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Words: Carl S. Cunanan | Photos: Author and Press
June 11, 2024     |    

Rolex Reminds Us They Are More Than One World

A new steel GMT-Master II and a seriously finely finished classic.

What was pretty fun this year was walking into the Rolex booth (remember that their definition of booth is a huge multi-story multi-room structure) and seeing what many internet trollers were saying would disappear. A blue and red GMT-Master II bezel circled the interior. Clearly Rolex had no intention of taking it out of circulation. As Watches And Wonders this year had more time available to the public, Rolex bumped up the look of the public area of their facility, and it proved a huge success looking at the long lines of those that had to pre-book their appointments to visit.

Now let’s look at two of the different watches Rolex released this year at the 2024 Watches And Wonders in Geneva. One was somewhat expected and one was a bit of a surprise but still is seriously spot-on in terms of history.

Ceramic bezel of the Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II

What was expected was the black and grey bezel GMT-Master II in steel. Expected if not inevitable, because the color scheme of grey and black Cerachrom Bezel insert was previously introduced in precious metal. Technically this is two watches, because Rolex says they released two versions. One with an Oyster bracelet, the other with a Jubilee. The watch on the wrist is the most subtle really of the two-tone GMTs, with the only real pop of color coming from the green of the 24 hour hand and one line of text on the face. It uses the familiar calibre 3285. This is perhaps the best match for those that look back to the feel on the one-color bezels with fondness.

“The watch on the wrist is the most subtle really of the two-tone GMTs, with the only real pop of color coming from the green of the 24 hour hand and one line of text on the face.”

Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II

The other watch we will discuss actually drew a lot of attention once it got into our hands and on our wrists. It is, in many ways, the more historically important type of watch for Rolex, as opposed to all the attention drawn by the modern sports watches. The new Perpetual 1908 showcases the finishing and detail abilities of the watchmaker like no other current regular model, really. It is a simple three hand (subdial seconds) watch in a 39mm case using a movement developed for the launch of this model, for which it is used exclusively. The calibre 7140 uses familiar technology from Rolex, the patented Chronergy escapement, the Syloxi hairspring and more. What is different here is that you can actually see it and it looks good. Through the sapphire crystal caseback you can see the movement and the level of finish it has been given. The bridges may look familiar but a little different. Rolex Côtes de Genève are slightly different from the traditional because of a polished groove between the bands. It is self-winding, with a Perpetual rotor. Power reserve is around 66 hours.

Perpetual 1908

What had us all poring over the watch though was the finishing on the watch face. We were looking at the 950 Platinum model, which has an ice-blue dial (color used only on the Day-Date and the Daytona) with a guilloche of a rice-grain motif. The texture is enchanting to look at, but look carefully. The design doesn’t start from the center but rather seems to flow from the seconds subdial so while it is geometric and three-dimensional it also seems like it has variation. There is also a different type of guilloche used on the border around the minute track. The words superlative chronometer sit curved above the subdial. Around all that sits a bezel that is again familiar but a little different. It is divided, and has a lower portion with fine fluting and the upper portion domed.

Rolex has envisioned the Perpetual collection as a tribute to the art and craft of traditional watchmaking, and this watch does indeed remind you of times past. The number 1908 is used as an homage to the year that Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf actually came up with the now-iconic name Rolex and registered it as a brand in Switzerland.

“Rolex has envisioned the Perpetual collection as a tribute to the art and craft of traditional watchmaking.”

Back case of the Perpetual 1908

The Perpetual 1908 is also available in white gold or yellow gold, but in those models the face is of either intense black or intense white.

All these watches use leather straps, matte brown alligator leather (with green calfskin lining) in the case of the platinum we were playing with. All will have a matching Dualclasp folding clasp designed to always sit centered on the wrist.

As we have said, the Rolex sports watches have gotten so much of the attention in recent years, and that is fine. But when Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex first started sending watches into the ocean or up mountains or into caves, they weren’t really any special “sporty” designs. They were the watches you would wear when you only had one watch. Elegant enough for almost all occasions, but tough enough to handle some pretty record-breaking things.

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