Launched over a decade ago, the Sky-Dweller is a fascinating, albeit compromised Rolex watch worthy of attention. In typical Rolex style, the Rolex Sky-Dweller watches updated for 2023 carry over just about everything that has made the collection great while introducing minute and not-so-minute improvements and modifications.

As a start, here are a few points to remember about this steadily expanding watch collection. The Sky-Dweller is the most complicated Rolex watch in production today, thanks to its combination of an annual calendar complication with instantaneous displays that jump at midnight, two time zones, and a Ring Command system that enables the rotating bezel to act as a crown function selector. The Sky-Dweller is also among the biggest, widest, thickest, and heaviest Rolex watches ever made, and we have sampled all three of its new-for-2023 model variations: The White Rolesor version with Oystersteel case, bracelet, and 18k white gold bezel; the “baller” all-gold-everything 18k Everose variant; and the solid 18k white gold piece matched to a lightweight, “high-performance” Oysterflex bracelet. Let us discover which combination of materials best suits this “elegant and trusted companion for world travelers,” as Rolex puts it.

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For almost 80 years, since the first all-gold Datejust debuted in 1945, it has been difficult to overstate the presence of an all-gold Rolex watch. Over that time the Day-Date, Submariner, and, much more recently, the Yacht-Master II have perpetuated a legacy of “holier than thou” wrist-bling through ever larger and bolder cases, bracelets, and dials. The Sky-Dweller doubled down on this when it debuted in 2012 in nothing else but solid gold, or be it exclusively with leather straps. Measuring 42mm wide, and 13.8mm thick, the Sky-Dweller is one of the largest Rolex watches, and also a medium-large watch in the greater scheme of things that wears larger than that 42mm figure would suggest. Notably, this effect is further emphasized by the turning of the large watch trend, which is to say that despite its elegant and un-sporty design, the Sky-Dweller is not a discreet watch by any stretch of the imagination, and especially not in yellow or 18k Everose gold.

If you want a solid 18k gold bracelet on your Sky-Dweller, as it stands, you have limited options as only the Oyster three-piece link style is available (the five-piece link Jubilee only comes in steel on the Sky-Dweller) and you can only have 18k Everose gold or 18k yellow gold as there is no Oyster bracelet in white gold or platinum. This is odd because the GMT-Master II does come with an 18k yellow gold Jubilee, and the Sky-Dweller is available on an Oystersteel Jubilee, so it might be a matter of time before a gold Jubilee bracelet option joins the Sky-Dweller collection. This is important because, with the wide, flat(-ish) links of the Oyster bracelet, the gold Sky-Dweller is an absolute beast of a watch that is as heavy on the wrist as it is on the eyes.

Introducing changes that can be measured in fractions of a millimeter is this new-for-2023 model you see above, called Rolex Sky-Dweller reference 336935. Until now, there used to be a difference in the lug width measurement of various Sky-Dweller watches, as the first gold models on an Oyster bracelet had a 21mm lug width, while those sold on a leather strap had a 22mm opening. The larger width was taken over by the Rolesor (two-tone) versions in 2017, and it is now, in 2023, that the yellow gold and Everose gold Oyster bracelet-equipped versions adopt this wider, 22mm lug design.

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In parallel with this move, the center links of the gold Oyster bracelets of the Sky-Dweller watches have 0.5mm wider center links. Such a move makes the watch head optically smaller, which is not a bad thing given the high volume of the Sky-Dweller. The lug-to-lug measurement has been increased by 0.3mm, hinting at a slightly redesigned lug and case profile. Also new here is the dial Rolex refers to as “Blue-Green,” not to be confused with the Bright Blue dial on the Oystersteel-cased reference 336934 that actually costs a bit less than a third(!) of this all-gold model.

Also new is the Sky-Dweller reference 336934, a watch in White Rolesor, which is Rolex-speak for a watch that uses Oystersteel for most all of its exterior and 18k white gold for certain parts such as the bezel, center links, and crown — but it is just the bezel that is in 18k gold when it comes to the Sky-Dweller. Nuanced changes here include the aforementioned 0.3mm added to the lug-to-lug which aligns with what we saw with the 2023 redesign of the Rolex Daytona, where the steel version adopted longer lugs (to its detriment, we thought). Difficult to spot, but also new is a thinner seconds hand — which is as minute an alteration as they get, again, in typical Rolex fashion — and the fluted edge of the crown also appears to be thinner, symbolizing Rolex’s quiet efforts to make the Sky-Dweller a bit more gracious.

If you can’t live without a Sky-Dweller in 18k white gold, you can only have it on an Oysterflex “high-performance elastomer” strap. There is no solid 18k white gold bracelet available, so as to better optically differentiate white gold from White Rolesor. Oysterflex-equipped Rolex watches could often be ranked among the weaker value propositions from Rolex today, as they are just $8,000 less expensive than those on a solid gold bracelet, which is not much of a premium to pay for a full-gold Rolex compared to one on a strap — but hey, kudos to Hublot for establishing such a strong market for rubber strap-equipped solid gold watches.

A closer look at the dial reveals a telling little detail: The Rolex crown is now present at 6 o’clock (twice, in favor of symmetry) which on a Rolex watch means that a new-generation movement has been installed in the watch. In 2023, the Sky-Dweller debuts the 9002 caliber, a development on the 9001 that has powered it for over a decade. Modifications include the incorporation of the nickel-phosphorus Chronergy escapement into its design, which is a high-efficiency, Rolex-developed escapement that has played a significant role in bringing some of its two-day power reserve watches up to three days. Strangely, the Sky-Dweller sticks with the three-day autonomy that it has had since 2012, and so it is the stronger anti-magnetic properties and the greater efficiency of the escapement (and hence yet greater accuracy over a depleting power reserve) that owners might take advantage of.

In conclusion, the Sky-Dweller quickly (by Rolex standards) grew into a versatile collection not just in terms of design and choice of materials, but also in terms of value proposition. The Rolex Sky-Dweller in White Rolesor (Ref. 336934) is priced at $15,650 USD and it is a ton (almost literally) of watch for that money. Presenting an annual calendar with a peripheral layout for the month and the added horological flex of instantaneous displays together with a second time zone, the addictively tactile Ring Command system, a 72-hour, 4 Hertz, remarkably accurate movement, and Rolex build quality, is an extremely strong proposition for just under $16,000. The Rolex Sky-Dweller wrapped fully in 18k Everose gold (Ref. 336935) is priced at $50,900 USD, demanding the stratospheric (and ever-growing, still) premium that an all-gold Rolex tends to have, but in return delivering the power-factor anyone who buys a colored gold Rolex is after. Last, the Rolex Sky-Dweller in white gold on an Oysterflex strap (Ref. 336239) is $42,700 USD representing the worst value-for-money here, which isn’t shocking from products designed to cater to those who want the latest trending luxury product — which the 18k gold Rolex (or Patek Philippe, for that matter) on a rubber strap definitely is. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

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