The Millennium Watch Book Excerpt from The Millennium Watch Book: One Year, One Watch
For GMT Publishing has created The Millennium Watch Book for its 20th anniversary, available for pre-order now. Read here an exclusive excerpt from the book.
On the occasion of GMT Magazine’s 20th anniversary (and WorldTempus’s upcoming 20th anniversary in 2021), we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. The Millennium Watch Book is available exclusively now for pre-order at a discounted rate on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with delivery aimed just in time for the holiday season.
In the coming weeks, WorldTempus will be exclusively sharing excerpts from the book, to give you a taste. Use the code WT2020 at checkout get 10% off your first order!
Here’s is an exclusive excerpt from our section “One Year, One Watch”, where we pick one watch to symbolise each year from 2000-2020. For more information, visit www.the-watch-book.com.
Flashback to the year 2000: the 20th century was drawing to a close. We were on the threshold of a new millennium that will outlast us all. From January 1, 2000 onwards, there would be those born in 19-something – and everybody else. Henceforth, Gen Z would be taking the place of the Millennials.
The year 2000 had long been a milestone in the collective imagination: the subject of dreams, paintings, and designs. In 1900, they imagined 2000 with air travel, deep-sea exploration, underground cities, time machines, and mobile houses. Which all goes to show that some predictions can be trusted.
Watchmaking is all about measuring passing time – and the year 2000 began with the fear of the Y2K Bug. The world was afraid of collapsing because computers wouldn’t be able to read a date. How ironic! In the end nothing happened, and computer scientists everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. But let’s get back to watchmaking: the challenge before us is to choose 21 watches that tell the story of the years 2000-2020. Where should we start? 2000 is a unique year, so the watch in question must be equally unique.
The timepiece had to be the symbol of watchmaking’s past as well as its future. Like the magical number 2000, it must evoke something for everyone. It absolutely had to have a legendary name. And it must be one that has endured, so that it can take us by the hand, guide us along the path, and still be there in 2020. All that left only one possibility: the Rolex Daytona. At that time, Rolex was already an iconic brand, on the verge of achieving world domination.
Cosmograph Daytona © Rolex
The Cosmograph, now regarded as the ultimate Daytona model, was a ‘baby-boomer’ chronograph, presented at Basel sporting a new movement – the 4130 – made for the first time by Rolex. Gone were the Valjoux and Zenith movements of the 20th century. In that extraordinary year, the Daytona, first released in 1963, became a Rolex product through and through, looking to the future – and the rest is history. Little-noticed when it first arrived, only attracting much greater scrutiny later, today it’s come to symbolise a new order in watchmaking. Having also become impossible to get hold of, it’s now the epitome of ‘frustration marketing’.
Calibre 4130 © Rolex
The dawning century of watchmaking would come to be defined by many words: icon, myth, vintage, Manufacture, product placement, auction, star, China, and globalisation. All of those were to apply to the Daytona. And that’s why it’s our watch for the year 2000.
The Geneva-based brand is the best-known in the world. Its aura comes from its incredible ability to resist both change and ageing. In and of itself, it’s the perfect counter-example of the era commencing in 2000. At a time when everyone was talking about growth, booms, crises, and globalisation, Rolex didn’t budge, remaining true to its principles and confident in its vision.
And that’s precisely its strength. Rolex is a solid rock, a reference point, and a reassuring name. It invented watchmaking marketing – and yet made non-communication a profitable strategy in a world that was on the cusp of placing too much value on image alone.
The Rolex Daytona 116520
As the first Daytona fitted with an in-house calibre, the 116520 was when Rolexes became 100% inhouse-made. It wasn’t until the end of the millennium that Rolex produced its own chronograph movement: and that was a sign. In doing so, Rolex strengthened its independence and its ethos of mechanical perfection.
Cosmograph Daytona 116520 © Rolex/Jean-Daniel Meyer
In addition to the new, superbly-fashioned movement (albeit hidden behind the watch’s spartan caseback), Rolex was discreetly changing other components, too: the dial, hands, and strap were subtly given a new design. By getting rid of the El Primero in favour of its own calibre, Rolex sought to close a chapter of its history: “Queen 16520 is dead. Long live Queen 116520”. But that was not to be. On its ‘death’ in the spring of 2000, the Daytona Zenith became an overnight legend. Rolex had just invented another form of marketing: immortality marketing.
The take from the devil’s advocate
Lucifer likes the ‘dark side of the force’ aspect of Rolex: it’s the brand of the powerful and symbolises – despite itself –a world of money and excess.
More seriously, the Daytona 116520 is an unassailable watch; even its weaknesses are strengths. That said, it does have a few minor faults that have always bothered me a little. First of all, there’s that silver circle round the counters, and all the wording on the dial. I think simplifying the dial would be a great way of Rolex coming more into line with its image of simplicity and discretion. But that wasn’t how things played out in 2000. We’ll just have to wait until 2023 – when the Daytona turns 60.
Cosmograph Daytona 116520 © Rolex