You more or less know the look of a Rolex watch. Some of brand's signature design elements — from Mercedes hands to fluted bezels — are so recognizable and ubiquitous that they seem nearly set in stone, and even the tiniest tweaks on new models can make Rolex fans' heads explode. But it hasn't always been this way.
That's why it's interesting to discover examples of Rolex watches that contradict the conservative and familiar image — or, Rolex watches that don't "look like" Rolex watches. If you think you know Rolex, here are five watches that very well might blow your mind.
Rolex King Midas
Rolex's formula for success is rooted in pragmatism — experimental, avant-garde design doesn't fit so much with the brand's personality as we know it. This mostly holds true throughout the brand's history, but the 1970s was kind of a crazy decade, and somebody at some point let Gerald Genta sit at the Rolex drafting table.
Known for his eccentric, design-oriented watches, Genta came up with a case based on the shape of a Greek temple. It could be seen to fit in among the many '70s watches that are obligatorily described as "funky," but it sure doesn't look like anything else from Rolex.
Rolex Daytona 116598 SACO
Yikes. With apologies to your eyes, this is the Rolex Daytona 116598 SACO. It's been called, among other nicknames, the the "Steven Tyler Daytona" after the Aerosmith singer who's known to have worn one, or just the "Leopard Daytona." The brand is known to make very blingy, exotic and bejeweled versions of some watches, but the 116598 SACO stands out even among these as exceptionally...out there.
Not only does the watch feel over-the-top for its design, but it's also extravagantly expensive. The plain steel Daytona ain't cheap to begin with, but here it's in yellow gold with diamond hour markers, diamond set lugs and 36 "cognac-colored" sapphires on the bezel, which replace the usual tachymeter scale. Rolex has made other outlandish Daytonas and the like, but this one arguably takes the cake.
Like other brands, Rolex offered custom dials for clients back in the day. Some of those clients might have been Omani sultans or other royalty, but the logos of corporations like Domino's Pizza, Coca Cola and others provide a fascinating contrast to Rolex's prestigious image (particularly as it's perceived today). Domino's Rolexes are perhaps the most famous example, but there were many others, and their quirkiness, historical interest and relative rarity can make them particularly attractive to some collectors.
Mickey Mouse Rolexes
There's some online skepticism that Rolex never made a Mickey Mouse watch and that such examples are aftermarket modifications. If you believe, however, that the brand slapped all manner of logos for corporations, governments and other organizations on their dials (as is widely accepted), why would Mickey be off the table? Maybe it's just hard to fathom from a current understanding of the brand and its tightly guarded image.
The historically significant Rolex Zerograph looks like a pretty badass dive watch, and only a little offbeat in its design — the California dial (half Roman, half Arabic numerals) found on some examples isn't so common nowadays, but adds some character. What's weird about this watch is that: 1) it's from 1937 and yet includes features that would only become Rolex signatures much later; 2) it's a chronograph but doesn't look like one; and 3) it's such a weird interpretation of a chronograph.
Without the multiple subdials, hands and pushers of a typical chronograph, the second hand here runs until you press the pusher at 2 o'clock. It'll then return to zero and stay there until you let go, and it measures seconds in this way. In the meantime, the bezel rotates to line up with the minute hand and measure minutes. That's a quirky chrono!