Rolex The one that got away: 2013 Rolex Day-Date with leather strap
Worldtempus is starting a new series. « The one that got away » digs up timepieces no longer made, for worse, not better. Our column begins with colored dials, 36 mm Day-Dates on alligator straps.
The year is 2021 : not a single Rolex timepiece is mounted on a leather strap, with the notable exception of the Cellini collection. Launched in 2014, the latter ended up taking up all the space Rolex devotes to classical, dress watches not mounted on a bracelet. Which means a vast portion of the market and of interesting timepieces. The thing is, the Cellini may be a Rolex, but when it comes to design, it's a long way off what people expect from the brand.
But such a proposition used to exist. Back in 2013, Rolex had launched a series of Day-Dates made of white gold (ref.118139) and yellow gold (118138), with alligator leather straps and a Crownclasp buckle (the long, conspicuous one). What's more, they were fitted with cognac, cherry, chocolate, grey, green or blue dials. Which means that collection, which Rolex retired in xxxx, was both an exception and a trailblazer.
Rolex Day-Date 118138, yellow gold © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Just considering the way they wear, those 36-mm babies were little marvels. Little, indeed, but marvels all the same. Somewhere around 12 mm thick, they were the perfect hybrids of sport and chic, of the Oyster design and classy overtones of gold, exotic leather and the refinement the Day-Date line carries, with its fluted bezel and day aperture at 12 o'clock. The wrist fit was perfect. And lastly, they flipped the usual Rolex tones on their heads, where the case and bracelets usually match, not the leather and dials.
Rolex Day-Date 118138 yellow gold © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Yes, the dials ! My, oh my, those dials. The brown one was the right kind of chocolate. The cognac one was amber enough, and both were warm and classy to a fault. Blue was only beginning to emerge as the be all and end all color. Green was still an oddity. Especially this one, which was not the debatable Rolex green, but a deep, very smart English green. As for the red, ever so slightly purple, dial, it was the only available at the time. Period. It would be another four years or so before any brand began to line up such an array of dial colours.
Rolex Day-Date 118138 in yellow gold © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Let's also note that in 2013, yellow gold watches had all but been pushed out of existence by the various tones of pink gold. It reigned supreme on warm precious materials. Rolex had never completely given up on it but certainly didn't put it forward. Ref. 118138 did just that, discretely and before many other brands even considered such a move.
Rolex Day-Date 118139 white gold © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Now you see how special these timepieces were, both in a Rolex and a 2013 and onwards context. Never meant to steal the show, it was seeon overshadowed, and ultimately ousted, by the Cellini's need for attention. It got away, but it hasn't got forgotten.
La Rolex Cellini Time et son cadran lisse © David Chokron/WorldTempus