Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

Each year at the Baselworld watch and jewelry show the most anticipated news is what behemoth watch brand Rolex will release. This is a quizzical thing because what Rolex announces is often anything but revolutionary. Still the successful and closed watch brand seems to excite their loyalists with the new creations each year - often times small steps in anticipated directions. Rarely does Rolex offer something totally new - especially a new model or complication. Oddly enough - both of these things happened for 2012.

Rolex typically releases mere line extensions and small features updates (if that). Typical "exciting" announcements include new dial colors, perhaps a new strap, or something offered in a new material. The major new release for 2012 is the Rolex Sky-Dweller, an extremely rare new Rolex model, with a new movement, and with a never before seen complication for the modern brand. Say hello to an annual calendar. Rolex sure didn't invent it, but it seems revolutionary when included in one of their watches.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

The Rolex Sky-Dweller is a mixed bag for watch lovers. On the one hand it offers some true Rolex innovations. A new product family with a new movement, and features that people have been wanting from Rolex for a long time. On the other hand the dial of the Rolex Sky-Dweller is... an acquired taste to say the least. The aesthetic problem in my opinion is the large exposed asymmetric GMT disc. It just looks misplaced on a Rolex watch dial. Functional? Perhaps. Sexy and alluring? Not at all. A hand would have sufficed. Just ask any GMT Master. Plus, the hands are a bit too short and too skeletonized for the watch's own good. Lume is too sparse and the skeletonized hands might be more trouble than they are worth.

If you can get over the dial then you have a lot to love. This is not only the first Rolex watch with an annual calendar, but it also includes a centrally mounted GMT hand. All operated with the "Ring Command" bezel. That's right, the Rolex Sky-Dweller bezel is part of how you operate and adjust the watch. The crown of the watch only pulls out in one position. The fluted bezel has three positions. You turn it and based on the position you can adjust the date, local time, or reference time via the crown. It is a wonderfully elegant solution that we haven't seen before.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

The GMT hand is a disc in the middle of the dial and uses the red and white arrow as an index to tell the reference time. Other Rolex GMT models uses a hand to do this and a scale around the periphery of the watch. The system isn't super attractive, but it is highly functional. Rolex tired to make the transition from the dial to the disc as "luxurious" as possible with the polished ring. Nevertheless, you just can have that exposed dial and the Rolex aesthetic work together nicely in my opinion.

In addition to the GMT complication the Rolex Sky-Dweller has an annual calendar system that Rolex calls their SAROS annual calendar. The mechanism offers the date and month. The date is easily seen under the magnifier lens on the sapphire crystal at 3 o'clock. The month is told via darkened rectangles located outside of the hour indicator ring. On these watches you can see that "8 o'clock" is filled in black. That means the current month would be August. Only at the end of February do you need to adjust the calendar. This is the best part of the complication in my opinion. SAROS is a very cool complication, and I think it could find a happy home in the majority of calendar augmented Rolex watches offered today.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

SAROS and Ring Command together make for one of the most complicated Rolex watches movements ever. Rolex is known for making extremely high-quality, durable movements, but nevertheless simple ones. Their most complex movements thus far have only been chronographs (not even with the date). An annual calendar GMT is a great traveler's watches, and a good addition to the Rolex line-up. It also signals Rolex's willingness to experiment with new designs and more complicated movements. In about 40 years we might see a Rolex tourbillon at their current rate.

The Rolex Sky-Dweller watch name is a curious thing as I don't personally see any connection to the sky or aviation. The name aside, this watch looks like an evolved Date-Just II watch. The Rolex Sky-Dweller has the fluted bezel of most Date Just watches and a similar set of hour markers. The case and bracelet is similar as well. The watch itself will be 42mm wide and initially available only in 18k gold.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

Inside the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the new Rolex in-house made caliber 9001 automatic movement. The automatic movement has all of the above complications and a three-day power reserve. Rolex being known for their quality standards must have been testing the 9001 movement for a while. I have no doubts that the movement will be top notch for what it is.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Watch Watch Releases

42mm wide is a good size for this case. It is up from the 41mm wide Date-Just, though in person the Rolex Sky-Dweller doesn't feel all that big. To begin Rolex will offer the Rolex Sky-Dweller in three versions - all in gold. This is honestly no surprise as two-tone, and steel versions will (or may) come later. To start the Rolex Sky-Dweller will be available in 18k white gold, 18k Everose rose gold, or 18k yellow gold. It will come with a matching gold bracelet or leather strap.

In my opinion Rolex needed more time to build a dial around this interesting complication. With Rolex you expect absolute perfection and consistency. The Rolex Sky-Dweller offers something truly intriguing for Rolex brand lovers, but misses the ball a bit when it comes to offering a truly universally lovely design that the brand is known for. Prices in the middle are about $50,000 perhaps and up for the Rolex Sky-Dweller watch in gold.

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  • davidchow

    @WATCHTRADER2 meh – gets a thumbs down from me…

  • JoeWelke

    At last, a Rolex I like! The asymmetric GMT dial is actually rather nice, the SARO date system is clever and easy to read, and the bezel adjustment is a cool idea. This is a Rolex I’d never get tired of wearing, it would always be interesting to look at.

  • cluedog12

    Time for a photoshop post, with a central-mounted GMT hand and a symmetrical inner scale a la Grand Seiko! I’m sure the golden ratio was religiously-obeyed, but it is not the most beautiful assymetric dial I have seen. I wish Rolex much success with these innovative designs, even if I am not sold on this one.

  • Eric___007

    Simply an unpleasant looking watch. The subdial is completely out of place. Great movement, but a terrible dial. They will not sell many of these.

    • I think that many people agree with you. It would not be surprising if Rolex updated the dial in the new few years.

    • AtSeaWatch

       @Eric___007 I’m sure they will sell plenty of these, even though it pains me to think it.  Rolex can move metal like the Union Pacific.  While I am not exactly a fan of the design, Rolex has fans.   And even if they only move 10,000 units a year, that’ll just spur Rolex collectors to bid up each model based on serial number.  

  • Greblixx

    It looks so old, ugly and tired. Horrible watch.

  • AtSeaWatch

    I’m so conflicted.  Part of me really wants to hate this watch.  It’s tacky, overpriced, and underdesigned.  At the same time, I have a weakness for the scalloped bezel, having grown up in Las Vegas.  The annual calendar is my favorite complication.  I even like the way the GMT complication is presented.  
    It’s so artless yet so Rolex.  I totally disagree with Ariel about Rolex presenting universally lovely designs.  They don’t.  They present iconoclastic designs.  This design is to say to the world “This is a Rolex”.  
    Where I think they erred is in making it in precious metal and pricing it to the stratosphere.  There are much more significant brands at that level and Rolex and too much of an aura of a striver’s brand to compete there.  It is what people buy when they want to impress their neighbors in the suburbs.  Haute horology is not their wheelhouse and they’d do well to remember that.

  • nateb123

    If you search for “Bulova Precisionist” in google images, the first one with numbers instead of markers around the dials looks shockingly like this.  A Rolex copied the look of a Bulova is really all I need to say about the quality of this design… 

    • AtSeaWatch

       @nateb123 I wouldn’t say Rolex copied it, but it could have done better by copying some other watches.  The thin baton hands are terribly out of place, as does the block of word vomit and the ugly date magnifier.  Could they just issue a pair of reading glasses with every one of these?  I’m sure the aging potentates don’t care about the date anyway.

  • lostcauz

    Ariel, Just a guess but, Sky Dweller may refer to how often the owner spends traveling, i.e. in the sky. Therefore, the annual calendar, and GMT complications may come in handy for one who lives in the sky.

  • AmanGupta1

    The Sky-Dweller name is probably because its a traveler’s watch and travelling is done by air usually.
    About the look, though the dial is hit or miss (I like it), and skeletonized hands do look bad, the worst part is the fluted dial. It immediately increases the age of the watch wearer by 20 years – make it a suitable choice only for middle-aged or old men. If they had gone for a more sporty bezel, I think I would’ve liked it more than the GMT Master.

  • JohnnyJohnnyJohnny

    This watch is totally ‘loose butthole’.

  • Kris C

    Doesn;t look any worse than other Rolex models, so nothing too terrible here. Although it does not look suited to the strap at all – this is a bracelet watch.
    Was the Rolex booth in the poorly lit basement or something? The photos are not very flattering.

  • arthurdavis

    oh god i just threw up in my mouth, FUGLY, Nothing says I’m old like wearing a Rolex or the cheaper way  around this is to wear your pants at nipple height. Hans Wilsdorf is definitely spinning like a lathe in his grave at the moment. He is probably not impressed with the Fuglification of the brand, (Yeah its a word, Ok it is now) just threw up in my mouth again

  • CG

    Milgauss is the only Rolex I would consider… there they did a nice modest update for the 50th Anniversary. This is an old man’s Cadillac watch… very old and tired.

  • great article Ariel on a great watch I would love to have.

  • great article Ariel on a great watch that I would love to own

  • jorgealdao

    A Rolex month-date but not day date… I do not understand

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  • joblow

    Rolex and their fondness for brown. Admittedly brown & yellow gold look good. Will work with most any earth-tone clothing. 
    To jorgealdo; I think the reason there is no “day” function is, the watch is designed for two time zones, making it a bit difficult to potentially need two day functions. The dial is crowded already.

  • SarthakSharma

    Great article and some good pictures too. My inner ocd grammar police is coming out but your last two paragraphs have quite a few spelling/grammar errors. Change “hold” to “gold,” “perfect” to “perfection,”and change “With the Sky-Dweller offers something truly intriguing for Rolex brand lovers” to “With the Sky-Dweller, Rolex offers something truly intriguing for brand lovers…” Again, sorry about the criticism.

    • SarthakSharma No, thank you. We wrote this while at the Baselworld trade show who years ago, likely with our minds half asleep from exhaustion. Issues remedied.

      • SarthakSharma

        Really? Well now i feel like a bit of a jerk. I’m a law student so I know what it’s like being critiqued after writing under exhaustion so I do apologize. Also, on a lighter note, just wanted to thank you guys for this site. You guys actually sparked my love of wrist watches, which led to the upgrade from a Walmart Casio to the new ceramic Submariner! Keep those reviews coming.

        • SarthakSharma Don’t be sorry. Just keep up the watch love. I also went to law school so I get it to 🙂

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  • Rob Logan

    I have the white gold on bracelet. If I had to change anything, I would have put lumed hour markers instead of the numerals. I still love it, though!