Well, it’s that time of the year again. It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing the lack of changes to the 50th anniversary Explorer II and the polarising 36mm two-tone Explorer. Still, the time has come for us to explore, dissect and dive deep into Rolex’s novelties once again. In emphatic fashion, this latest batch of novelties is certainly polarising, to say the least. With some shocks in both the releases and the discontinuations, this is a year that has undoubtedly split opinions, with some pieces coming straight out of the left field.
A Left-Handed GMT-Master II, or is it Right-Handed?
In what is the most interesting launch of the year, Rolex have announced their first-ever left-handed model, a variant of the GMT-Master II, the ref. 126720VTNR. Featuring its winding crown at 9 o’clock instead of 3 o’clock like every watch that has come before it, this “destro” variant was supposedly the brainchild of Rolex’s left-handed CEO and shakes up Rolex’s collection in a rather exciting and unusual fashion. Featuring a black and green Cerachrom bezel, this watch introduces an entirely new color combination to Rolex’s repertoire and has fittingly earned the nickname “Sprite” after the soda.
Made of stainless steel and sporting a black dial like its “Pepsi” and “Batman” sibling variants, this will undoubtedly be a difficult watch to get your hands on with long waiting lists and a hefty secondary market premium. While it is designed for left-handed collectors to wear on their right hand, it will undoubtedly find its way onto the left hands of plenty of collectors looking for something that little bit different.
A New Air-King
Alluded to by Rolex’s “Be prepared to move skyward” slogan, Rolex launched a fresh new take on their iconic Air-King model. Originally launched in 1956 as a watch made for pilots, the Air-King is a tool-watch and, as such, has this latest model has had upgrades that take it in line with its heritage.
Amongst its changes are luminescent 3-6-9 Arabic numerals, an upgraded Glidelock clasp, a larger dial, and crown guards to protect its crown from impact. Perhaps the most significant surprise is the relatively unchanged Air-King dial. Inspired by the dials that Rolex produced for the Bloodhound LSR, a rocket-powered car that failed to break the land-speed world record, it was assumed that the Air-King would eventually be given a new dial when the time came. Instead, Rolex changed the dial slightly so that the “5” at the 1 o’clock position had a “0” before it for improved symmetry between the numerals.
Day-Date Gets a New Bezel
Aside from the long list of fascinating new dial variants that have been added to the Day-Date collection, like the onyx dial or the beautiful green sunburst dial that they have added to the collection, Rolex have finally given us the option of a fluted platinum bezel on their most luxurious and emblematic model. While the fluted bezel certainly has a long history in Rolex’s catalog, it was only ever available in gold. The platinum Day-Date was previously only offered with a flat bezel. This was due to the difficulty of working on platinum and creating the sharp angles. Finally, this year Rolex has solved whatever problem or issue prevented them from offering a platinum fluted bezel and created a slew of platinum Day-Date variants in both 36mm and 40mm that feature the iconic piece.
Yacht-Master 42 Is Expanded
While it was widely anticipated that Rolex would introduce a new titanium variant to the Yacht-Master collection due to the existence of a titanium YM42 prototype worn by a Rolex sailing ambassador, they instead decided to give us an 18kt yellow gold Yacht-Master 42. Joining the ranks of 18kt white gold in the 42mm variant, this completes the showing for the Yacht-Master as it now features every gold alloy with white and yellow gold offered in the 42mm and rose gold offered on the 40mm and 37mm. In addition to the new material, Rolex have also given the Yacht-Master a new “Falcon’s Eye” dial that features a stunning grained pattern and vibrant array of colors ranging from blues to greens.
Datejust Dials For Everyone
Following on from the precedent that they set in the last few years with new Datejust dials entering the fray every year, Rolex have launched a wide array of dials for the Datejust that will undoubtedly mean there is something for everyone, if there wasn’t already. Alongside expanding the Palm and Fluted motif dials into the 41mm collection, Rolex has launched a new sunburst green dial for the Datejust across their entire size range and a new beautiful floral motif that is only available on the 31mm variant. Offered in stunning shades of blue, silver, or green, it features diamonds set sporadically across its surface for a stunning effect.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the year so far wasn’t the new models and novelties that Rolex launched, but rather the models that Rolex discontinued. Aside from the old models that new models have now replaced, Rolex have discontinued some seriously popular watches. Sadly, some of our favorites have gotten the chop; the three most popular dial variants for the 41mm Oyster Perpetual; coral red, the “tiffany” turquoise blue, and yellow. In 36mm much is the same as they have discontinued the coral red and yellow variants but kept turquoise. This is an incredibly interesting and very surprising move given the short 18-month lifespan of these dials and their incredible popularity with long waiting lists and immense secondary market demand.
Beyond the Oyster Perpetual collection, Rolex have also discontinued the flat bezel platinum Day-Date variant and the entire Cellini collection except for one variant, their moon phase variant. Offered as their only pure dress watch, it is hard to imagine that Rolex doesn’t have updates in mind for the Cellini collection due to its historical importance for Rolex. Much like every year, there will be people who love these changes and people who hate them. While we are happy with the novelties, it is sad to wave goodbye to some of the most stunning and popular dials that Rolex have ever created. Not to mention they look incredible with our Rolex straps. That’s worth something too, no?