Ahead of Watches and Wonders 2024, Rolex released a teaser video suggesting it was going to break the mold, defy convention, do the unexpected, etc. Earthshattering, dimension-twisting releases were surely in store. Never mind the brand’s track record of incremental updates and canyon-wide gaps between introductions of wholly new model lines. Rolex was saying it would be a day to remember, and they were right, but in at least one case, maybe not for the right reasons. For 2024, Rolex introduced a solid gold dive watch rated to 3900m. And never mind that you can’t wear a watch that deep without being crushed to death — this watch is about status, pure and simple. The new Rolex Deepsea 136668LB is big and dumb, and we went hands-on with it as soon as humanly possible.

Photos by David Bredan

As mentioned in our coverage of this release, the notion of a 322g, solid 18k Deepsea on a solid 18k gold bracelet is contradictory to much of what we’ve seen from Rolex in the past. Releases were always understandable, even if they were insane with rainbow gems or ornate onyx and diamond dials. There was sensible taste even in the most ostentatious Rolex. But what sensibility or taste is there to a 44m-wide, 17.7mm-thick gold watch? Wearing this is like tying a shiny cinderblock to your wrist. It is comfortable in a way perhaps only Rolex could make it, but also in a way akin to lining that same cinderblock with padded velvet. And the bright blue ceramic Cerachrom bezel shines almost as much as the gold case. Put the gold and blue together with the weight and all you can think of or pay attention to when this is on is the watch itself — not what time it is or whose yacht you’re definitely not diving from.

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A solid-gold watch is one thing, and in the past, Rolex has had the good decency to at least offer its bigger gold watches with the absurdly comfortable Oysterflex rubber strap. No such luck here, and the bracelet, while as comfortable as the Oyster always is, adds dramatic heft to the watch. The one advantage is that you don’t get that top-heavy feeling you do when a gold watch is on a rubber or leather strap — the bracelet provides a sense of balance all the way around the wrist. The one thing that always impresses in person (and subsequently on the wrist) is the Oysterlock clasp with the Glidelock toolless adjustment mechanism. It’s so precise and easy to use, and it looks much more mechanical than it is. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend more time than necessary playing with it.

If you haven’t noticed, the dial is very blue. Surrounded by the ceramic blue bezel, the matching blue dial pops off the contrasting yellow-gold case in a way that makes it almost electric. The gold text on the dial and bezel, plus the gold surrounds provide a bit of warmth to contrast the bright blue and the legibility is excellent. You’ll notice a few new things, the first of which is the omission of the Sea-Dweller moniker, which has been officially dropped from the name, and helped to declutter the dial (it’s gone from the other Deepsea models, too). The second is the Ringlock compression ring system — the raised flange around the main dial — which is now made from color-matched Cerachrom ceramic just like the bezel. It creates a far more cohesive look to the entire watch instead of having the brushed metal ring. Aside from that, it’s business as usual for the Deepsea dial, including the gold Mercedes hands and the unframed, cyclopsless date window, which I still cannot accept. Would it be so hard to just add a gold frame or even just gold trim around the window?

Interestingly, the caseback is made of RLX titanium and not more gold. Rolex didn’t explain this, but presumably, there’s some functional reason for having a titanium caseback instead of gold, which may be more susceptible to failure at the never-gonna-happen depth of 3,900m. I doubt it had anything to do with weight considerations, though it is the only part of the watch that suggests that for one sliver of a second, the designers might have paused and said, “This is heavy. Is it too heavy? Maybe we need to shave a gram or two off.” Unlike the rest of the Deepsea 136668LB, the Rolex Calibre 3235 that powers is beyond reproach. The automatic movement offers 70 hours of power reserve at 28,800 vph, features a Parachrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers, a Chronergy escapement, and is certified as a Superlative Chronometer, rated to -2/+2 seconds per day.

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The best sense I can make of this is that it counteracts the discontinuation of the Yacht-Master II, the ultimate watch for letting people know you don’t own your own boat, but you’d love to be invited onto their boat if they have one, even for a few hours, and can you bring your friend Trevor who’s visiting? In taking that away from the people, Rolex needed another absolute nonsense watch and sought to restore balance with this glistening behemoth. It may have overcorrected. The Rolex Deepsea 136668LB is priced at $52,100 USD, a full $38,000 more than the steel models and more than twice as much as the 50mm RLX titanium. For more information, please visit the Rolex website.

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