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Rolex: New Watches 2022

Feature: Long Read
Words by ROBIN SWITHINBANK

Watch launches don’t typically break the internet – but Rolex’s annual product mega-drop isn’t your typical launch. The most desirable and potent of all watch brands is the undisputed superpower of the luxury watch world, and when it opens the floodgates on its new products, the levees break. That time is now. At Watches and Wonders Geneva 2022, Rolex announced an almighty wave of new watches. Here are the highlights.

Rolex GMT-Master II new 2022 watch

GMT-Master II

The most famous watch with a second time zone (Rolex introduced the first GMT-Master in 1955) returns with a design flip that, at first, takes a second to compute. The crown has been shifted to the left-hand side of the case – a quirk known by insiders as a ‘destro’. Why? There’s no headline-worthy reason, only that some wear a watch on their right wrist, for which a left-sided crown is more ergonomic. Before we go thinking this is entirely without precedent, Rolex has done this before – but only a few times and never with the GMT-Master. Beyond the crown there’s a 42mm case in Rolex’s heavy-duty Oystersteel and a green and black Cerachrom bezel insert (sometimes known in Rolex fan parlance as a ‘Starbucks’), which, again, is a first for the GMT-Master II, but not for Rolex. Details finishing it off include Rolex’s blue luminescent Chromalight dial detailing, and you can choose to have it on either a thick-set Oyster or rippling Jubilee bracelet.

ROBIN SWITHINBANK, CONTRIBUTING WATCHES EDITOR

“The most famous watch with a second time zone, the GMT-Master returns with a design flip that, at first, takes a second to compute”

Rolex GMT-Master II new 2022 watch detail of watch face

GMT-Master II

The most famous watch with a second time zone (Rolex introduced the first GMT-Master in 1955) returns with a design flip that, at first, takes a second to compute. The crown has been shifted to the left-hand side of the case – a quirk known by insiders as a ‘destro’. Why? There’s no headline-worthy reason, only that some wear a watch on their right wrist, for which a left-sided crown is more ergonomic. Before we go thinking this is entirely without precedent, Rolex has done this before – but only a few times and never with the GMT-Master. Beyond the crown there’s a 42mm case in Rolex’s heavy-duty Oystersteel and a green and black Cerachrom bezel insert (sometimes known in Rolex fan parlance as a ‘Starbucks’), which, again, is a first for the GMT-Master II, but not for Rolex. Details finishing it off include Rolex’s blue luminescent Chromalight dial detailing, and you can choose to have it on either a thick-set Oyster or rippling Jubilee bracelet.

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Rolex Day-Date 40 new 2022 watch
Day-Date 40

Dubbed the ‘presidents’ watch’ because of its role on the wrists of so many world leaders, the Day-Date became the world’s first watch to show the day of the week as well as the date upon its introduction in 1956. It’s only ever produced in precious metals, never in steel, and is so universally loved that its day window is available in 26 different languages. Somehow, however, there’s never been a version with a platinum bezel – a hole in its story now filled by the introduction of this piece with its ice blue dial (Rolex’s familiar platinum-watch dial colour of choice). Several patents were filed in the pursuit of this finish. Platinum is heavy but soft, making it harder to manipulate and stabilise. But Rolex has managed it, following ‘years’ of research and development.

Yacht-Master 42

In 2019, Rolex introduced a white gold version of its Yacht-Master 42. It’s taken a further three years for it to add a version in 18-karat yellow gold. The form is as iconic as ever, defined by its large, clearly legible hour markers filled with bright-glowing Chromalight, its bold bezel typography designed for timing the start of sailing races, and its Oysterflex bracelet – Rolex’s brilliant solution to bringing the unshakeable rigidity of a metal bracelet to a rubber strap.

As before, Rolex is still smelting its own gold in its Geneva foundry so it can guarantee its flawlessness and long-term performance. This version has a black lacquer dial, while Rolex has also introduced a white gold version of the watch with a mysterious Falcon’s Eye dial.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42

“The form is as iconic as ever, defined by its large, clearly legible hour markers filled with bright-glowing Chromalight, its bold bezel typography designed for timing the start of sailing races, and its Oysterflex bracelet”

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 new 2022 watch
Rolex Air-King new 2022 watch
Air-King

The thing with Rolex is that while it looks as if things stay the same, everything changes. The aesthetic of the Air-King may be familiar enough, and yet very little of this new watch is the same as the model it replaces. It’s still a 40mm Oyster, but the case shape has been tweaked so it now has straight flanks. There’s also an integral crown guard to consider, as well as a black lacquer dial (previously it was black gloss). The bracelet has been resized and now has an Oysterlock folding clasp, and the movement has been upgraded to Rolex’s Calibre 3230, with its 70-hour power reserve and promises of accuracy and stability. The anti-magnetism of this movement also means there’s no Faraday cage inside the watch, so it’s thinner, too. Same old? Not a bit of it.

Rolex Datejust 31 new 2022 watch

Datejust 31

The unmitigated critical and commercial success of last year’s palm-dialled Datejust 36 no doubt partly inspired this year’s additions to the Datejust 31 line – each of which has a floral dial motif in a reference to summer meadows (bringing the botanical story back to the Alps from its Caribbean adventures). There are 24 flowers on each iteration, all set with a diamond in one of three sizes at their centre. Beyond, the story is about configuration – there are sunray, matt, and grained dial finishes to choose from, and then the pairing of a Rolesor (Oystersteel and white gold) case and azzurro-blue dial, an 18-karat yellow gold case and olive-green dial, and an Everose Rolesor (Oystersteel and Everose gold) and silver dial. Astonishingly, their arrival adds the total number of Datejust combinations to over 1,000. Brands touting personalisation rarely offer such choice.

ROBIN SWITHINBANK, CONTRIBUTING WATCHES EDITOR

“The unmitigated critical and commercial success of last year’s palm-dialled Datejust 36 no doubt partly inspired this year’s additions to the Datejust 31 line”

Rolex Datejust 31 new 2022 watch face detail

Datejust 31

The unmitigated critical and commercial success of last year’s palm-dialled Datejust 36 no doubt partly inspired this year’s additions to the Datejust 31 line – each of which has a floral dial motif in a reference to summer meadows (bringing the botanical story back to the Alps from its Caribbean adventures). There are 24 flowers on each iteration, all set with a diamond in one of three sizes at their centre. Beyond, the story is about configuration – there are sunray, matt, and grained dial finishes to choose from, and then the pairing of a Rolesor (Oystersteel and white gold) case and azzurro-blue dial, an 18-karat yellow gold case and olive-green dial, and an Everose Rolesor (Oystersteel and Everose gold) and silver dial. Astonishingly, their arrival adds the total number of Datejust combinations to over 1,000. Brands touting personalisation rarely offer such choice.

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