Mr Rolex reveals! The authoritative take on what’s about to drop… Mr Rolex reveals! The authoritative take on what’s about to drop…

Mr Rolex reveals! The authoritative take on what’s about to drop…


Rolex is the biggest watch brand on the planet and James Dowling knows more about it than practically anyone. Known as @misterrolex on Instagram, the veteran collector and journalist is the author of The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches and has even been referred to as a “Rolex scholar”. That’s why he’s the ideal man to speak to on the eve of Watches & Wonders as Rolex prepare to drop its 2022 novelties.

Speculation on the new releases is at fever pitch right now. When it comes to Rolex predictions, it’s always worth looking at the mock-ups by our friends at Monochrome who are taking a punt on a revamp of the Milgauss and a new Air King collection amongst other exciting things (we’ve shared some of their images in this article). But to whet your appetite a bit further, T+T founder Andrew McUtchen sat down with James to get his thoughts on what Rolex pieces we could potentially see coming soon to a wrist near you.

Mr Rolex reveals
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Andrew McUtchen: How does it feel to be on the verge of a Rolex release season after a couple of years off?

James Dowling:  Well, they had a pretty big release last year, which in many ways was better than the previous years in that they were genuinely one-on-one because we were in sort of semi-lockdown.  I was invited to the Rolex HQ, taken into a room, and the watches were shown to me a bit like how they would’ve been at Basel.

The only difference is that the gap between launch and availability has disappeared practically. Rolex have taken their lead from Tudor and now when new product is launched, it’s in the shops almost immediately. That has the downside that leaks get out because retailers get the information a few days before.

AM: Until those leaks, Rolex were extraordinarily good at keeping things under wraps.

JD: I always used to say that the CIA could take lessons from Rolex in keeping secrets. How can I put this? You’ve probably seen the recent release showing that Rolex now takes up a third of the entire Swiss watch industry. If you work at Rolex, you know you’ve got a job for life. They’re very well paid, and it’s not in their interest to do anything that is the slightest bit derogatory to the company or harms its interest. So their people are incredibly cautious to begin with, and when it comes to launches they’re even more so.

I don’t think Rolex operate on a need-to-know basis. I don’t think they can, because if you’ve got factories actually making this stuff, obviously there’s a shitload of people who know. I think it’s really interesting that there are literally thousands of people at Rolex who know what’s happening, and yet the leaks come, not from Rolex, but from the retailers.

Mr Rolex reveals
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AM: Before we get onto this year, let’s engage in a bit of nostalgia. For you, what were the truly memorable releases from Rolex when they released something genuinely surprising that caught everybody on the hop?

JD: The Sky-Dweller. I mean, that came out of nowhere 10 or 12 years ago now. The really interesting thing about the Sky-Dweller is that maybe 10 years before it was released somebody on TimeZone put out the whole story because they had the patent document, but it took so long for it to come out that everybody had forgotten about it. I still think it’s the best value watch that Rolex have made.

AM: We’re heading towards a fair. People are speculating about Rolex releases. How much do you track that game?

JD: I actually make it a point not to do it. On the occasions back when I was running TimeZone, I tried. I had about the same success ratio as I would’ve had if I just tossed a coin. I’m not going to bother.

My belief what we’re going to see a lot of this year is a lot of jewel-set watches, both ladies and men’s, because that’s where the real money is for Rolex. The plan that has been going on for the last few years is not to make more money by increasing the price of the watches massively or by increasing production massively, but to increase the unit price of a watch by making it more valuable.

AM: This is something we’re seeing. Certainly AP is an example. There are reports saying that there will be only 1000 steel jumbos made in the next two years. Out of 50,000 watches, only 1000 of those will be steel. That’s a bit of an ominous warning, isn’t it?

JD: I believe that’s what pretty much any brand will do that’s got the ability to do it. I mean, just the introduction of, for example, in the Sea-Dweller range of a steel and gold version in what is the ultimate professional watch. There is zero need for that.

AM: It was a very strange release. To be honest, I was like what’s next? A Sea-Dweller in platinum? 

JD: But that’s a classic example of making a watch more valuable.

AM: I think they’ve been relatively restrained with factory gem-setting. I remember seeing the Rainbow Daytona – I actually thought it was a beautiful piece. I considered ordering one, which was one of my life’s regrets, not to have followed through because it was really affordable for what it was. But a lot of the gem set stuff you just don’t see. It goes to specific markets or Ronaldo.

I just have a sense that there could be a white dial Submariner this year. Have you got any thoughts on that?

JD: No, not at all, actually. I could see it in a white-gold watch because one of the things Rolex do is that they use dial and bezel combinations to differentiate between white-gold versions of sport watches and steel versions. So the GMT Master white gold only comes with the blue dial whereas the steel one comes with a black dial. Similarly, the old white-gold Submariner had a blue dial and bezel, which wasn’t available on the steel. So if they are going to introduce a new and different colour I think it’s probably going to be on the white gold.

Mr Rolex reveals
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AM: And if you could have your wish, James, what would you like to see? An entirely new collection? The return of any collections that are long gone? More complications? I mean there hasn’t been much said about the Cellini Moonphase, but I think that was a really interesting advent.

JD: It was a beautiful watch. I think it is the genuine descendant of the 6062 Triple Calendar Moonphase. It’s a stunningly beautiful watch, underappreciated, and still quite affordable considering what it is. In a strange way the Cellini range does have one thing going for it that answers a lot of my prayers for Rolex, which is that every Cellini has an Oyster Perpetual officially certified calendar, but it doesn’t have all that shit on the dial.

AM: True. Aesthetically it’s very clean and I agree with you. I think there was point when the recent Air King was a bit of a value buy. That moment’s passed, but there’s still value in the Cellini for sure.

JD: A white gold moonphase would be a gorgeous watch. Put it on an Oyster bracelet and that would be a killer.

AM: That gets me a bit excited because, for me, maybe the slight letdown of Cellini is that I don’t get to have the best bracelet of all time.

JD: But I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t take a white-gold Oyster bracelet and, if necessary, just have end loops machined down to fit.

Mr Rolex reveals
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AM: That would be an amazing hack. But back to my original question there, James, what would you most like to see?

JD: What would I like if I could take the best of everything? My ideal watch would be a 36 millimetre Day-Date in platinum with an Oyster bracelet and a lapis lazuli dial and no diamonds.

AM: Yes. I’m thinking of that watch Rolex did with an onyx dial that was just so minimal and amazing.

JD: They made a Datejust with the onyx dial. And I think they still do make a Day-Date with an onyx dial. Most of them do have diamonds at six and nine, but if it was up to me, I would have it without diamonds, so it would just be pure and clean like a black hole.

AM: I’m with you on that. What sort of material would you go?

JD: White gold. I’m a white-metal person, so in order of desirability, it would be platinum, steel, then white gold. But they ain’t going to make one in steel, so stop thinking about it, James!

AM: Do you still have the addiction strongly? Do you still order watches straight away at a presentation?

JD: Oh yes. I mean, I haven’t bought anything, at the last couple of shows, , but I remember one show where I bought three watches. I bought one from an independent, one from what I call a semi-independent, and one from a mass manufacturer. The mass manufacturer was Tudor. The semi-independent was Louis Vuitton, and the independent was Urban Jurgensen – I’m still waiting for that one eight years later.

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AM: This story is obviously about Rolex. Yet a large proportion of people who read it will be like, well that brand’s no longer accessible to me because of the scarcity issue. What do you make of that problem.

JD: The simple truth is that the scarcity of Rolex watches is not the fault of Rolex. There are a bunch of manufacturers who’ve made a very conscious decision that they will produce this many watches a year. The retailers know how many watches are going to be produced. They have an allocation. The watches go out and people buy them. None of the retailers are dissatisfied. Sure, they would love to have more watches, but the simple fact that they can sell everything makes them incredibly happy.

The downside is that because the demand supply equation is completely unbalanced, it means that there are unfulfilled purchasers who feel cheated, and my humble opinion has always been that the manufacturers should not impose retail prices on the stores. Every store that sells a product has to put a price in the window showing the piece, so if you want to buy a Sea Dweller from us, it’s going to cost you, say, £21,000 pounds. That’s the price. You want to pay it? Fine. I really don’t see why the grey market makes the money when the retailers could.

I know that in the UK, there actually is a law that says that manufacturers are not allowed to set prices. The retailer has the ability to set the price. The problem has always been that, historically, having a Rolex franchise or a Patek franchise has been, to all intents and purposes, a licence to print money, even when they weren’t selling a hundred per cent of the allocation. Retailers don’t want to upset the apple cart because Rolex produce a price list for people to sell at. Dealers were getting struck off for discounting or for selling onto the grey market, so people didn’t want to upset Rolex. So everybody kept to the retail price, but now we’re in a situation in which it is possible for dealers to charge over the retail price. I wonder how things will go down in the future. It’s one of the questions I’m going to ask Rolex when we meet: how flexible is the price structure.