Rolex Watches Discontinued in 2022
Although the lion’s share of the attention each year is given over to what new models watch manufacturers are introducing, it can be almost as fascinating to see which pieces have reached the end of their runs and gone out of production.
Rolex is no different, and in 2022 they once again gave with one hand and took with the other.
We have already covered the latest releases we were treated to at W&W, so below we take a look at the list of watches Rolex have consigned to the history books.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Don’t worry, it’s not the entire OP series which has gone bye-bye. However, it is several of the most popular dial colors across a range of sizes.
The biggest disappointment to those still in search (and likely a massively welcome development for the lucky few already in possession) is the demise of the Tiffany dial 41mm. The ref. 124300 with that distinctive light blue face came out as one of a number of neo-Stella type Oyster Perpetuals in 2020 and was an immediate hit. A year later, its level of desirability went, for want of a better word, insane, when Patek Philippe brought out their Tiffany Nautilus 5711/1A-018 to mark the 170th anniversary of the world famous jewelers. Only made as a very limited edition (170 pieces, to be exact) chances of even hard core collectors getting their hands on one were slim to non-existent, leading many to take a swerve towards the Rolex model instead. As a result, premiums on the preowned market have gone into the stratosphere, with $40,000 the starting point for what is, technically, a $5,900 watch. (Don’t feel too bad though. The Nautilus is currently trading for literal millions).
That demand for the Tiffany OP is only likely to increase, so if you managed to get your hands on one already—happy days. If not, start saving.
That wasn’t the only version to make way this year though. We also lost the yellow and coral red dials across the 31mm, 36mm and 41mm models too. So, of the wonderfully bright range introduced just a couple of years ago, only the green remains in the largest size, the Tiffany can only be had in 36mm and 31mm, and the pink is available in 36mm.
Rolex Day-Date Platinum 228206 (Smooth Bezel)
Rolex have finally managed to perfect the manufacturing of their famous fluted bezels in the king of precious metals; platinum. Before, the brand had only used gold for the ridged surrounds, including on their flagship offering, the platinum Day-Date.
Now however, those pieces get their bezels in the same metal as the rest of the case and bracelet, with the upshot being that the smooth bezeled versions have been retired. Why they couldn’t keep both styles isn’t clear, unless they were conscious of splitting production between them and depleting the availability of both.
All told, 20 new Presidentials debuted this year with fluted bezels in 36mm and 40mm (along with a further eight with gem set surrounds), leaving not a single smooth bezel in the lineup in any metal.
Rolex Air-King ref. 116900
Although it gave us a new reference number, the loss of the Air-King ref. 116900 is not so much a retirement as a replacement, with the updated ref. 126900 taking over.
The outgoing piece had been around since 2016, the comeback kid after it was briefly discontinued completely in 2014 following a run which dated back to the middle of the Second World War.
But the longest-serving name in the Rolex catalog or not, the Air-King has always been very much a cult favorite, gaining nowhere near the sort of following as the likes of the Submariner or Daytona. In fact, such is its status as the forgotten Rolex, many predicted the model would be quietly put out to pasture this year and never seen again. Instead, it was granted an upgrade, with the new reference benefitting from a reworked case complete with crown guards, a larger dial thanks to a thinner bezel and, of course, a next generation movement in the shape of the Cal. 3230.
Rolex Deepsea ref. 126660
In the same spirit as the Air-King, the ref. 126660 Deepsea has gone to make way for the incoming ref. 136660.
And if you thought the changes to the pilot’s watch above were relatively minor, those made to the mother of all dive models are barely discernible at all.
Firstly, the bezel has again been slimmed down, this time to accommodate the new chamfered sapphire crystal. Then, as if that wasn’t radical enough, the date window and date numerals within have exploded in size…by eight percent! Can you notice it? No, not really, but it’s happened.
Rolex also claim to have improved the Chromalight luminescence as well and have renamed the titanium which makes up the case back as RLX Titanium.
More interestingly however, is what the new model lacks over the old one. There is now no longer a divers’ Fliplock extension on the bracelet, the system which allowed for a quick 26mm lengthening to fit over a thick wetsuit. Presumably the higher-ups at the manufacture considered it a needless expense, one that was not being used often enough to warrant its inclusion in the ref. 136660. So, that one omission could well determine which of the Deepseas you go for; it is still a useful feature for serious divers exploring harsher environments in conditions which require hefty wetsuits or even drysuits. But how many of those would risk taking a $13,000+ watch with them is open to question.
Rolex Yacht-Master II ref. 116689
The original Yacht-Master collection has been receiving a lot of attention recently, and this year was no exception. It now comes in two sizes, with a range of metals and bracelets, including Rolex’s first stab at a rubber strap, the Oysterflex.
The sequel, the Yacht-Master II stemming from 2012, has always been more of an opinion splitter. It can perhaps claim to be the least Rolex-looking Rolex in the fleet; a great big, brash monster of a thing, screaming its own name across its bezel and ignoring any calls for subtlety and moderation.
Funnily enough, the most understated variant, the ref. 116689 in white gold with platinum bezel, was the one let go this year. Why Rolex decided to retire arguably the most versatile piece in the range is yet another mystery, but its materials did leave it as the most expensive option in a series of watches that have not proved overly popular in the first place.
Yet, on the preowned market, these can still be had for around, if not under, the official retail price—not something you can say for every Rolex sports model. Whether that will change now it has gone out of production is unknown, but an educated guess would suggest it is extremely likely.
Most of the Cellini Range
And finally, Rolex seem to have admitted defeat with the Cellini range, their collection of out-and-out dress watches.
In fairness, it has been a long time coming. As beautiful as the pieces are, they did tend to stick out a bit, retaining very little of the overriding Rolex design principles and not even qualifying for an Oyster case.
2022 waved farewell to two time-only and two time-and-date models, leaving only the wonderful ref. 50535 Moonphase. Offered in a 39mm Everose case with a white lacquer dial, it is the last Cellini standing and a stunning creation in its own right.
— Featured Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive.