Rolex New Releases 2022
With the long-anticipated demise of Baselworld a couple of years ago, horology fans have instead been turning en mass to its ostensible replacement, Watches & Wonders, for the unveiling of the year’s latest and greatest timepieces.
The 2022 event, held at the end of March, brought some 38 brands together in Geneva’s Palexpo, the first time the show has been able to go ahead with an in-person exhibition since its rebranding from SIHH.
Most of the major players were there to show off their new toys, with the likes of Chanel, Chopard, TAG Heuer, IWC, Zenith, Hublot and Piaget all in attendance. And, joining them for the first time this year, Rolex turned up with hatfuls of never-before-seen watches.
Below, we take a look at just what the Crown brought to the party with a rundown of the 2022 releases.
The Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126720VTNR
In the build-up to every annual Rolex unveiling, you can’t log on to the internet without running up against a thousand articles and blog posts proclaiming to have predicted exactly what the watchmaking giant has in store for us. I’ve written several myself. Occasionally we get it right (very occasionally in my case) but usually it’s all a bit of a surprise—as it should be.
However, I can guarantee, NO ONE saw this coming!
The GMT-Master II, the world’s favorite travel watch, wasn’t really due any kind of update. The last few years have actually all been a little GMT-heavy in fact, not that there’s anything wrong with that. We’ve had Pepsis and Batmans and Root Beers aplenty, with chopped and changed bracelets to liven things up.
This year though, Rolex has introduced not only an all-new bezel color, but have also released the GMT-Master II in a LHD, or left-hand drive model.
To the best of my recollection, this is the first non-special order destro watch Rolex has ever made, designed for left-handed people (myself included) who wear their watches on their right wrists. It means the crown sits on the opposite side to normal, so even us weirdoes can set the time without having to take the watch off completely.
Just as importantly, the color scheme, the GMT’s main calling card for its entire history, has gotten a refresh with the introduction of a vibrant green on the bezel’s lower half for the daylight hours.
We’re actually going to be dedicating a whole article to the new leftie GMT in a few days, where we’ll discuss any other differences. But for now, it remains the standout addition from Rolex this year.
The Rolex Air-King ref. 126900
Those prediction articles I was talking about were split down the middle this year when talking about the traditionally ‘forgotten’ Rolex; the Air-King.
Some foresaw, or at least hoped for, an overdue update, while others were convinced the venerable old warhorse would be put out to pasture for the second time in its life.
Rolex, for their part, teased us with their ‘Prepare to Move Skywards’ teaser trailer a few days before the W&W show.
In the end, the longest-standing name in the brand’s books did indeed get modernized, with changes made inside and out.
The new ref. 126900, while it maintains its usual 40mm dimensions, has received crown guards for the first time in its history—a history which stretches back to the middle of the Second World War. That muscular look is more in keeping with most of the other models in the brand’s Professional Collection, with only the Milgauss and the Explorer now guard-less.
And, as you would expect, the old Cal. 3130 movement inside has now been replaced with the latest generation Cal. 3230, complete with Rolex’s revolutionary Chronergy escapement, revised barrel architecture and extended 70-hour power reserve.
All else remains the same, with that distinctive dial and its minute markers and prominent 3/6/9 indexes ranking it still as the most readable face in the fleet.
The Rolex Yacht-Master ref. 226658
Rolex have finally completed the set (sort of) with the Oysterflex-equipped versions of sumptuous Yacht-Master watches.
It came as a surprise when, in 2015, the brand unveiled the 40mm Everose model on their first ever rubber strap, immediately transforming the entire character of the watch from slightly conservative Submariner-clone for the ultra wealthy to fun and casual sports model.
They followed that up with a 42mm white gold variant in 2019 which proved an even bigger hit with the faithful.
Now, we get the 42mm yellow gold watch, continuing the resurgence of the precious metal’s popularity in recent years. Yellow gold can be something of an opinion splitter, giving some unpleasant memories of the 1980s, the ‘decade that subtlety forgot’. It is all too easy for it to come across as flashy and ostentatious, but fortunately Rolex is able to exercise control over the look of their own metals by forging themselves in their own foundry. The yellow gold you find on modern Rolex pieces is a great deal paler and less in-your-face than anything worn by Gordon Gecko.
As with the GMT, all else is the same here, with the latest Cal. 3235 ticking away inside the ref. 226658 and simple dot and baton indexes on the deep black dial.
The Rolex Yacht-Master ref. 226659
There was another update to the Yacht-Master family this year. The 42mm white gold ref. 226659 gained a new dial choice, an unorthodox, bluey-green tinted color with a brushed finish, known as Falcon’s Eye. While not exactly a sunray effect, the textured abrasions mean it will have different appearances in various lighting conditions.
The Rolex Day-Date
The Classic Collection also got a look in. Rolex’s flagship, the Day-Date (or the President, if you prefer) was awarded a whole bunch of fresh options, including something we have never seen before.
For the first time, Rolex have managed to create a platinum fluted bezel for the platinum-cased models of the watch, in 36m and 40mm. As all fluted bezels have been crafted from gold before, it involved devising an entirely new process to complete. In fact, it was a good year for platinum over at Rolex, with a total of 28 new Presidents taking the stage forged from the metal. These also came with a whole load of novel dial colors and materials too, for both sizes. A couple of highlights include a meteorite face with diamond indexes for the 40mm piece and, confirming the Day-Date’s expanding role as a unisex wear, a bright pink dial on the 36mm model.
Elsewhere, the Everose and yellow gold watches received their own updates, with an almost Stella-esque lurid green among the more eye-catching additions.
The Rolex Datejust 31
Continuing with the Classic Collection, the Datejust 31 family increased by three, with a trio of flowered-motif pieces across the three gold flavors.
Firstly, the yellow gold model adopted an olive green dial with a President bracelet and diamond-set bezel. The Everose Rolesor watch was given a silver face, also with a diamond bezel, but sitting on a Jubilee. And finally, a personal favorite, the white gold piece with fluted bezel and Oyster bracelet has a beautiful azure blue dial. All have an intricate, interweaving floral pattern with sunray, matte and grained finishing, adding a lovely depth and texture.
The Rolex Deepsea ref. 136660
Getting practically none of the headlines this year, and for good reason, the utterly formidable Deepsea also got upgrades, but good luck spotting them.
For starters, the bezel is now apparently a fraction slimmer, but without a pair of calipers I’ll have to take their word for it. In addition, the crystal has been swapped for a more angular, domed example.
But the more interesting event is actually a subtraction. Just as they did with the latest Sea-Dweller released in 2019, Rolex have decided to remove the Deepsea’s Fliplock extension. This is the mechanism which allows for the bracelet to be quickly lengthened by an extra 26mm, the thinking being that it would be used by professional divers wearing either drysuits or thick 7mm wetsuits. It is quite a pragmatic move by Rolex, more or less an admittance that their dive watches are not used by serious divers for the most part, something we’ve all known for a long time. However, it still retains the far more useful Glidelock, giving the ability to extend the bracelet by 20mm in 2mm increments.
All else remains unchanged, with just the two dial options; the matte black and the excellent D-Blue with its graduating ombré effect. And that ridiculous depth rating is the same, staying safe down to 12,800ft.
— Featured Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive.