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Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ Or ‘Rorschach Test’ Diamond Set Watch

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

No-holds-barred, creatively designed watches are the true limited editions of today’s biggest watch brands. Seeing 2018’s Rolex Daytona Rainbow almost triple in value, from its $90,000 retail well into the $200,000 range is just one of many fitting examples. On this occasion, we are going hands-on with the latest iteration of outlandish, factory diamond-set Rolex Daytona watches with the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR, nicknamed “Eye Of The Tiger Daytona” or, as I like to call it, the “Rorschach Test Daytona” after the unique gem-set pattern of its dial.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

A Long Track-Record Of Outlandish Rolex Watches

Rolex has one of the longest track records of consistently, if not frequently, making outlandish and creatively designed watches. I strongly believe this track record comes not simply from a “because we can” but rather a “because we have to” approach.  That is something important to think about, not merely for us watch enthusiasts (and the Rolex fans among us), but also for Rolex’s rivals.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

All too often, I see how convenient it is to look at high-end watchmaking as the proving grounds for technical refinement, engineering capability, and manufacturing complexity in isolation. Creative watch design, by contrast, often has a take-it-or-leave-it element, whose presence is considered almost insignificant if there is enough technical grandness (infused with loud or condescending marketing) to direct attention away from the staleness that results from the lack of a creative presentation.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

That said, I truly believe that the extent to which a brand is creatively/aesthetically exciting matters to every one of us watch-lovers — we just don’t talk about it as much as we do about pricing, watch movement performance, or the controversies around design elements. A brand’s ability to occasionally take itself less seriously is a rare and important treat. If a brand isn’t relevant in its design, it will soon grow irrelevant in other ways, as well.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Brief Side-note On Halo Watches

We must stick to the point of discussing this new Daytona and not go off-topic too much, but what is a thought-provoker if not such a watch from Rolex? It makes me think of other brands I really appreciate and have owned previously: IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Two mighty-awesome brands with fancy factories, rich histories, and more established watch collections than one could shake a stick at… and just look at how much less time we have recently spent speaking about these two.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

They, and other established brands like Blancpain and Breguet, enjoy less time in the limelight than they used to just a few years ago. And while they can survive on luxury conglomerate money and by selling bucketloads of basic Reversos, vintage-inspired “novelties,” and the rest, wouldn’t you agree that there used to be so much more buzz when we had fascinating Master Compressors, crazy Extreme LABs, high-tech Ingenieurs and the like? Sure, we might have ended up buying base Reversos and classic IWC Pilots just the same, but we had contemporary watch stuff attracting us to these brands and not just ambassadors, partnerships, and the products that exclusively lived in the past. Halo products have right to exist — all I’m saying is that they should not be limited to technical excellence, but concern modern aesthetics, too.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Sure, it could be said that Rolex gets by selling bucketloads of, well, almost everything, and this gives them plenty of leeway to experiment. But how many major brands can you name that systematically go out on a limb with loud new interpretations on their bestselling designs and collections? There may be the occasional outrageous watch from others, but it’s exceedingly rare that it’s done with any bestselling collections. Whether or not the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger” is liked and appreciated is down to a matter of personal taste — but a braver approach of major brands to debut borderline shocking designs is something I reckon would do all of us good.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Details And Specifications Of The Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger”

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these offbeat Rolex watches lies in Rolex’s agility in dancing around addressing or specifying literally anything about their actual theme, inspiration, design, or execution. In the watch’s 14-page official presentation, Rolex dedicates two entire pages to saying: “The Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona was born to race, and is the benchmark for those with a passion for driving and speed.Like anyone cares!

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

To its credit, Rolex does refer to this version as “mysterious and sparkling” — a description hard to argue against. These two words are right where the presentation ends though, as they are followed by a very dry description of the bezel with its 36 trapeze-cut diamonds, and the paved black lacquer dial where “champagne-colour chronograph counters are intertwined with black lacquer and diamonds.” The rest of the entire document is Rolex describing its impressive features, such as the Manufacture Rolex Caliber 4130, the Oyster case, the Oysterflex bracelet in the exact same way as it does with all other watches.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

So, why does the dial look like the eye of a tiger, then? Or a lacquer-diamond tribute to inkblots of Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach? Not a single word on these from Rolex; we are left to our own imagination. As for the core specs, the case is the olden but golden 40mm-wide Oyster Cosmograph Daytona case, fitted with a non-removable lug-structure that allows no three-link solid gold Oyster bracelet to ever be fitted.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

In its place, we find the Oysterflex elastomer strap that has a flexible metal blade integrated into its structure. Inside the solid 18-karat gold case is the Rolex Manufacture Caliber 4130, exactly the same movement you would find in each and every other currently produced Cosmograph Daytona. The Cerachrom ceramic bezel has been replaced with 34 trapeze-cut diamonds, all invisibly set, stacked closely next to each other — experts refer to invisible setting as the most challenging setting technique in watchmaking, as the preparation of the slot, as well as the cut, has to be exactly right throughout.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

I understand that, in today’s PC world, it’s probably best not to say anything — and if the Swiss watchmaking culture is absolutely world-class in something, it is “choosing not to comment” on anything. It’s often referred to as discretion — I’d rather call it secrecy verging on condescension. 2018’s rainbow model, and all other Daytona and Day-Date rainbows we have seen, are rather self-explanatory. Everyone knows what a rainbow is, and their recreation in colorful, semi-precious stones paints a likeable and neat picture. But this? The 116588TBR? You either get it/love it at first sight, or you probably never will, and Rolex appears not to make an effort to tip you over — save for its beautiful photography.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Okay, so what have learned from Rolex about one of Rolex’s most bizarre creations? Nothing. Better still, the watch is not to be found anywhere on Rolex.com — it is, however, present on the official press site, and it was on show at BaselWorld 2019. The wackiest, boldest, craziest, blingest Rolex watches that are made today will never ever make it to any of those websites, nor the public or media-reserved product viewings of the brand at BaselWorld. We do occasionally get our hands on one or two though.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Conclusion

Irrespective of whether you, I, or anyone else likes the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR, it is, objectively, one heck of a watch both in its execution — there’s a reason why you don’t see invisibly set baguette- or trapeze-cut diamond bezels that often — and in its daring looks. To get back to the original point, I’ll end on the following note. Rolex is considered to stand above others by so many for a vast variety of reasons, from reliability and engineering through history, design, and marketing. But there are other elements as well, a certain air of carefully engineered mysteriousness — which admittedly might irk those of us who want to know and understand it all, but it sure as hell attracts countless others. Having halo products like this that open up a new dimension of the brand, add a depth to Rolex that many of its competitors are yet to dare to create. It is easy to dismiss Rolex as a privileged brand that has the world at its feet — but, again, if what Rolex does was easy, those aforementioned brands would certainly be doing it as well.

Hands-On: Rolex Daytona 116588TBR 'Eye Of The Tiger' Or 'Rorschach Test' Diamond Set Watch Hands-On

Does the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger” rank among the best bonkers Rolex executions? I think not, for its lack of coherence in its design and message — but I am thrilled to see Rolex designing and producing such watches on a more frequent basis. The price for the Rolex Daytona 116588TBR “Eye Of The Tiger” is CHF 98,300 and you can scout Rolex.com for other outlandish Rolex watches.

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  • What fresh hell is this?

    In Australia we have an expression…

    Yeah nah

  • Ulysses31

    This isn’t nearly as bad as the overly-orange animal printed monstrosity in the first image. The precious stones on the dial are of a fine enough texture than they actually form some sort of pattern without being too loud. The “Rorschach” pattern itself is quite intriguing. I like that the gold tone is more subtle, and the silvery sheen of the diamonds makes for a nice combination. The strap, however, looks like some cheap generic junk. It would’ve been better with a bracelet, and those “links” in between the lugs just don’t look right. The clasp, as with many Rolex models i’ve seen, continues to look cheap, as does the plain caseback, but I doubt either of those Rolex signature details will change any time soon. One thing you can’t accuse this watch of being, is boring.

    • Berndt Norten

      Wait for Raymond’s comment

  • Leonarr

    Why can’t Rolex just make a nice new product? We either get the same old stuff made for middle-aged dudes hanging out at the golf club or then these ridiculous abominations only a rapper, oil sheik or a Russian oligarch would wear! Oh wait, I think I just covered 90% of Rolex’s customers here.

    • Independent_George

      1.) Why? All they need to do is slap a non-black colorway on a Submariner, and, voila, three-year waiting list!
      2.) Watch nerds don’t like new products. It can take years for a new design to seep through the stonewall of watch-nerd conservatism, and watch brands are no longer allowed the time it can take for a “nice new product” to reach mass appeal. It took, what, two decades, at least, for the Royal Oak and the Nautilus to register outside of a small set of collectors. Swatch and Richemont brands have to answer to corporate boards and shareholders and ADs complaining of watches that don’t leave the display cases. Breitling has Private Equity expecting certain sales growth goals. And Rolex has to listen to the Wilsdorf Trust beneficiaries. Twenty-first century capitalism isn’t patient, and social media just amplifies the “it’s new and I hate it” voices. A “nice new product” that isn’t an immediate hit can result in a lot of people losing their jobs.

    • Gokart Mozart

      I have been waiting for 25 years for Rolex, to come up with a new product and the closest they have got in that time is an annual calendat and a ceramic bezel.

    • cluedog12

      There are plenty of other brands filling those niches.

      If you’re afraid of losing your shirt on watches outside the Rolex/Patek bubble, buy secondhand and don’t be afraid to drive a hard bargain.

      You can’t force people to try new things with you. Sometimes you have to go at it alone and revel in the discomfort and growth.

  • Marius

    A marvellous bit of craftsmanship of course and not as horrible as most of the things the poor Rolex gem chaps have to do. But still, it is pretty awful.

  • There’s bling and there’s bling. This is the latter. Gentleman of the music industry, your watch has arrived !

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I need more diamonds gawd dam it !

    • Playboy Johnny – Team Mariu$

      I agree ! : )

  • SuperStrapper

    I’m all for supporting contemporary aesthetics as a driver for watch releases but I’d prefer not to do it on the backbone of a watch this trashy.
    And therein lies the problem, aesthetics are too subjective. Which I guess isn’t really a problem but it certainly won’t serve to do any unifying of watch lovers or associated culture: just because i think this looks trashy doesn’t mean there isn’t a bus load of others willing to wait in line to overpay for one. And even though both of us are right it won’t be long before people are using their keyboard to say ANGEREY things.

  • Richard Webley

    My wife is a gem setter so I appreciate how much of an art setting gems is. I can see how much precision and effort went into producing the piece.

    However I don’t like it. I also think the argument the article makes for this being a high end or experimental watch is flawed.

    We liked the other high end stuff because it was mechanically fascinating. It was a JLC gyro-tourbillon with Westminster chimes, Or Bulgari with a gmt and a chronograph at 6.9mm thick, or a Zenith Defy where the Chronograph ran at 50hz!

    Exciting, groundbreaking advances in horology that all happened in 2019.

    This is just a Gold Daytona, encrusted with Gems with an interesting face.

    Come on Rolex! Try harder!

  • TheChuphta

    Is it possible to simply say that Rolex has made a gaudy, cheesy watch? Why does everything this brand does have to be examined as if it’s some newly discovered work of Shakespeare that must be interpreted through the lens of genius?

  • Independent_George

    I like this. I couldn’t wear it, if I could afford it, because I would look like a sad and thirsty middle-aged man. But some people can, like Mr. Steven Tyler, pictured above. He could wear this watch. He could wear it with aplomb.

    • NaJo

      Agree that for those who can wear its an excellent watch and that its not for everyone

  • DanW94

    What is this, “Old rockers and their watches” week? Maybe a piece on the Kiss drummer next, I think he’s a watch guy.

  • Lingua Franca

    Yes! If only I could remember which motel…

  • Dan Baxter

    I realize it may be a fantastically well-made watch, but by all that is holy, that is an ugly timepiece.

  • Pete L

    I actually think this is kind of cool and fine to wear if you are Steven Tyler or Taylor Swift but I am not so I wouldnt.
    As for the quote “consistently, if not frequently, making outlandish and creatively designed watches” I think that is about as far from Rolex as you can get. If you mean sprinkling tinsel and a flash paint job as creative design then fine but other brands make small run jewelled or precious specials, often as a forerunner of general sale models with a brand new innovative movement or complication.
    Such a shame Rolex are so risk averse. Particularly when they have the market by the scruff of the neck enough to control output in the way they do. I guess if you have people fighting over a simple green dial variant of your entry level sport watch then you can do what you like. Shame so many are falling for it.

  • NaJo

    Whether avg watch collectors can wear it or not and being too blingy is a question but it is definitely an awesome timepiece for those who has the personality and money to take on this gem. For e.g. a seiko collector calling it ugly or not my taste is laughable!

  • David Bredan

    It’s fun to read how many interpretations of the same one brand exist among us watch lovers. For some, Rolex isn’t doing enough — for others, Rolex is doing too much. I think we can all agree that a steady (admittedly slow) pace for core collections and fast pace for creativity (whatever that means) reserved for those who buy watches not for a lifetime (like we do a Submariner) but for a passing fancy is a good balance. It’s fun for me to read the great diversity of opinion and feedback on this watch and what Rolex is doing — and to answer a question, that is precisely the reason why a more detailed analysis on watches like this, I think, is due. Thanks to everyone who chimed in in a meaningful way.

    • Independent_George

      Well, you did call this the “Rorschach” watch. I think the reactions say as much about the collector — neither good nor bad but, hopefully, enlightening — as they do about Rolex and the watch itself.

      • David Bredan

        I’m not sure what that reaction says to you or others. To me, it said that it moved my imagination and reminded me of something very different (but no less interesting or cool) from watchmaking. I like every watch that has that effect, even if I wouldn’t want to wear or own said watch — for the record, I would love to wear this Rolex, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. And once people saw it in the metal, I think more of my fellow watch lovers would take this watch to wear, just for the heck of it. Because it’s entertaining, while so many other watches are not. And once you have seen enough watches (online or in the metal or both), you will want entertainment — and, strangely, literally every single other luxury industry is about that, but watches aren’t, because people with conservative tastes think they are (or they need to be) the loudest.

    • David, as a senior journalist who covered Baselworld 2019, don’t you think there is a sense of gradual indifference and detachment towards their novelties,they are officially just a pure luxury brand now, gone are good old days of the humble SS model.

      Even if I could afford another Rolex, I’m expected to cough out double the retail price.Sure I’ve tried on a couple of TT Rolex watches before, but I felt uncomfortable and superconscious of my surroundings. Are you honestly looking forward to and super-excited to discover what Rolex Baselworld 2020 has to offer or has the magic gone?

      • David Bredan

        Those are some excellent and valid questions. The answer, I think, is that for some, yes, there is some detachment. But when the gates open at noon at BaselWorld, everyone queued up, every damn year, rushes to the Rolex windows — and only there. Everything else (including Patek, etc.) come only after. And it’s the same every year: people line up, the gates open, and everyone rushes to Rolex. I can’t see the entire world, but I do see how professionals and on public days the larger public reacts and where they migrate to — and Rolex is always the hub.
        I disagree with the humility of the SS model. It’s a stupendously expensive stainless steel toy, that has been very highly engineered.
        Rolexes take more to get today than they did 50 years ago, but they were never cheap or easily attainable. I did quite a bit of research and wrote about Rolex price increases over time here: https://www.ablogtowatch.com/rolex-prices-past-60-years-revealing-analysis/

        Rolex is confirmed to be building new manufactures in Switzerland, so they very much are dedicated to ramping up production — but getting the new manufacturing capacities up and running takes time. But Rolex has responded and responded big time.

        I am always looking forward to seeing what Rolex has done, because it’s a company with 6,000 people, 4 facilities and an annual capacity of 800k-1mil watches — in a way, it is watchmaking ramped up to level 9’000. The responsibility in modifying any of the products is huge both from a mass appeal perspective as well as from a manufacturing/watchmaking one, and for this reason I consider Rolex to be on the edge of watchmaking at least in some ways. And knowing this makes me excited to see what they think is the best next move.

  • ray h.

    They have been making watches for pimps since the 70’s, longer then any brand I know of.

  • Jared

    perfect watch for a dictator of a diamond rich african country

  • Esteban

    The Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona just shows they truly can’t stop themselves writing their ridiculous naming scheme everywhere. Twice.

    What a sad, ugly, unimaginative watch.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bc2215b31ebc74a23473dd66eed20a2a692fb34e673c75d6aa551b0252f49413.jpg

  • WINKS

    Rolex should release matching cuff links…

  • Craig A Clark

    Haha nothing like taking an iconic watch, and making it look high class garbage. I’ve never understood the diamond set watch thing, and this really doesn’t change my personal view of it. No matter now skilled the task is of setting the stones, the finished article still looks like crap. Waste of a Daytona (which I love)

    • ??????

      I bet there is a line of petrodollars begging to buy one!!!! Rolex makes much more money selling 2-3 of these than increasing their normal production!!!!!

  • cluedog12

    A ‘Rorschach Test’ Diamond Set Watch is right on. Thank you for bringing attention to the craftsmanship of this timepiece. Still not my cup of tea, but perhaps this is my prejudice and not an issue of execution.

    What artistic watch is my cup of tea? How about Kari Voutilainen’s Starry Night watch? I would pay for a coffee table book of his artistic pieces, if anyone is looking for a great side project.

    https://fratellowatches.imgix.net/2019/11/gphg2019_starry_night_vine_yard_001.jpg

    • Gokart Mozart

      Lovely, but I prefer the KV that won at the GPHG a few years ago. I was lucky enough to see it in the metal, and looked even better.

  • Max Attack

    Good grief

  • watch_aficionado

    Well done Rolex for being so dominant that you even get away with such a watch! Chapeau

  • Harley D boy

    This looks classy and a bit of a bargain compared to that RM spaced theme watch you wrote about the other day !

  • Gokart Mozart

    A cynics point of view.

    I really don’t understand why Rolex make these watches if they are going to try to hide it from the public. What is the point of hiding or burying it in the website, as though they are embarrassed by it.

    I would suggest the real reason is that the 700k – 800k of the people who buy a Rolex for its status. Simply Rolex do not want them to know about it in case it affects there carefully marketed image.

    Before people say we’ll it is limited production, and people won’t be able to get hold of it anyway, so it does not matter its on the website, well apparently people. Ant get hold of a steel sports Rolex either. Rolex do not remove that from the website.

    Also as is Rolexs habit of not giving people what they want, they have not allowed people to add an Oyster bracelet. Talk about screwing with your customers.

    All this watch does is give nerdy people like us a gaudy Rolex to talk about, and give them column space on blogs.

    Rolex don’t care if no one one buys this because they make the money suckering a milion people into a well made industrial scale watch at a rip off price.

  • Yanko

    This watch is a diary of a pure nonsense, accumulated by Rolex’s years of design disasters; this “creation” has absolutely no volume, the way an infectious disease, or the plague has none. It is like any contagion, which spreads even it is not spatial.

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