It’s that time of year again. Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023 kicks off on Monday, March 27th, and that means new Rolex watches are coming. And this year is a big one. Why? Because it ends in a three.
In 1953, Rolex dropped two of its most famed models, the Submariner dive watch and the Explorer field watch. Exactly 10 years later, it debuted the Daytona — originally the "Le Mans" — which means that this year sees multiple birthdays, and these are big deals in the watch world. 2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the Sub, the 70th anniversary of the Explorer and the 60th anniversary of the Daytona.
Of course, no one — not even many who work for Rolex — know what the Crown has up its royal sleeve until, well, the watches come out, and that's expected to happen next week. But years like this are presumably easier to predict; Rolex doesn’t ignore its own anniversaries.
So without further ado, here are some of our Rolex-centric predictions for 2023. They may not all materialize, but just try to come up with better guesses.
A 70th-Anniversary Submariner
We know, we know: Duh. But ironing out the details of what that would look like is the tough part: Rolex last updated the Sub in the fall of 2020 — which ain’t exactly a long time ago — so we can’t very well expect a full refresh here. And cool as the titanium Deepsea Challenge is, we’re not exactly expecting a titanium Submariner just yet. While the Crown is perfectly capable of making a jillion titanium Subs if it so wishes, that would be a positively huge shakeup for a company that’s notorious for taking its time in rolling out new materials and new models,
So what could we see in a new Submariner? One thing Rolex has been willing to do — subtle as it is — is reference vintage models such as the “Double Red” Sea-Dweller with a line of red text on the dial like it did with the aforementioned Deep Sea Challenge and 43mm Sea-Dweller. What about a current-spec, 41mm Sub with red dial text — and that’s it! It would be the dial equivalent of the green-bezeled “Kermit” from 2003.
Of course, Rolex could just as well go ham: YELLOW GOLD, GREEN DIAL, GREEN BEZEL, BOO YAH! And honestly, for a 70th-anniversary model, who would blame them? At this juncture, all we’re reasonably sure of is that there will be a new, special Sub — but what that will look like will be anyone’s guess. Good luck buying one at retail, at least for a few years.
A 70th-Anniversary Explorer
Back in 2021, Rolex brought joy to the horologically faithful by reducing the Explorer (I) back down to its original 36mm sweet spot from the 39mm size it had grown to. Currently available in Oystersteel or Rolesor (two-tone), there are two logical places that the Explorer could go for its big birthday: full gold, or totally not full gold — i.e., anyone’s guess. This watch is either gonna show up in shameless, 18K livery and cost $15,000+ — or the new one is gonna look just like the 36mm steel model, but have, like, a white dial. Or a line of red on the text. Or something like that.
There’s not much Rolex can do, here: They can’t change the bezel color, because there’s no bezel. They can’t change the bracelet, because, well, what are the options — a Jubilee? They’re not gonna put a Jubilee on an Explorer I. (Watch them do it, and then I have to eat my words.)
But a white dial — especially given a white-dial reference 6610 did, evidently, exist as a factory-spec watch — would be a welcome addition to the lineup. And given the Explorer’s inspirations in Hilary and Norgay’s summit of Everest in 1953, the white colorway would be fitting.
Some Daytona Action
The last time this most famous of chronographs had a big birthday (its 50th in 2013), it received a platinum update with a blue dial and a Cerachrom bezel. What could a 60th-anniversary model look like? The more compelling question is whether Rolex will update the “standard” catalog model, i.e. the stainless steel Daytona in black or white dial?
The last time the Daytona had a proper update — which, the way Rolex shies away from reinvention, is more like a small tweak — was in 2016, when the 116500LN debuted with black totalizer rings (white dial) and a Cerachrom bezel (both dial colors). Could 2023 be the Year of the New Daytona?
The Daytona has been powered by the Calibre 4130 for a lonngggg time. Could a new movement be in store with an even longer power reserve? Though it’s doubtful Rolex would reintroduce a feature such as the steel bezel, as the company’s modus operandi is to make functional upgrades — hence the move to Cerachrom — we certainly wouldn’t be angry if the Daytona were available with an old-school steel bezel. And what about an Oyster bracelet without polished center links — i.e. a Sub-style, full-brushed bracelet? Or better yet — since we’re dreaming here — a Daytona on a Jubilee bracelet, like back in the days of horological yore?! (We won’t hold our breath.)
But something’s coming.
A New Milgauss (You Know — Like the One We Predicted Last Year, But Didn’t Get)
As we said in 2022, “The Milgauss is that kid who keeps getting held back and has now done Senior year of high school five times.” (Equal parts harsh and true.) The model needs an upgrade — it’s the last still running on the previous-gen 31XX movement, while all its friends are using 32XX-series movements. And while competitors from Omega boast anti-magnetic resistance to 15,000 gauss, the Milgauss is still resistant to just 1,000 gauss (which is in accordance with its name).
We think this is the year that the Crown is gonna rise to the occasion and hit it outta the park with a new Milgauss — if for no other reason than a need to stay current and stick it to Omega (and others). It’ll probably get crown guards like the Air-King did last year, bringing it more in line with contemporary Professional-series watches. Other than that, we don’t exactly see Rolex killing the highly unique aesthetic that makes the Milgauss stand out from the crowd: the lightning bolt seconds hand, the pops of orange, the colored crystal. Unless they plan on “reissuing” the aesthetic of the reference 1019, which would be a treat.
The “Lefty” Green-and-Black GMT-Master II — but “Righty”
This is like turning on a(nother) money-printing press at Rolex HQ. Take the oddball “lefty” GMT-Master II from 2022, copy the bezel colorway, but put that bezel colorway on the standard “right-hand” model. (Oh, and keep the “lefty” in the catalog, because it’s dope.) You just know there are 10,000 diehard Crown adherents who took one look at the reference 126720VTNR last year and thought, “Love it — give me the standard version, and we’ll talk.”
This seems like a no-brainer of a move. But then again, as Jeffrey Wright (as Felix Leiter) said in 2006’s Casino Royale:
“Does it look like we need the money?”