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Thoughts on 2012 Basel and Rolex

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The Basel show each year creates and brings much anticipation and this year was no different. In some Basel shows, Rolex is predictable with their offerings and upgrades and in some years there are new surprises. The 2012 year brought out a big surprise, and some predictable upgrades.

Rolex is Switzerland’s largest consumer of gold and precious metals much of which is smelted at Rolex. Being a true “manufacture” movement company where all the parts and components are designed and fabricated in house to control quality and the supply chain, Rolex fabricates most of its own metal used for watch cases. When Rolex introduces a new model, it is no surprise that the first model is cased in gold or platinum.  The following year the same model is released in a two tone gold and stainless steel, and the third year the model is introduced in stainless steel. The updated 116610 Submariner models were introduced this way as well as the 116710 GMT models were updated this way as well.

Many people were expecting an updated Yachtmaster II model because it seemed to follow this trend of seeing an all gold model, then a two tone model last year in 2011, but everyone was surprised to see Rolex deviate by releasing an all new model rather than releasing an all stainless Yachtmaster II as the pattern would dictate, Rolex released an updated all stainless with Platinum bezeled Yachtmaster , AND an the all new Sky Dweller.

The Sky Dweller is described by some as being a mixed-bag combining some of Rolex’s traditional design elements, along with entirely new technologies for Rolex. The Sky Dweller is clearly designed for the world traveler who frequently jumps time zones.  Taking traditional design elements and the partial name from Rolex’s venerable Sea Dweller, some dial design elements and provenance from the GMT II, and threw them together with the bezel controls from the still new Yachtmaster II, and the entirely new perpetual hour wheel and SAROS perpetual calendar and you have the Sky Dweller, an amalgamation of traditional Rolex design and new technologies that Rolex will hopefully offer in other model as the line evolves. Rolex design has always been described as an “evolution” rather than as a “revolution,” but the new Sky Dweller exemplifies that Rolex is getting more daring in its offering. The Sky Dweller departs from Rolex clean staid dials by adding multiple new dial elements as well as continuing the development of using the bezel to control watch functions, similar to the technologies in the YachtMaster II.  Using the dial to control features is entirely “James Bond” like because of the hidden function that the bezel ring brings.

The rest of Rolex’s Basel offerings also indicate that Rolex is designing watches for the emerging markets of the Middle East and the Orient. Rather than abandoning 36mm watches for the larger 40 or 44mm watches, Rolex is continuing to develop 36mm watches seen in the DateJust as well as in the women’s line. Other than the Sky Dweller, the rest of the Rolex Basel offering shows the evolutionary nature of Rolex development. Rolex unveiled a much expected update to the venerable 14060 No-Date Submariner by releasing the 114060 with an updated case, Ceracrome bezel, Paracrom balance spring, and other Rolex technologies found on the rest of the Rolex sports line. The updates brought to the Submariner 114060 are also found in the updated Yachtmaster, and in the DateJust II.  There were also evolutionary updates to the Daytona, Day-Date, and Lady DateJust watches that have new combinations of metals, jewels and watch faces. Although these updates may not touch the sensibilities of the traditional Rolex wearer, they certainly do have a market as Rolex has been developing jeweled watches for years.

Despite the some of the new releases being expected, it is always good to see Rolex making updates and rolling out innovations as the rest of the watch world seems to look over their shoulder to see what Rolex is doing.  Rolex’s design is one of the most copied watches in the world and their influence over watch design and value in the watch shows at the Basel show and 2012 Basel was no different.

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