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Rolex: New Watches 2021

Feature: Long Read
Words by Robin Swithinbank

In our rapidly evolving world, there is at least one constant: Rolex. While its competitors scramble for new ways to climb higher, Switzerland’s most powerful watch company continues about its business knowing it’s already at the top of the mountain.

This year, and this week, Rolex is taking part in Watches and Wonders for the first time. At the online event, pegged to Geneva where Watches and Wonders (formerly the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH) would normally happen in-person, Rolex announced its 2021 collection. And it hasn’t missed a beat. Introducing the highlights… 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
Oyster Perpetual Explorer


First introduced in 1953 following Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful ascent of Mount Everest, the Explorer is a collection favourite. This year, its case has been cinched to the same 36mm size that defined the original of almost seven decades ago, while the classic 3, 6 and 9 dial layout remains all but unchanged, too. There’s an all-steel model that continues the familiar Explorer narrative, but the story gathers pace with the yellow Rolesor model (pictured) that mixes Rolex’s hard-wearing Oystersteel with 18-karat yellow gold. Both have black lacquer dials punctured by details filled with Rolex’s upgraded, bright-blue Chromalight luminescent material. 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II
Oyster Perpetual Explorer II


The 50th anniversary of one of Rolex’s evergreen ‘Professional’ models was never going to go undetected. The surprise is perhaps just how subtly Rolex has chosen to interpret it. The existing 42mm Explorer II model gives way to another 42mm model with all but identical proportions and detailing. The difference is in the upgraded movement (now one of Rolex’s new-generation of highly accurate, highly resistant in-house calibres) and the addition of Rolex’s Chromalight to the dial details, including to the signature hands that show the hour and a second-time zone. A classic made even better. 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona
Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona


The world’s most in-demand chronograph now has a dial made of one of the world’s most unobtainable materials – metallic meteorite. There are three meteorite models at launch, one in each of yellow gold, Everose gold and, white gold, all powered by Rolex’s bullet-proof automatic chronograph calibre. That white gold model’s monochromatic look comes from its contrasting black chronograph counters, scratch-resistant black ceramic ‘Cerachrom’ bezel and black rubber ‘Oysterflex’ bracelet. The palette is broken by the word ‘Daytona’ in red, a coquettish flash of colour that reminds us of the watch’s hot-blooded motor racing heritage. 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36
Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36


Rolex’s adventures in colour continue this year (the dust has barely settled on the colourful dials of last year’s Oyster Perpetual 36 collection) in the Datejust 36. The new models are defined by their dials, which are decorated with either a ‘palm’ or ‘fluted’ motif, and in a range of colourways. Any one of the novelties might catch the eye, but there’s something joyfully escapist about the combination of a steel case and bracelet with an olive-green palm dial, said to have been inspired by ‘tropical forests’. Something to do with being confined for so long, no doubt… 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36
Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36


In the 65 years since it was introduced, little about the form that defines the Day-Date 36 has changed. In 1956, it became the world’s first watch to show the day in full, as well as the date. The proportions and functions of this year’s additions may be consistent with the iconic original, but what Rolex has done for the first time this year is cover it in diamonds. There are no fewer than 817 of them on this yellow gold watch, including 61 on the clasp. As if that weren’t scintillating enough, Rolex has given the watch a coral leather strap and coral-coloured enamel Roman numerals on the dial. The effect is sundowner overlooking the Med. One day, right? 

Check back on Tuesday 13th April for all of the highlights from Watches and Wonders 2021.

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