The Rolex Sky-Dweller was released in 2012 as the brand's first totally new watch collection in over 10 years. Naturally, at the time of the release this was major news, and not only because it was a completely new reference from the brand. It was was also a watch that included a new movement with a new complication for Rolex - an annual calendar and GMT - and it remains Rolex's most complicated watch. New for Baselworld 2017 is a refreshed model in gold and steel with some tweaks to make the dial sleeker. These new "Rolesor" models are also less than half the cost of the previous versions, which will open the line up to a whole new market.
Initially only available in gold with prices between CHF 35,000 and CHF 45,000, these new gold and steel Rolex Sky-Dweller models are way less, ranging between CHF13,700 to CHF16,300 which basically fills in the market between the Datejust and the President (while being less aggressive and sporty than the Yacht-Master watch). It's a Rolex that isn't as ubiquitous as the Datejust 41 for not an absurd amount of money more (the steel and gold Datejust 41 costs $12,700).
At 42mm wide, it's one of the bigger Rolex watches out there and that alone likely presents a lot of appeal to people who prefer a bigger case - and it has a 100m of water resistance to boot. With the fluted bezel, it looks unmistakably Rolex, which is also an important factor in many people's Rolex purchase decisions.
The first generation Rolex Sky-Dweller's restrictive price and the fact that it only came on a leather strap kept the watch from breaking through to a wider market segment, but I wouldn't be surprised if you start to see a lot more of them now. They look great in person, and the use of indices rather than Roman or Arabic numerals make the dial look a lot sleeker and less disorienting (than a ring of numbers around the off-center 24-hour disc). I think comparing the two images above helps illustrate the more casual and less, let's say, "formal" look and feeling of these new pieces, further aided by the bracelet option.
I think it makes sense to discuss the Rolex Sky-Dweller a bit more since it isn't a piece most people are really too familiar with. When it was released in 2012, the Rolex Sky-Dweller came as a bit of a shock to the watch world, since Rolex tends to be very conservative and primarily introduces new watches only with minor variations or small updates. With the new model and movement Rolex had made available for the first time, an annual calendar and second time zone watch was notably innovative for two big reasons.
First, to show the month of the year, Rolex added a small aperture to the conveniently existent 12 indices used to show the hour in most watches. So, to show the month of March, a small aperture on the outside of the 3 o'clock index is colored to contrast with the dial's color. It's a very intuitive way to read the month and a clever way of displaying it without adding clutter. The red color used to display the month is echoed in the triangle that indicates the GMT time, and it looks good in a different way with each of the dial colors: blue, white, black, and champagne on these new "Rolesor" Rolex Sky-Dweller watches.
The other aspect of the Rolex Sky-Dweller which is innovative is the patented Rolex Ring Command innovation that makes use of the bezel as a sort of multi-switch to allow only the crown to be used in order to change the time and the date. By turning the Rolex Sky-Dweller fluted bezel a quarter turn left until it clicks, the crown can now be used to quickly change the hour both forward and backward.
Turn it one more quarter turn and now you can change the minutes hand, hacking the seconds hand. Turn it once more, and now the crown can be used to quickly cycle the date forward and backward, which will also move the month indicator as the date passes 30 or 31, depending on the current month. So if the indicator is showing March, passing the 31st day, the month indicator moves to the 4 o'clock index indicating April. Providing all these functions in the annual calendar/GMT Rolex Sky-Dweller watch is the Rolex caliber 9001 which has a 3-day power reserve.
As we mentioned, with the stainless steel and gold Rolesor versions, Rolex is essentially offering a much more affordable version of its most complicated watch (and one of its most expensive). I think it's easy to see it as the answer to the question nobody asked, but that's a little cynical in my point of view, as I really think there are buyers looking for something more upmarket & with more character than the Datejust. Rolex released six new models of the Rolesor Rolex Sky-Dweller, reference 326934, with white gold and either blue, white, or black dials priced at CHF 13,700. The version with yellow gold reference 326933 goes for a bit more at a price of CHF 16,300 and offers also three dial variations: champagne, white, or black.
Either way you go these will make for a solid travel companion or everyday business watch with the Rolex unique fluted bezel look, in a modern-sized 42mm case, and with a complicated in-house Rolex movement. rolex.com