Rolex is known for incremental change so “surprising” is not really the brand’s forte. Having said that, the new range definitely contains some curveballs this year, both in terms of the Crown’s choices and a few unexpected pieces in particular. That’s why I decided to rank all of the new 2021 Rolex Collection novelties from least to most surprising. Let’s dive in…
7 & 6. Lady Datejust and Day Date 36
Of course Rolex was going to find a way to completely bling out a few references and maximize margins. The new Lady Datejust and Day Date 36 models are nice references, for those who can afford them, but will not be particularly high points of the new releases for the everyday person. I will concede, however, that the colour configurations are surprisingly fun for the Day-Date 36 and that there will definitely be a market for these watches.
5. Rolex Explorer II ref. 226570
The Explorer II was a known quantity prior to the Watches & Wonders presentation, and being the 50th anniversary of the model we all expected an update. The only somewhat surprising element here is that Rolex did not, in fact, elect to utilise a ceramic bezel in the new Rolex Explorer II 226570. All that has really changed is the introduction of the latest-generation in-house caliber 3285 and a slightly redesigned 42mm case form that, according to Rolex, has a new highlighted profile by the light reflections on the case side. The new Rolex Explorer II is also, unsurprisingly, available in both polar white and black dial configurations.
A small but important detail is the change-up to the handset on the black dial variant. The floating hands aesthetic has been removed, with no black coatings present on both the GMT and hours and minutes hands.
4. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with meteorite dials (ref. 116519LN, 116508, 116505)
A little out of left field, the Rolex Daytona now has three new meteorite-driven references all in precious metals. The white gold model (ref. 116519LN) is paired with an Oysterflex bracelet and ceramic bezel, while the Everose (ref. 116505) and yellow gold (ref. 116508) models are outfitted on Oyster bracelets and have precious metal bezels. Each of the three references share the same tone of grey meteorite for their dial, with the difference being the metal composition of the hands, markers, and register chapter rings. The dimensions of these Daytona watches remain unchanged and are still powered by the in house caliber 4130.
3. Rolex Datejust 36 and new “Palm” and “Fluted motifs
Rolex has taken a page out of Grand Seiko’s book, going for a nature-inspired dial motif across three of the four new Datejust references. The “Palm” motif is inspired by tropical forests, according to Rolex, and the “fluted” motif is inspired by their iconic fluted bezels. The shocking references here are really the “Palm” motif Datejust 36 models, as this is an interesting direction for the brand to go in – and one they really haven’t taken very often. These Rolex Datejust 36 models retain the same case dimensions as before, also still powered by the in-house caliber 3230.
2. The Rolex GMT Master II “Batman” and “Pepsi” are once again available on Oyster bracelets and the Sky-Dweller is now available on Jubilee
This was definitely the story hidden in plain site today, and to be honest it deserves it own breakdown and analysis (stay tuned for the full story coming soon here). For now, all you need to know is that through the Rolex configurator on the website you are once again able to pair the Pepsi and Batman GMT Master II on Oyster bracelets and the Sky-Dweller can now be paired with the Jubilee.
1. Rolex Explorer ref. 124273 & 124270
My jaw hit the keyboard the minute the presentation started. A two-tone Explorer for the first time ever, and a discontinuation of the 39mm case size in favour of two 36mm models: ref. 124270 in Oystersteel and ref. 124273 in Yellow Rolesor. Today is certainly a victory for purists and tiny wristers. In my opinion this was a great move, at least the 36mm sizing.
The Explorer looks its best at this diameter, and with the 3230 movement now inside the watch the modern Explorer has never been stronger. The two-tone configuration is not particularly fitting for the Explorer line, but at the same time at least it means there is more than one opportunity to own a new Explorer 36mm.
2021 Rolex Collection pricing and availability:
Rolex Explorer 124270: $6,450 USD
Rolex Explorer 124273: $10,800 USD
Rolex Explorer II 226570 (Polar and Black): $8,550 USD
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116519LN: $34,050 USD
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116508 (Yellow Gold): $41,000 USD
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116505 (Everose): $43,700 USD
For more pricing details on the Rolex Datejust 36, Day-Date 36, and Lady-Datejust head to Rolex.com