February 14, 2015
by Ariel Adams
Back in 2012, Rolex released a rare brand new model with the Sky-Dweller timepiece family (debuted here). I say “rare” because it is not common for Rolex to release a totally new family of timepieces – with also a new name. The Rolex Sky-Dweller is also among the most complicated modern Rolex watches, because it contains a movement that combines both a GMT indicator as well as an annual calendar (it tracks both the date as well as the month, so you only need to adjust the date on those years where February does not have 28 days).
From a technical perspective, the in-house made Rolex calibre 9001 automatic movement is rather cool. As with the chronograph movement inside of Yacht-Master II models, this movement features a unique system were the bezel is used to help adjust the watch. The way it works is pretty cool, because the watch only has one crown and no pushers, the bezel is turned either to the left or to the right to assist with with adjusting the various functions. It works surprisingly well and is part of the complicated mystique of the Rolex Sky-Dweller, among the rare “complicated” Rolex watches. Of course, Rolex could make more complicated watches if they wanted to, but given the efficiency machine that they are, they do so sparingly, because complicated movements take a lot more care to assemble without issue.
What also makes the Rolex Sky-Dweller unique is the case size. At 42mm wide, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is among just a few “larger” Rolex watches, with the Explorer II 42mm and, once again, the Yachtmaster II. If you are used to 42mm wide watches, expect the Rolex Sky-Dweller to wear rather big given the widely spaced lugs. It wears a lot more like a 44mm wide watch, for sure. Of course, it comes with an Oyster-style case with has that distinctive popular Rolex look and 100 meters of water resistance.
When Rolex debuted the Rolex Sky-Dweller, it only came in gold – but in 18k yellow, rose (Everose), and white gold. For 2014, Rolex doubled the collection from three to six watches. There still aren’t any new material options, but there are new dial styles (which are those models represented in this article), as well as new options for straps or bracelets. You’ll notice that Rolex offers certain dial versions of the Rolex Sky-Dweller on a strap and other dial versions on matching 18k gold bracelets.
If you like the look of the fluted Rolex bezel, then you’ll more than likely love the look of the Rolex Sky-Dweller. The precision milled and polished cases are immaculate, and detailing is intensely lovely. There is, of course, the “controversial” element of the Rolex Sky-Dweller, which is the dial design – something that people love or don’t. I’ve never felt that the Rolex Sky-Dweller was an overly beautiful design, but I’ve since come to really respect it for its functional elements. The real issues for most people are the “open” GMT dial, as well as the skeletonized hands. The integration of the annual calendar continues to be clever as the month indicator is actually a window on the outside of the the respectively numbered hour indicator. Thus, a window filled in at 2 o’clock would mean it was February. The window filled in at 6 o’clock would be June, etc…
This, of course, is in combination with the traditional date window which once again has been fitted with a magnifier crystal over it on the sapphire crystal. While Rolex does have the GMT-Master II and the Explorer II as their major GMT watches, the Rolex Sky-Dweller does it a little bit differently, offering yet another GMT watch, but with an indicator disc versus a hand. The design of this disc has proved a bit controversial but remains effective. For some fun, we played around with various alternations to the Rolex Sky-Dweller for a Watch Watch-If here. Taken as a whole, the open GMT disc is integrated about as well as one could hope, with a beveled edge window and a nice circular design that uniquely adds to the composition of the watch. Instant classic? Perhaps not, but it is certainly Rolex.
My favorite of the newer Rolex Sky-Dweller models is the reference 326139 in 18k white gold with a black dial. The GMT disc is silvered and the entire dial is rather legible. The red accents add a nicely sporty look, and this version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller comes on a matching black strap. It feels very unique in the pantheon of Rolex designs and is quite handsome.
Also new is the Rolex Sky-Dweller reference 326138 in 18k yellow gold with silver dial and brown leather strap. There is a richness to colors which is interesting and separates this from the existing yellow gold Rolex Sky-Dweller that comes with a matching dial and yellow gold bracelet. The final new version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller to add to the original three is the reference 326935 in 18k Everose gold with the “sundust” dial paired to an Everose bracelet.
The original crop of Rolex Sky-Dweller watches did have an Everose model, but it came on a strap with a deep colored dial. People wanted one on a bracelet with a more neutral color that matches the case – and this is it. This is the most classically “Rolex” of the Rolex Sky-Dweller watches, in my opinion – well, next to the Rolex Sky-Dweller reference 326938, which is the 18k yellow gold version with matching bracelet and “champagne dial.”
The Rolex Sky-Dweller remains one of the interesting acquired tastes of the Rolex world toward the top-end of the brand (without including precious stones). If you are looking for a cool movement, large wearing size, and distinct sense of Rolex class, there aren’t too many other ways to go. Prices for these Rolex Sky-Dweller watches are $38,150 (18k yellow gold on a strap), $39,550 (18k white gold on a strap), and $48,850 (18k Everose on the bracelet). rolex.com