The time is nigh upon us — the season when the Crown shall bestow its horological ephemera upon we mere serfs. Rejoice! Rejoice!
No, but for real. New Rolex watches. If that doesn’t get your juices flowing, what does? Quality time with your children? Phhhhhhh.
2022 is shaping up to be a doozy. It’s been three freakin’ years since we’ve had a live, in-person, Swiss watch industry get-together — the type where we watch-nerd-writer-people descend upon Geneva to eat exhibition-hall sushi and mainline espresso for 16 hours a day so that we can tell you people how the watches are in person. (Because God only knows most of them won’t be available for purchase at retail from an authorized dealer. That would be too much! You’ll just have to read about ‘em on Gear Patrol.)
Last year, if you recall, was fairly subdued: We did get a return to the old 36mm Explorer — plus a two-toned version — and a new Explorer II, in time for that model’s 40th anniversary. Could this year yield more fireworks?
As usual, our guess is as good as yours. (Well, that’s not quite true — we’re paid to do this sort of thing. We’re professionals, okay? Sheesh.) But we do have a few educated guesses. So join us on a journey into the theoretical, a trip into the magic horological kingdom of the Crown, a thought experiment in—
Ok, I’m done. Here we go.
An updated Milgauss — or, a discontinued Milgauss
The Milgauss is that kid who keeps getting held back and has now done Senior year of high school five times. Why do we say that? Because while everyone else has been upgraded to the 32XX-series movement, the Milgauss still uses the older 31XX series. It got a blue-dial version in 2014, but other than that, it’s sorta just…been chillin'. If Rolex were to fit a new version with a modified 32XX-series movement on par with the METAS standards in anti-magnetism — 15,000 gauss — it would also be better poised to compete with Omega’s Master Chronometer movements. What do we say, folks? Eh?
Of course the other thing to do would be to nix this model from the catalog entirely. It’s now an oddball watch rarely seen in the wild — at least in the North American market — when compared to its sports watch cousins. It’s not necessarily that it’s too niche; after all, the Explorer II was made for spelunkers and people who never spelunk freakin’ love that thing. It’s just that, as a 3-handed, time-only watch for $9,150, it occupies kind of a weird place in the Rolex catalog. Maybe it’s time for it to go gently into that good horological night?
A new “Coke” GMT-Master II
This has gotta happen at some point, sort of like the collapse of Western civilization or the resurgence of Beanie Babies as an investment vehicle. We’re due, right? If I’m doing my math correctly — and, for the record, I was a music major, so I can really only count to four before I have to start over — there hasn’t been a black-and-red “Coke” GMT-Master II in the catalog since the discontinuation of the reference 16710 in 2007. So we’re waiting for one in the new 40mm Super case with a black dial the the Rolex Calibre 3285 movement. On a Jubilee bracelet. We’ll wait, Rolex. We’re patient. We’ve been waiting for fifteen f***ing years now!
Rolex could do any number of things here: It could issue one in Oystersteel on a Jubilee or, just to keep us on our toes, on an Oyster bracelet. (The steel “Pepsi” and blue-and-black “Batman” are currently available on both bracelet types.) Or, it could issue one on white gold, sort of like the white gold “Pepsi” with blue dial from 2014. No matter how they do it, we’re here for it; bring us that Coke, Rolex.
An updated Air King — or, a discontinued Air King
Cool your jets. Yes, I’m making the exact same argument I just made for the Milgauss. Yes, it’s partially because I’m lazy. But it’s also because I’m right — twice. Hear me out: The 40mm Air King that’s been in the Rolex catalog since 2016 is uglier than a naked mole-rat. It uses an old 31XX-series movement. And yet it still costs over $7,000. In short, this watch needs help. Or it needs to go.
But bear with me, here. The Air King used to be a beautiful watch. For decades it honored the contributions of Allied pilots during WWII in 34mm of pure, entry-level Rolex goodness. References such as the 5500 are incredibly handsome watches, and great value. For the love of all that is holy, Rolex should cancel this collection or bring it back in this form — the 1960s/1970s form with “Air King” in that cool, midcentury, subtle cursive font. Would it conflict with the Oyster Perpetual line? Yes. Would people buy the shit out of it? YES. I’m not saying Rolex will do something like this — admittedly, this is less of a prediction and more of a wish. But something is going to happen with the Air King. At the very least it needs a new 32XX-series movement.
A titanium Rolex Yacht-Master 42
We’ve seen a prototype of this thing before, so seeing a production model wouldn’t necessarily be a huge surprise: First spotted by Jake’s Rolex World on the wrist of Sir Ben Ainslie, what we’re talking about is a full-titanium, no-date Yacht-Master with a matte dial. Rolex has never made a full titanium watch before. If they were to drop this and Patek were to drop a Nautilus in the same metal, I think all our heads would explode.
Thus far, this watch is only available in 42mm in white gold, so titanium would be an extra-special departure, bypassing a steel edition entirely. Currently kitted out with the Cal. 3235 movement with date, presumably the no-date version would carry the Cal. 3230 no-date movement. Ainslie’s watch was also worn on a special NATO strap with a Velcro closure, a type of strap never before offered as factory kit directly from Rolex. Could this be a return to true tool watch form for the Crown? We can’t wait to find out!
A new Sky-Dweller
This one’s sort of a no-brainer, as Rolex tends to update their models upon reaching important anniversaries. And you know what came out 10 years ago, in 2012? The Sky-Dweller. As Rolex’s only modern über-complicated watch — forgive me if I don’t count the Cellini Moonphase here, ok? — the Sky Dweller is an important contemporary piece. It was first launched in precious metals with a fluted bezel and featured a unique annual calendar display and second time zone.
Now, however, the Sky-Dweller is available in various combinations of steel and different types of gold, plus precious metals on bracelets and straps, etc. What’s missing? Platinum. This isn’t really a watch to make in titanium, as it’s sort of like a Day-Date on steroids — decidedly dressy and not something you’d knock around on a yacht race. Conceivably, an anniversary edition might entail a special dial rather than a new metal, but it’s anybody’s guess as to what kind, and what color.