For 2016, Rolex released new versions of the Daytona, Air King, Datejust and Explorer, among much else. We asked collector, historian and Rolex expert James Dowling for his view on each new Rolex Oyster watch from Baselworld 2016
Change at Rolex has always been gradual (the unkind might choose the word “glacial”) but last year was suddenly full of surprises and it seemed as if Rolex was going radical, with the new YachtMaster, a new Day Date and a new lady’s President, both with new movements.
I say this because more of the interesting new stuff is at the more affordable end of the market, meaning it will appeal to more clients and earn more money for the firm. Pride of place has to go to the new ceramic bezel Daytona, with either white or black dials.
Coming back from a break is the Air King, although it is no longer the least expensive watch in the Oyster range, a position it conceded to the Oyster Perpetual 39mm, introduced last year. The Air King assumes a new role as the entry level sports watch and features a dial with features I both love and hate: I admire the firm’s new found daring in printing three colours on the dial; the yellow/gold coronet really pops on the dial and is a nice contrast to the green model name.
What will help legibility at all times will be the new hands, which are now longer and reach the minute marks for the first time. This was a long time complaint ever since the introduction of the larger-cased Explorer and I am sure it will silence those critics.
The Air King arrives on the scene at a price of £4,150, whilst the Explorer costs £150 more, most of that cost being in the Oysterlock bracelet, whilst the Air King makes do with a conventional Oyster one. Both do feature the easy link adjustment.
Last year’s Day Date introduction featured the new 3255 movement with much increased accuracy, and its date-only relative the 3235 makes its first appearance in the new two-tone Datejust, which will no longer be known as the Datejust II but as the Datejust 41mm.
The movement is the big change but obsessive fans will notice the bezel which (like the Day-Date) now has much closer flutes on the bezel (there are 76 now, up from 70) and new FlushFit end pieces which make the connection between the bracelet and the watch head much cleaner. See what i meant about gradual change?
Also gradual, but certainly welcome, is a new version of the Yacht-Master, not the radical Everose/Ceramic/Rubber version from last year, but a new iteration of the current model, with a smoke grey dial and light blue accents. It genuinely looks gorgeous, while the steel and pink gold version with a new chocolate coloured dial isn’t bad, either.
However, my favourite in the ladies’ introductions this year has to be the new pink gold versions of the Pearlmaster in the 39mm size. I have always thought that this was the nicest bracelet that Rolex makes, and I have often wondered why it is not on other models.
I have talked about new movements in several of the newly introduced models and a welcome benefit of all these new movements and associated improvements in manufacturing tolerances is that now Rolex will guarantee all their watches to +/- 2 seconds a day; meaning that they now have the best guaranteed accuracy of any mechanical watch brand.
Baselworld got underway in earnest on St. Patrick’s Day, and it was fitting that Rolex chose to use it to launch three watches with green dials, both a white gold and an Everose version of the Day-Date as well as a yellow gold Daytona (as seen at the top of this post); but my favourite introduction was none of those.
Rather it was the white gold version of the Daytona with a stunning blue anodised dial. Of course being the picky sort of individual that I am, I want it with a blue ceramic bezel.