Datejust 36 include the stainless steel ref. 126200, the steel ref. 126234 with a white gold bezel, the two-tone yellow gold and steel ref. 126233, and the two-tone Everose gold and steel ref. 126231.
New Rolex Submariner References Launched in the 2010s
In the 2010s, Rolex released three new Submariner references to complete the Cerachrom ceramic bezel rollout across the collection. In 2010, Rolex introduced two new stainless steel Submariner references: the Submariner ref. 116610LN with a black dial and bezel and the Submariner ref. 116610LV with a green dial and bezel, which eventually picked up the nickname the “Hulk.” Both watches include the familiar 40mm “Super Case” silhouette introduced a few years prior and featured an improved Oyster bracelet with solid links and a diver’s extension system.
In 2012, Rolex also updated the no-date Submariner model to include a ceramic bezel with the Submariner ref. 114060.
New Rolex Cosmograph Daytona References Launched in the 2010s
In the previous decade, Rolex had focused on rolling out its new Cerachrom ceramic bezel on many of its Professional models. And in the 2010s, it was the Daytona collection’s turn, which gave way to a slew of new Daytona references.
It started in 2011, with the Everose gold Daytona ref. 116515, which was the first Daytona to receive a ceramic bezel. Plus, rather than the customary Oyster bracelet, the rose gold and black bezel Daytona ref. 116515 was fitted with a leather strap furnished with an Everose gold deployant clasp. Following this, Rolex presented the platinum and brown Cerachrom bezel Daytona ref. 116506 we outlined above.
Then in 2016, Rolex finally reveled the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116500LN with a black ceramic bezel and a choice of a black or white dial. This is, hands down, one of Rolex’s most popular releases in recent history. With the exception of the new Cerachrom bezel, the new ref. 116500LN retains the signature Daytona design traits, including the 40mm case with screw-down chronograph pushers, the Oyster bracelet, the trio of registers on the dial, and the in-house Caliber 4130 movement.
That same year, Rolex quietly launched the two-tone Daytona ref. 116503, the yellow gold Daytona ref. 116508, and the white gold Daytona ref. 116509 to replace the preceding models. The main difference with the new references is the slightly redesigned metal bezel with fatter fonts and triangular markings instead of round ones.
In 2017, more precious metal variants of the Daytona joined the lineup: the yellow gold Daytona ref. 116518LN and the white gold Daytona ref. 116519LN, both with black Cerachrom bezels and black Oysterflex bracelets. Rolex also revamped the Everose gold Daytona ref. 116515LN to sport an Oysterflex bracelet rather than a leather band.
Finally, in 2018 and 2019, Rolex unleashed two gem-set Daytona models starting with the Everose Daytona “Rainbow” ref. 116595 RBOW with a multi-colored sapphire-set bezel and the Rolex Daytona “Tiger” ref. 116588 TBR with 36 trapeze-cut diamonds on the bezel and a black lacquer and diamond dial.
New Rolex GMT-Master II References Launched in the 2010s
The 2010s was also a big decade for the GMT-Master II collection with plenty of new references joining the field. In 2013, Rolex launched the stainless steel GMT-Master II ref. 116710 BLNR with a black and blue Cerachrom ceramic bezel. This was the first time Rolex made a bi-colored bezel in ceramic and thanks to this particular color pairing, the 116710 BLNR picked up the “Batman” nickname. Then in 2014, Rolex released yet another bi-colored ceramic bezel, but this time featuring the classic blue and red “Pepsi” combo, which was fitted on the 18k white gold GMT-Master II ref. 116719BLRO.
In 2018, the GMT-Master II received a major update with the addition of the new Caliber 3285 movement (with an improved 70-hour power reserve). Along with the full Everose gold GMT-Master II ref. 126715CHNR and the two-tone Everose gold and steel GMT-Master II ref. 126711CHNR discussed above, Rolex also introduced the stainless steel GMT-Master II ref. 126710 BLRO with a blue and red “Pepsi” bezel. A year later, Rolex added the new GMT-Master II ref. 126610 BLNR with a black and blue “Batman” bezel. It’s important to mention that the two new steel GMT-Master II models are only available with Jubilee bracelets while the gold and two-tone versions are only available with Oyster bracelets.
New Rolex Day-Date References Launched in the 2010s
In 2013, Rolex presented a colorful line of Day-Date 36 references, complete with leather straps and vibrant dials. These watches echoed the style of the so-called Day-Date “Stella” pieces from the 1970s, characterized by colorful lacquer and stone dials. As is the tradition for Rolex President watches, the 36mm cases of these particular Day-Date 36 watches were made in precious metals. There’s the yellow gold Day-Date ref. 118138 with either a green strap and dial or a cognac strap and dial, the white gold Day-Date ref. 118139 with a cherry strap and dial, and the Everose gold Day-Date ref. 118135 with a chocolate strap and dial.
Earlier this year at Baselworld 2019, Rolex launched a new family of Day-Date 36 models with the 128xxx reference numbers. Fitted with the new Caliber 3255 found in the larger Day-Date 40 watches, these smaller Day-Date models retain the classically sized 36mm Oyster cases and offer some vibrant dial options including green gradient, blue gradient, turquoise stone, and pink opal stone. As of now, Rolex has released the yellow gold Day-Date 36 ref. 128238, the white gold Day-Date 36 ref. 128238, and the Everose gold Day-Date 36 128235.
New Rolex Sea-Dweller Reference Launched in the 2010s
After having disappeared from the Rolex catalog in 2008, the Sea-Dweller model made its comeback in 2014 as the Sea-Dweller ref. 116600. Like its predecessors, the Sea-Dweller 116600 features a steel 40mm Oyster case equipped with a Helium Escape Valve, a steel Oyster bracelet, a black dial with lume-filled markers and a date window, a sapphire crystal without a Cyclops lens, and Caliber 3135. However, unlike the SD references that came before it, the Sea-Dweller ref. 116600 sports a black Cerachrom ceramic bezel.
The production run of the Sea-Dweller 116600 was particularly short as it was replaced a mere three years later by the larger Sea-Dweller 43.
Rolex Introduced the Z-Blue Milgauss in the 2010s
While technically not a new reference, the Milgauss 116400GV “Z-Blue” dial was a noteworthy Rolex release in 2014. As Rolex’s flagship anti-magnetic watch, the Milgauss is resistant to 1,000 gauss and this particular version is furnished with an electric blue dial inside the 40mm steel case. The dial adds even more color to the already colorful Rolex watch, which has a green-tinted sapphire crystal and an orange lightning bolt seconds hand.
New Rolex Deepsea Reference Launched in the 2010s
In 2014, Rolex took the unprecedented step of launching a special dial design for the Deepsea 116660 in honor of James Cameron called the “D-Blue” dial. Except for the blue to black gradient dial with a bright green DEEPSEA label, the Deepsea 116660 “D-Blue” is identical to the standard Deepsea model, which is to say it features a 44mm Oyster case water-resistant to 3,900 meters topped with a black ceramic bezel.
In 2018, Rolex replaced both the standard and the D-Blue Deepsea models with the brand new Deepsea ref. 126660 (available with both dial options). The new model is fitted with the latest Caliber 3235 movement and features a redesigned case and redesigned lugs to accommodate a slightly wider Oyster bracelet.
New Rolex Yacht-Master References Launched in the 2010s
Just this year, Rolex quietly revealed a new reference family for the full metal versions of the Yacht-Master 40 with the references 1266xx to house the new Caliber 3235 (while retaining the design traits of previous models). In terms of material choices, there’s the Yacht-Master ref. 126622 in steel and platinum and the Yacht-Master ref. 126621 in two-tone Everose gold and steel.
As you can see, the 2010s was a particularly busy decade for Rolex! From brand new models to new metal options to new references, the Swiss watchmaking giant dutifully made plenty of fresh watches year after year for its enthusiastic fan base. This brings us to the end of our in-depth look at Rolex releases throughout the decades (if you haven’t already, make sure to check out our articles focused on the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s) and we look forward to seeing what Rolex has in store for us in 2020 and beyond.
— Featured Photo Credits: Rolex and BeckerTime’s Photo Archive.