From the new Rolex GMT-Master II to the updated Deep Sea and a very unusual Rolex Daytona, James Dowling runs the rule over the key releases from Rolex for 2018
By James Dowling
Glance at a calendar and it is 2018; but as far as Rolex are concerned, this year is the year 3235, as the new movements are introduced across all the models. The most eagerly awaited is the new steel GMT-Master II with red/blue ceramic bezel and new style Jubilee bracelet.
Fitted with the new 3285 movement which has the Rolex designed Chronergy escapement, increased power reserve; models with this new movement are indicated by the presence of a tiny Rolex coronet in between the words ‘Swiss’ and ‘Made’ at the very bottom of the dial. Also new this year is a dark blue dial on the white gold version of the GMT Master II, and as this is still fitted with the 3185 movement, it lacks the tiny coronet; but the new Red Gold version (Whoops, sorry, we must call it Everose now) does have the new movement, as does the two tone Everose and steel version. Which I predict will be a very big seller.
All of the precious metal GMT Masters come on the Oyster bracelet, whilst the steel version is fitted with the new Jubilee bracelet, and because the position of the spring bar holes is different, it is impossible to fit the current version of the Oyster bracelet, but, as the new Jubilee has both the Easylink expansion adjustment and an oysterlock security clasp.
Closer examination of the GMT case shows that the polishing finish on both the top of the lugs and on the side of the case has changed, it is now softer and the definition between the two is much less harsh. The changes that I have described are all gradual, evolutionary changes, and that is what makes Rolex such a ‘Marmite’ brand: you either love it or hate it. You either seek radical or gradual change; if you are in the former group you will hate Rolex, if in the latter you will be a fan.
Also evolutionary is the new Deep Sea, the watch head itself remains pretty much perfect and so is unchanged other than the lugs are now 2mm further apart in order to accept the new bracelet which is wider and more sturdy throughout its length & so is the clasp itself which now feels capable of controlling the biggest watch in the Rolex catalogue.
None of the other sport watches (or Professional as Rolex insist we call them) are changed in any major ways; the Explorer (both 1 and II, the Milgauss the Sea Dweller and the Submariner remain unchanged.
One of my favourite watches from Rolex this year is simply a new dial on another unchanged watch, on the white gold Day Date there is now a silver meteorite dial with baguette diamonds which looks remarkably restrained for a watch made from such precious materials.
The big introduction this year, apart from the GMT Master-II models, is one that is certain to go completely unnoticed by everyone who owns one is the new 2236 ladies movement in the 31mm models; the 31mm size is what we used to call the mid size and was always assumed to be aimed at Asian males and ladies with more generous proportions, however things have changed massively and this has become pretty much the standard size for ladies Rolex Oysters nowadays.
The new 2236 movement includes all of the features of the gents’ 3235 movement. The Chronergy escapement uses a much lightened escape wheel and pallet fork which are no longer machined from solid, but rather built up molecule by molecule, as they are much lighter they need less energy to operate and along with a lengthened mainspring, which in turn is made possible be shrinking the wall thickness of the mainspring barrel.
The only difference between the 3235 and the new ladies 2236 is the smaller size of the movement restricts the possible size of the mainspring barrel and therefore “only” a 55 hour power reserve is available compared to 70; hardly a weak point for such a watch.
These 31mm ladies watches also have a stunning new dial option, it is mother of pearl which is diamond paved with 262 diamonds in its upper half arranged in the form of butterflies rising as if to fly away, if proof were needed, this dial shows that the 31mm is no longer aimed at Asian males.
I mentioned earlier that the reset of the Sport models are essentially unchanged, that’s not exactly true, there is one new Daytona model, it is the ‘Rainbow’ model, in solid Everose gold with a variety of differently coloured sapphires.
Eleven baguette shaped sapphires replace the conventional hour markers while 56 white diamonds are set into the lugs and the crown shoulders and even the three register dials look like a meteorite effect which is produced by crystalising pink gold. If the new GMT Master shows Rolex evolution at its most subtle, the new Rainbow Daytona shows what Rolex is capable of when the restraints are removed.