No brand is capable of raising as much of a ruckus as Rolex, something deftly illustrated by this week’s launch of new watches for 2020. And while the updates might have, in places, seemed to offer new definition to the word ‘incremental’, there were plenty of them and there was much to like.
It might seem strange that the first update in 12 years to what is undoubtedly the world’s most recognisable watch wasn’t the biggest news of the day, but changes to the Submariner were deliberately low-key — after all, if it ain’t broke…
The Submariner’s case (both No-date 124060 and Date 126610 models) has grown from 40mm to 41mm and houses Rolex’s all-new 3230 time-only and 3235 date calibres respectively. The 3235 arrived back in 2015 heralding the kind of improvements we now see in the 3230, namely 70 hours power reserve (up from 48 hours) courtesy of its more energy-efficient Chronergy escapement and Parachrom hairspring.
But fear not, the new Submariner actually manages the neat trick of appearing, if anything, smaller due to its slimmer lugs and wider bracelet. These changes are barely on the millimetre scale, but they are there.
Elsewhere in the collection, Rolex’s youngest child, the Sky-Dweller, was also presented on the brand’s sprung rubber Oysterflex strap for the first time, but it was updates to the Oyster Perpetual that really caused a stir.
Not only has Rolex’s most unassuming design been given a more forthright redesign, most notably with double baton hour markers at the three, six and nine o’clock positions enhancing their already enlarged proportions (not to mention echoing the dominance of the 3/6/9 numerals on the Oyster Perpetual’s sibling, the Explorer), but the previous 39mm version has been replaced altogether with a larger 41mm model.
Retiring the 39mm case is a curious move given the plethora of case sizes already available in the Oyster Perpetual line-up. If the market can support 28mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm and 41mm, then surely it wouldn’t have hurt Rolex’s bottom line too much to keep the 39mm case around for those of us who think it represents the perfect case size for a watch of this style?
Two versions of the new 41mm watch exist, and both are worthy of your attention for their handsome and utterly timeless designs. The first is a silvered, sunray-brushed dial with solid 18ct yellow gold hand set and markers, while the second serves as counterpoint, featuring a black sun ray dial with 18ct white gold hands and markers. Both watches use the same new 3230 automatic movement employed in the new Submariner (along with the 36mm Oyster Perpetuals). Which one you prefer will be a matter of personal taste, but either would fulfil a lifetime of professional and formal duties admirably.
Rolex has also introduced five candy-coloured dials reminiscent of the enamel Stella dials the brand produced for the Day-Date and Datejust in the 1970s and 1980s. The original Stella dials proved unpopular with customers, but have since gone on to become highly sought-after by collectors, much like the Paul Newman Daytona.
Now you can choose from candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, coral red and green dials in a variety of the Oyster Perpetual’s five case sizes, and while Rolex is no stranger to bright colours (remember the Rainbow Daytona from 2018?) this is one of the brand’s most tasteful ventures across the spectrum.