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Rolex - Baselworld 2019: The kingdom of Rolex

Rolex Baselworld 2019: The kingdom of Rolex

Shiny or matt, elegant or sporty, devastatingly feminine or unapologetically macho... The models introduced by Rolex at Baselworld give a flavour of the brand’s unique positioning.

Give credit where credit is due – the first stop for most visitors to Baselworld is the Rolex booth. Rolex offers no pre-Basel teasers or trailers. Preparations for the fair are conducted in a climate of the utmost secrecy. The anticipation is all the keener given that, while many brands spread their launches out throughout the year, Rolex is one of the few remaining die-hard brands that saves them all for Baselworld. And the effect is all the more impressive when you bear in mind that Rolex accounts for approximately 20% of the high-end watch market. 

It’s rare for Rolex to launch an entirely new watch. But for a long time now, new additions to existing ranges, improved movements, changes in proportions, colours and features have been enough to keep the public happy. After all, let’s not forget that the collections concerned are practically all legendary in their own right, almost all of them 50 years old or more. The Day-Date, GMT-Master II, Submariner, Datejust and Cosmograph Daytona are well-known, well-regarded and highly sought-after. And the stakes are only growing higher, since global tastes for sports chic watches by major brands are growing increasingly homogeneous. What everyone wants is a versatile watch made of noble materials, on a metal bracelet. The territorial segmentation that was prevalent even five years ago is blurring, and Rolex, as producer of the archetypal luxury sports watch, is the primary beneficiary.

So, which models did Rolex spotlight for Baselworld 2019? Which icons (a word we can use here without hyperbole) have gone under the scalpel to re-emerge modified, enhanced, augmented?

First is the Yacht-Master, a nautically inspired watch, which now comes in a new size. In addition to the 37 mm and 40 mm cases, there is now a Yacht-Master 42. It is made of white gold, polished to a high sheen using Rolex’s signature polishing process. Its precious aura is mitigated by a matt black dial worthy of a Submariner, and a bezel with matt black ceramic insert. The round markers have been enlarged. The result is a technical and masculine looking watch, with a more urban feel. Indeed, the weight of the gold case is enough to remind its owner that this is not an adventurer’s watch.

Baselworld 2019: The kingdom of Rolex

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in white gold with black ceramic bezel © David Chokron / WorldTempus

Then there’s the Sea-Dweller. This watch is extreme in terms of design, capabilities and styling. It can withstand depths of up to 1,220 metres, and is enhanced with some unusual gold accents. The Sea-Dweller S&G is a radical diving watch, with added warmth and elegance provided by yellow gold touches on the markers, bezel, crown and the central links of its bracelet. Even the Sea-Dweller inscription has swapped out the red typeface that was such a hit with collectors in 2018 for gilt lettering.

Baselworld 2019: The kingdom of Rolex

Rolex Sea-Dweller S&G © David Chokron / WorldTempus

In 2018, the BLRO version of the GMT Master II with its two-tone red and blue bezel insert, known by the nickname “Pepsi”, reappeared in steel with a 5-link Jubilee bracelet. To say that it was phenomenally successful would be an understatement. This year, Rolex doubled down with another two-tone version of its dual time zone model. The blue and black bezel has earned it the alias “Batman”. The waiting list will no doubt be soul-crushingly long, but this has become a familiar phenomenon over the last twenty years, and we don’t expect it to go away any time soon. We should also mention that Rolex also discreetly unveiled a Pepsi model in white gold with a meteorite dial, a material of which the brand is a pioneer. 

Baselworld 2019 : Rolex en son royaume

Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi with meteorite dial © David Chokron / WorldTempus

Baselworld 2019: The kingdom of Rolex

Rolex GMT-Master II Batman with Jubilee bracelet © David Chokron / WorldTempus

It might be tempting to reduce Rolex to its more technical models. But in fact the brand has a far broader appeal, and its diversity often takes people by surprise. The assets of the world’s leading high-end watchmaker can’t be reduced to just these few high-profile models. They begin with a series of essential models whose universal appeal lies in their simplicity – Swiss chronometers with an understated design and an exquisite finish, such as the Datejust 36. A breathtakingly chic and elegant iteration of this model, now equipped with the latest-generation movement, the Calibre 3235, was unveiled at Baselworld. It comes in a 36 mm diameter case, with a white gold fluted bezel, Jubilee bracelet and black dial.

Baselworld 2019 : Rolex en son royaume

Rolex Datejust 36 in Oystersteel, with Jubilee bracelet and index dial © David Chokron / WorldTempus

The other essential pillar of Rolex’s success is the ladies’ watch. There is no other brand that can boast a comparable degree of gender balance, whether in its ranges, its focus or the quality of manufacture. The DateJust 31 was presented with an olive green dial, a military shade usually reserved for men’s watches, which nevertheless perfectly complements its noble case. It features a Jubilee bracelet, yet again, in yellow Rolesor (alternating yellow gold and steel links), with a bezel and applied Roman numerals in yellow gold, and the six o’clock marker set with diamonds.

Baselworld 2019 : Rolex en son royaume

Rolex Datejust 31 Rolesor with Jubilee bracelet © David Chokron / WorldTempus

The Day-Date 36 has also been treated to a new range of dials. Although primarily intended for a female audience, they also appeal to men in countries where diamonds are not just for women. They feature diamonds on the markers and around the bezel, and the cases are made of gold. No surprise there, since Day-Dates have always been in gold, unless they are made of platinum. In addition to their diamond accents, the dials also feature unusual materials including turquoise and pink mother-of-pearl.

Baselworld 2019 : Rolex en son royaume

Rolex Day-Date 36 with pink mother-of-pearl dial © David Chokron / WorldTempus

Rolex is the ultimate universal brand, offering watches for all tastes: big or small, for men or women, precious or adventurous. The intentions are clear from the details, and you have to go a long way to find another brand that is as meticulous. Behind these new launches, the diamond accents and the movements is one of the most formidable forces in contemporary watchmaking, offering a culture of extremely high standards, in the service of products that offer unbeatable quality, and intrinsic features that are of direct benefit to the user.

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