The final trick of the 9001 movement is how the information on the dial is adjusted. Rolex doesn’t simply use the crown for everything. Similar to how the Yacht-Master II watch works, Sky-Dweller owners need to use the rotating bezel in order to put the watch in the right setting mode, and then use the crown in order to adjust that specific information. Nothing about the design of the watch tells you this. That means unless you know in advance how to use this watch, giving it to someone (even if they know watches) without additional information is like a sick joke, since they will have no idea how to adjust the time, GMT, or date. Novice unfriendliness aside (and that isn’t a big deal), the “hidden” adjustment system is all part of Rolex’s goal to make sure the Sky-Dweller has a lot of features that don’t unduly take away from the watch’s aesthetic glory.
The bezel system turns and settles into place with a firm click. Note that you can adjust the calendar information forward or backward, which is nice. The system works well and once again shows Rolex engineering at its best. The caliber 9001 movement operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with a power reserve of 72 hours. Like other Rolex movements, the 9001 is “Superlative Chronometer” rated by Rolex, which among other things implies very good accuracy of about 2 seconds per day.
Probably the most avant-garde of the Sky-Dweller models is one of the early ones that came on a leather strap with one of the funkier dials. Those watches have aged well but I still think are not as refined as these cleaner dials with the lume-painted hour markers and hands. All of the models have semi-skeletonized hands, which I’m not a massive fan of, but they don’t really bother me either. I’m just not that personally into skeletonized hands – although I do make some exceptions. Rolex cut-out part of the Sky-Dweller’s hands in order to assist with visibility of the GMT disc. I will say that while the dial design of the Sky-Dweller didn’t appeal to me at first (certainly not very much in 2012), the Sky-Dweller really grew on me.
It goes that way with a lot of watches I end up liking and is a common theme with the Rolex brand. By that I mean a degree of ambivalence to their designs at first, which can (but doesn’t always) result in respect and then real appreciation. Rolex takes their time with design and while not all their decisions are perfect, the brand is known for refining their products and correcting mistakes if they are made. With the new dials and more accessible price points, I sort of consider the Sky-Dweller to be in “phase 2” of its life cycle. The watch has been released, early adopters looking for the latest, biggest, and most novel Rolex had their time with the Sky-Dweller, and now the Sky-Dweller is set to become a bit more “mainstream” in its appeal and ability to be affordable. No, this isn’t a cheap watch, but more so than ever Rolex is proving that they can make something that no one else does at a price that appears “reasonable” within the context of luxury watches.
A really good question is “who should get a Sky-Dweller?” when there are a lot of other Rolex watches available that arguably have a similar look. Is it just about the added functionality? In a way, yes. If you are bored of what Rolex has been offering either because you’ve already owned it or because someone in your life has already had one, then the Sky-Dweller is a great place to start. With that said, Rolex hasn’t done much to explain the Sky-Dweller to consumers nor has it created a distinctive marketing personality around it. It feels as though Rolex released the product, wants to let it “burn in” to culture, and only then will they decide how to position the watch from a marketing perspective. That’s Rolex for you – understanding that watch marketing is a long-term game.
Budget willing I’d recommend the Rolex Sky-Dweller without reservation. That is especially true if you like the 42mm wide size. Mind you that with the Oyster case’s wide lugs the Sky-Dweller wears on the larger side. So while it is 42mm wide, I would say that it wears a lot like a 44mm case. Put one on and you’ll see what I mean. Dial colors and material choices are a matter of personal taste – but I will say that the all-steel with 18k white gold bezel version is likely to be the most difficult to find given that it is the most affordable. I’m a fan of two-tone watches, so this reference 326933 Rolesor version of the Sky-Dweller suits me. Everything from the high-quality bracelet to the 100m water-resistant Oyster case are things Rolex fans will know and love from other models, and for the Sky-Dweller Rolex simply scaled them to size.
People who formed an opinion about the Sky-Dweller a few years ago might want to take a new look at the collection if their last impression wasn’t stellar, given either the price or the dial design. Perhaps it was simply too new for conservative watch lovers to form an opinion. Now with a few years in the market and its refined dial design, I think more people are ready for the really impressive caliber 9001 movement and the grand wrist presence the Rolex Sky-Dweller offers. Price for this Sky-Dweller Rolesor reference 326933 is $17,150 USD. rolex.com
>Model: Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller (reference 326933 with champagne dial as tested)
>Price: $17,150 USD
>Size: 42mm wide
>When reviewer would personally wear it: It makes for an excellent daily wear if you like the size, which I do. It is best for when you want to impress “watch guys” that normally don’t think twice about a new Rolex but are compelled by the cool movement in the Sky-Dweller.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: World traveler who wants a beefy Rolex that has some complications his father’s Rolex never had.
>Best characteristic of watch: Rolex did and excellent job with the caliber 9001 movement and the complication adjustment via the bezel system. 42mm wide case for the classic Oyster look has been in demand by many people. Steel or Rolesor versions of the Sky-Dweller are remarkably more affordable than the all-gold models.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Despite this being a newer Rolex watch with a distinct product name, it still feels about 80% familiar and like other watches from the brand. Though you could say that about many Rolex products. Dial design is better and very functional, but still not to everyone’s taste. Larger-size case is also not to everyone’s taste (but then again some people love it). The all-gold models are very expensive.