Rolex went a little crazy in 2023 – these were their top 5 most headline-snatching watches Rolex went a little crazy in 2023 – these were their top 5 most headline-snatching watches

Rolex went a little crazy in 2023 – these were their top 5 most headline-snatching watches

Jamie Weiss

I love Rolex – as does any watch enthusiast worth their salt – but I think it’s funny how every year, Rolex comes out with a few subtle changes to the same designs they’ve been selling for decades, and everyone loses their minds, us journos included. However, in 2023, Rolex went sicko mode. Not only did they introduce an entirely new collection, the Perpetual 1908 (while simultaneously axing the Cellini and Milgauss ranges), but they also released some truly bonkers takes on two of their most staid watches – as well as a surprisingly substantial, considered, special-edition take on the Daytona.

Credit where credit’s due – Rolex did more than just introduce a new bezel colour or case diameter in 2023. Their releases weren’t just big news by Rolex standards, they were big news by anyone’s standards, and some stand out as some of the strangest and most arresting watches of the year that was. In fact, Zach even called Rolex as the brand that won 2023 – and even though Rolex arguably wins every year, 2023 was a more winning year than most for the Crown.

Rolex Day-Date 36 ‘Jigsaw’

Okay, let’s get it out of the way first. When I’m talking about bonkers or weird, I’m talking about the Rolex Day-Date ‘Jigsaw’. When I first saw this watch, my thought was “what the f*ck was Rolex smoking?” Not only does it feature a rainbow enamel dial that resembles the jigsaw pattern of a toddler’s play mat and rainbow-graduated sapphire indices, but its date wheel ditches numbers for 31 different emojis and the day wheel replaces days of the week with “inspirational keywords” like ‘Happy’, ‘Gratitude’, ‘Peace’ and ‘Love’.

Rolex Watches Wonders 2023 DSC03656

For such a sober brand as Rolex, the Day-Date ‘Jigsaw’ is particularly gaga. But that’s what makes it so cool – on an academic level, at least. We can’t all whinge that we want to see Rolex do something different for once and then complain when we get what we ask for. It’s undeniably one of, if not the, biggest Rolex release of 2023, and it utterly dominated the social media conversation during Watches & Wonders last year.

Brand Rolex
Model Day-Date 36
Reference Number 128235 (Everose gold)
128238 (yellow gold)
128239 (white gold)
Case Dimensions 36mm (D) x 12mm (T)
Case Material 18k Everose/yellow/white gold
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal Sapphire
Dial Champlevé enamel with puzzle motif
Lug Width 20mm
Bracelet President bracelet matched to case metal with Crownclasp
Movement Calibre 3255, in-house, automatic, Superlative Chronometer
Power Reserve 70 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, inspirational quote, emoji
Availability Off-catalogue
Price Upon request

Rolex Oyster Perpetual ‘Celebration Dial’

The Day-Date ‘Jigsaw’ might be the looniest watch Rolex released in 2023 (or ever), but the Oyster Perpetual ‘Celebration Dial’ is also no shrinking violet of a watch. Set against a turquoise lacquer backdrop, the bubbles take on the colours of the very popular Stella dial-inspired Oyster Perpetuals introduced in 2020. All the colours are there: green, orange, red, pink, and of course, that very particular shade of eggshell blue that everyone’s been obsessed with lately.

Rolex Watches Wonders 2023 DSC03669

Compared with the out-and-out lunacy of the Jigsaw, the Celebration Dial is a little more sedate – but I think that’s part of its appeal. It’s a more focused form of fun; something the average Joe could get away with wearing. Like funky socks or a silly tie. While these are theoretically available now, the waitlists are unsurprisingly long (just like every model on this list to be fair) and secondary market prices aren’t anything worth celebrating…

Brand Rolex
Model Oyster Perpetual
Reference Number 277200 (OP 31)
126000 (OP 36)
124300 (OP 41)
Case Dimensions 31mm (D) x 10.6mm (T)
36mm (D) x 11.6mm (T)
41mm (D) x 12mm (T)
Case Material Oystersteel
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal Sapphire
Dial Turquoise blue lacquer with celebration motif
Lug Width 16mm (OP 31)
20mm (OP 36)
21mm (OP 41)
Bracelet Oyster bracelet in Oystersteel
Movement Calibre 2232 (OP 31)
Calibre 3230 (OP 36, OP 41)
in-house, automatic, Superlative Chronometer
Power Reserve 55 hours (OP 31)
70 hours (OP 36, OP 41)
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds
Availability Available now
Price A$9,050 (OP 31)
A$9,700 (OP 36)
A$10,200 (OP 41)

Rolex Perpetual 1908

While the Perpetual 1908’s design is utterly classic, its introduction represents a paradigm shift for Rolex, as it heralds the arrival of a third watch family for the brand, the Perpetual collection – alongside the Classic and Professional collections – and takes over from the previously moribund Cellini range, which has now been discontinued. I know we’ve just discussed two very radical watches but this actually passes for big news in Rolex world, so readjust your parameters.

rolex perpetual 1908 black dial 1

Named in honour of the year that Hans Wilsdorf came up with the Rolex name and featuring design cues from some of the earliest Rolex watches, the 1908 is a stunning, dressy addition to Rolex’s repertoire that’s cleverly aimed at the Patek Philippe Calatravas and Vacheron Constantin Patrimonies of the world. It’s also the first Rolex (alongside the platinum Daytona also released in 2023) to feature an exhibition caseback in a whopping 92 years – and considering how pretty its Calibre 7140 movement is, that’s a very good thing.

Brand Rolex
Model Perpetual 1908
Reference Number 52508 (yellow gold)
52509 (white gold)
Case Dimensions 39mm (D) x 9.5mm (T)
Case Material 18k yellow or white gold
Water Resistance 50 metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire front and back
Dial Matte white or black, applied numerals
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Black or brown alligator leather with green calfskin lining, yellow or white gold folding clasp
Movement Calibre 7140, in-house, automatic, Superlative Chronometer
Power Reserve 66 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, small seconds
Availability Available now
Price A$35,300 (yellow gold), A$37,300 (white gold)

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 RLX Titanium

When the Deepsea Challenge dropped in late 2022, Rolex fans were excited not only because it was (and remains) the most water-resistant watch ever, rated to a whopping 11,000m – but because it was the first-ever Rolex to be made out of titanium. But at 50mm in diameter and priced at a hefty A$40,900, it’s not a very accessible watch. That’s why the 2023 reveal of a Yacht-Master in titanium was such a big deal.

Rolex Watches Wonders 2023 DSC03650

Sure, it’s less water-resistant than the Tudor Pelagos (the first Rolex Group watch to be made from titanium) but it’s a lot classier… And some would say much more desirable. It also carves out a more distinct identity for the Yacht-Master compared to the Submariner, which I think is important.

Brand Rolex
Model Yacht-Master 42
Reference Number 226627
Case Dimensions 42mm (D) x 11.6mm (T)
Case Material RLX titanium, matte black Cerachrom bezel insert
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal Sapphire with Cyclops lens
Dial Matte black
Lug Width 21mm
Strap Oyster bracelet in RLX titanium
Movement Calibre 3235, in-house, automatic, Superlative Chronometer
Power Reserve 70 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date, bidirectional timing bezel
Availability Available now
Price A$22,600

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ‘Le Mans’

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 'Le Mans'

A rare special version of the Daytona created in honour of the 100th year of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this unexpectedly innovative Daytona not only features unique nods to the endurance race but also pays homage to the now-legendary ref. 6239. Crafted from white gold and featuring a dial that pays homage to the famed Singer dials favoured by Paul Newman, the Daytona ‘Le Mans’ features the exclusive calibre 4132, which is a 24-hour chronograph rather than a 12-hour – it’s designed to time Le Mans. The tachymeter bezel also features a red ceramic inlay for the “100” numeral, and this is the second-ever Daytona to feature an exhibition caseback (after the platinum Daytona I mentioned earlier).

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 'Le Mans' caseback

The Daytona is already arguably the most coveted watch in the world, and this new Le Mans Daytona might just be the most desirable modern Daytona of them all. Again, it’s a pleasure to see Rolex do something a little bit different; go above and beyond to create something that’s properly special.

Brand Rolex
Model Cosmograph Daytona
Reference Number 126529LN
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 11.9mm (T)
Case Material 18k white gold
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown and pushers
Crystal(s) Sapphire front and back
Dial Sunburst black with intense white snailed counters, black monobloc Cerachrom bezel
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Oyster bracelet in white gold
Movement Calibre 4132, in-house, automatic, Superlative Chronometer, exclusive to this model
Power Reserve 72 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, running small seconds, 24-hour chronograph, tachymeter bezel
Availability Available now
Price A$82,400