A History of Rolex: Watchmaking and Where it Began

Today, Rolex is the single most powerful luxury lifestyle brand in the entire world, and a byword for notions of success and achievement. The brand’s numerous innovations and pioneering designs have rewritten the rule book for watchmaking time and again, and its name and output are familiar to just about everyone, regardless of whether they […] The post A History of Rolex: Watchmaking and Where it Began appeared first on Bob's Watches.

A History of Rolex: Watchmaking and Where it Began

Today, Rolex is the single most powerful luxury lifestyle brand in the entire world, and a byword for notions of success and achievement. The brand’s numerous innovations and pioneering designs have rewritten the rule book for watchmaking time and again, and its name and output are familiar to just about everyone, regardless of whether they have any interest in horology whatsoever.

However, just like everything, it all had to start somewhere. And for Rolex, it started with Hans Otto Wilhelm Wilsdorf, a Bavarian entrepreneur who, in 1905, set up shop at 83 Hatton Gardens in London’s jewelry quarter, with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis. Below we take a closer look at the complete history of Rolex and the origins of the world’s most famous luxury watch manufacturer.

About Rolex Watches

Rolex Company Facts:

– Founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf.

– Headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland.

– Owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.

– Created the first waterproof watch in 1926.

– First self-winding Perpetual movement in 1931.

– Total annual production is approximately a million watches.

– Rolex watches are sold in more than 100 different countries.

Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on Rolex watches.

History of Rolex Watches Platinum Daytona Ice Blue Dial

The Origins Of Rolex

In the beginning, Wilsdorf & Davis was merely a watch importer, a side of the industry Wilsdorf was already familiar with following his time working for a Swiss company named Cuna Korten in Geneva. His gift for languages, being fluent in English, French and German, meant that he was in charge of correspondence for the firm. The experience was to give him a strong grounding in marketing as well as instilling a deep love of horology.

The watches Wilsdorf & Davis bought in were sourced from all over Switzerland as well as other parts of the U.K., and came in varying qualities. These were then sold on to a network of retailers who would, more often than not, place their own names on the dials. The company’s own W&D logo, if it appeared at all, would be relegated to being stamped inside the case back.

However, while his business had become one of the most successful in the trade within just a few short years, Wilsdorf wanted to further establish his own company. He made it his mission to have his brand name included on all the watches he exported, something that no one else had been able to persuade jewelers to agree to before.

History of Rolex Watches Stainless Steel Oyster Perpetual

When Wilsdorf & Davis Became Rolex

By 1908, Wilsdorf had registered ‘Rolex’ as a trademark. The origin of the name has always been the source of debate, with some believing that it is taken from the phrase ‘hoROLogical EXcellence’, while others maintain that it is because the word sounds like a watch being wound.

In reality, it was simply chosen after a lot of trial and error. Wilsdorf had tried combining the letters in the alphabet in every possible way with no success. He wanted nothing more than a name that was short enough to fit well on a watch dial and one that would be pronounced the same in any language. Then, in his own words, “One morning, while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along Cheapside in the City of London, a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”

As one of history’s true visionaries, he was fully aware of the power of branding and began a long campaign to get this new company name on the watches that passed through his hands. At first, he was able to have it inscribed on one out of every six models, alongside the jeweler’s own mark. Later it became one in every three, then around half. The initial reluctance of the retailers was worn down by a series of high profile successes Rolex was having in conjunction with longtime associates, the fellow Swiss manufacturer Aegler.

History of Rolex Watches Vintage Oyster Gold Case

Early Victories

The relationship between Rolex and Aegler actually started the same year that Wilsdorf & Davis set up the business. That was when Wilsdorf placed with Aegler the largest order for wristwatches ever seen up until that point. It was especially noteworthy as wristwatches were the sole preserve of women at the time, with men more or less exclusively opting for pocket watches.

However, Wilsdorf was willing to bet on his ability to transform the image of the wristwatch and was attracted by Aegler’s commitment to the highest quality. The movements it made were not only extremely accurate, using lever escapements as opposed to the cylinder type found in cheaper models but they were also (crucially) small. This fit in perfectly with Wilsdorf’s efforts to prove wristwatches could be just as accurate and reliable as pocket watches.

In 1910, that assertion was vindicated when one of Rolex’s models won a First Class Chronometer Certificate from the rating office in Bienne, Switzerland. Later, in 1914, another piece became the first ever wristwatch to be granted a Class A Chronometer Certificate from the Kew Observatory in England, the only non-marine timepiece to ever achieve it. The firm of Wilsdorf & Davis was fast becoming synonymous with a commitment to uncompromising excellence.

History of Rolex Watches Submariner 5513 COMEX

The War Years

Unfortunately, 1914 was also the year that WWI broke out in Europe. For Wilsdorf, that cataclysmic event ultimately brought with it both pluses and minuses.

First, he believed that having a German sounding name was going to do his business no favors in England, so Wilsdorf & Davis officially became Rolex in 1915. Subsequently, once the war had ended, the British government slapped an enormous 33.3% tax increase on luxury goods entering the country, and that included watches. This forced Rolex to move its main offices to Bienne in order to avoid the levy and by 1919, Rolex had left London for good.

On the other hand, the horrors of the war had proved, once and for all, the undisputed utility of the wristwatch. As it was the first conflict conducted over vast distances, line-of-sight communication methods were no longer of any use, and attacks were coordinated by radio. This meant that commanders of various regiments needed accurate timepieces in order to be able to launch offenses simultaneously, and pocket watches were just too cumbersome to be effectively used by troops during combat or in the field.

Soldiers had at first taken to modifying their standard-issue pocket watch models with wire lugs soldered top and bottom to hold a strap. However, as the fighting continued, several manufacturers started to produce so-called ‘trench watches’ specifically for them, and this included Rolex. Aegler’s small and precise movements were ideal, keeping these pieces a wearable size to fit under a sleeve without sacrificing reliability or accuracy. By the end of the war, with those serving on the frontline returning home with watches strapped to their arm, the wristwatch was no longer a delicate fashion item exclusively worn by women; they had become a utilitarian accessory for even the toughest of men.

History of Rolex Watches Vintage GMT-Master Pepsi Gilt Dial

Continued Success & The Birth of The Rolex Testimonee

In the years between the wars, Rolex continued to assert its independence, with Wilsdorf determined to control every aspect of his company.

In 1924, he partnered with fellow luxury watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer to defy being consumed by the Federation of Swiss Watch Manufacturers, the virtual cartel that governed the industry. The following year, he invested heavily in an advertising campaign that was successful enough to convince dealers to include the name Rolex on five out of every six watches they sold.

In 1926, Rolex came up with perhaps the single most significant innovation for the wristwatch in its history: the Oyster case. Waterproof, dustproof and particularly robust, this more than anything ended the dominance of the pocket watch. For the first time, a wristwatch was durable enough to be worn all-day and throughout a variety of different demanding activities. This also marked the last time a model would leave their production line without the name ‘Rolex’ on the dial.

Hot on the heels of that breakthrough, Wilsdorf capitalized on the effectiveness of the waterproof Oyster case by installing the first of many Rolex Ambassadors – or ‘Testimonees’ as they have become better known. A typical marketing masterstroke, Wilsdorf found that by aligning his products with some of the most important and successful celebrities of the day, it gave tacit impetus to potential customers that they too could aspire to great heights with a Rolex timepiece on their wrist.

History of Rolex Watches Gold Day-Date President Diamond Dial

A Swim Across the English Channel

The original Rolex Testimonee was the professional swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze. Not only had Gleitze become the first person to swim the Straits of Gibraltar and the first to swim between Cape Town and Robben Island and back, she also broke the world endurance record with an incredible 46-hour plunge in 1932.

However, before that, she was to become the first English woman to swim the 22-mile crossing between England and France in 1927. After some controversy over timings following her first attempt, it was decided Gleitze would take on the challenge a second time, in a so-called ‘vindication swim.’ And when word of this reached Wilsdorf, he managed to persuade the young athlete to wear one of his newly created Oyster watches on a lanyard around her neck.

Even though the bitterly cold waters of the seas around Great Britain defeated her with just a mile to go, her efforts were so impressive that it was agreed that she would be awarded the title of the first English woman to have swum the Channel for the original attempt. As for Rolex, the watch that Gleitze carried with her, and which had been submerged in the icy waters for more than 10-hours, it had not let in a single drop and was working perfectly.

This led to the company kicking off an advertising onslaught. The ‘Wonder Watch That Defies The Elements’ bellowed the full front page ad in the London Daily Mail the following day, and retailers started displaying Rolex watches submerged in fish tanks in store windows.

The Testimonee campaign has been a massive success for Rolex, and one that has been copied by many other brands (as have most of the manufacturer’s various innovations). Rolex’s list of ambassadors past and present reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the most influential players of all time and includes (in no particular order), Sir Malcolm Campbell, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, Jackie Stewart, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and James Cameron – among many others.

History of Rolex Watches Vintage Daytona Movement

Perpetual Rolex

The Oyster case had given the wristwatch a robust nature that it had never had before and elevated it to an entirely new level of everyday practicality. However, even still, there was one final piece of the puzzle still outstanding.

Although self-winding movements had already been developed, they were still fairly rudimentary and had met with little commercial success. It was Rolex and longtime partner, Aegler who would come together and build on the work of English horologist, John Harwood to achieve the first practical automatic caliber.

In 1931, Rolex unveiled the Perpetual mechanism, utilizing a weighted rotor placed on a center axis that could wind the mainspring in both directions from just the movement of the wearer’s wrist. Arguably an invention that advanced the greater watch industry as much as the Oyster case, the self-winding caliber brought an unheard of convenience to the wristwatch.

History of Rolex Watches Explorer Stainless Steel Chromalight

Rolex Dominance

WWII saw Switzerland retain its neutrality, meaning that it was one of the few countries not forced to shut down watch manufacturing to supply the war effort. As a result, by the end of hostilities, the Swiss watch industry was way ahead of other nations, and it is a position that it has held ever since.

With that in mind, it was during the 1950s when Rolex truly came of age. In the space of just four years, the brand changed the game completely by launching some of the most enduring legends in watchmaking – the Explorer, Submariner, GMT-Master, Day-Date, and Milgauss. Rolex then followed that up in the 1960s with the first of the Cosmograph Daytona watches and the debut Sea-Dweller, and in the 1970s gave us the Explorer II.

Those models, along with the Datejust from 1945, really created the foundation for the brand’s entire collection, and they still do to this day. Unlike many other manufactures who release all-new watches on at least a semi regular basis, Rolex’s philosophy has long been to stick with its core offerings and periodically improve upon them, with outright perfection being the end goal.

Although Rolex’s contemporary portfolio might have one or two fresh names (the Yacht-Master II and the Sky-Dweller, for instance) the bulk of the brand’s core offerings can trace their roots all the way back to the mid-20th century. This has resulted in some truly classic and timeless designs, along with providing the Rolex roster with a coherence pretty much unmatched among its contemporaries.

History of Rolex Watches White Gold GMT-Master II Pepsi Blue Dial

From Tools to Status Symbols

However, even the most famous watchmaker in the world is not immune to disruptions. The quartz crisis of the 1970s and ‘80s forced the company to change tactics, but it ended up spring boarding the brand to new heights. Unable to compete with the new technology in terms of price or accuracy, Rolex instead repositioned itself as the purveyor of the ultimate luxury lifestyle.

By ramping up its use of precious metals, playing up the sheer artistry of mechanical watchmaking, and pricing its watches out of the reach of the average buyer, Rolex gave itself the sort of exclusivity that transformed its creations from well-made but affordable accessories into bona fide luxury status symbols.

Today, the name Rolex, like Rolls Royce, is a word that has become a synonym for refinement, opulence, and personal accomplishment. Rolex watches are the type of timepieces that you buy once you have reached a certain stage in your life, and they often mark the point of a major triumph. Just like the old Rolex slogan goes, “a crown for every achievement.”

From the humblest of beginnings, Rolex has become undoubtedly the most famous and successful luxury watch manufacturer on this planet. The company is a true giant in the world of horology, but it is a position that is well deserved. The Rolex brand as we know it today is the byproduct of an unrelenting drive for excellence and over a hundred years of refinement and development – all in the pursuit of the brand’s singular goal of making the world’s best wristwatch.

History of Rolex Watches Gold GMT-Master II 50th Anniversary

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Rolex Sky-Dweller Ultimate Review and Buying Guide

First launched in 2012, the Rolex Sky-Dweller holds the distinction of being the most complex and technologically advanced model in the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer’s entire catalog. Although it possesses a somewhat similar overall aesthetic to many of the traditional models in Rolex’s catalog such as the Datejust and Day-Date, the Sky-Dweller offers unparalleled functionality and […] The post Rolex Sky-Dweller Ultimate Review and Buying Guide appeared first on Bob's Watches.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Ultimate Review and Buying Guide

First launched in 2012, the Rolex Sky-Dweller holds the distinction of being the most complex and technologically advanced model in the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer’s entire catalog. Although it possesses a somewhat similar overall aesthetic to many of the traditional models in Rolex’s catalog such as the Datejust and Day-Date, the Sky-Dweller offers unparalleled functionality and combines an innovative annual calendar complication with true GMT functionality to create the ultimate luxury travel watch.

Despite the fact that the Rolex Sky-Dweller collection is only now just about a decade old, it has already undergone a number of small updates and refinements, with a handful of references joining and leaving the collection over the years. Additionally, while it took a little while to catch on with the general public, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is now finally starting to experience the appreciation that it deserves, as an increasing number of collectors and enthusiasts become aware of its advanced functionality and the remarkably clean and ultra-legible way that it is able to present all of its information. If you have been thinking about adding one of these ultra-capable luxury travel watches to your collection, then read on as we go over everything you need to know about the Rolex Sky-Dweller, including its history, the various different options available, and how much it will cost to add one to your watch box.

Rolex Sky-Dweller

Sky-Dweller Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2012

– Case Diameter: 42mm

– Materials: 18k Gold (Yellow, White, or Everose); White Rolesor (Steel & White Gold), Yellow Rolesor (Steel & Yellow Gold)

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, Month Indicator, GMT Functionality, Annual Calendar

– Dial: Multiple Options Available 

– Bezel: Ring Command, 18k Gold, Fluted Style

– Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/Cyclope Lens)

– Movement: Rolex Caliber 9001

– Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 330 Feet

– Strap / Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet; Jubilee Bracelet; Oysterflex Bracelet; Leather strap (Discontinued)

– Approx. Price: $14,800 – $49,450 (New); $22,250 – $70,000 (Pre-Owned)

Click here for in-depth instructions on how to use the Rolex Sky-Dweller.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Oysterflex Bracelet 326238

About the Rolex Sky-Dweller

It is hard to fault the Rolex Sky-Dweller’s aesthetics. It is (and always has been) decidedly on-brand for a watch from The Crown. The Sky-Dweller looked like a Rolex watch from the get-go, but for some reason, it did not receive the immediate love that the brand likely expected that it would.

Some of Rolex’s most recent collection additions to the men’s side of its catalog have been the Yacht-Master II (2007), the Deepsea (2008), the Datejust II (2009), and the Sky-Dweller (2012). While the Datejust II was intended as a modernized take on the Datejust, and the Deepsea was designed to add a further dimension to the Sea-Dweller line, the Yacht-Master II and the Sky-Dweller stuck out like sore thumbs for the incredible complexity of their features.

There are far more complicated watches in the world than either of these models, but for Rolex – a brand whose watches generally focus on performing simple tasks as effectively as they can be performed, this was something rather special. The Yacht-Master II boasted a complication so esoteric that even those for whom it was designed would probably have to take to the high seas with the instruction manual in hand for the first couple of regattas.

Meanwhile, the Rolex Sky-Dweller took a historically complex complication and made it far simpler to read and operate. And yet, despite this incredible effort, the initial response was mixed. While the technology housed within the Sky-Dweller was rarely sniffed at, the watch drew criticism upon its initial release for its arguably busy dial and the eye-watering price that one would expect from a solid 18k gold Rolex.

Over the years, the Sky-Dweller’s dial has been simplified and additional options have been added to the lineup. The stainless steel Sky-Dweller with a blue dial is now one of the most popular models in Rolex’s entire catalog, with pre-owned examples trading hands for significantly above their original retail price. With that in mind, given all the hype and widespread madness that typically surrounds the release of new Rolex watches, why did it take so long for the Sky-Dweller to spread its wings?

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326938 Yellow Gold Roman Dial

Rolex Sky-Dweller Options

When the Rolex Sky-Dweller was first introduced, it was available in either 18k yellow gold, white gold, or Everose gold with the choice of either Arabic or Roman numeral hour markers on the dial. Several years later, Rolex added two-tone options to the collection and updated the dial to feature luminous batons for a more contemporary aesthetic.

Additionally, along with additional metal options and dial colors, Rolex has also added additional strap and bracelet options to the Sky-Dweller collection. Initially, the solid gold watch was available with either a 3-link Oyster bracelet or a leather strap with a matching gold fold-over clasp. However, the leather strap models have been entirely discontinued (along with the full 18k white gold references) and replaced by similar full-gold Sky-Dweller watches on rubber Oysterflex bracelets, while the iconic Jubilee bracelet was added as an option for the steel and gold ‘Rolesor’ models in 2021.

Interestingly, unlike the Yacht-Master II, the Rolex Sky-Dweller’s Ring Command bezel is fluted and presented in solid 18k gold — even on the stainless steel models (they are actually considered White Rolesor models since their bezels are 18k white gold). The Sky-Dweller’s advanced feature-specific movement and larger 42mm size also contribute to the feeling that this timepiece is a Professional series watch, but its overall aesthetics are far more traditional and Rolex does categorize it as part of its Classic collection. Overall, the Rolex Sky-Dweller could be considered to be almost like a cross between a GMT-Master II and a Day-Date President, with the added functionality of an annual calendar complication.

The Blue Dial Sky-Dweller

The release of the White Rolesor version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller (and an accompanying blue dial option) suddenly seemed to whet the appetite for collectors. The funniest thing about this addition to the lineup was how it seemed to increase general interest in all of the older, previously-ignored models as well as the new steel and gold Rolesor options.

Once again, this phenomenon is an example of the importance of context in watchmaking. Often, new designs are too radical to initially garner widespread acceptance. In many instances, a new collection or aesthetic must feel somehow connected to the past in order to not be regarded as too great a departure. The simplified, baton indices and a more accessible price point of the Rolesor Sky-Dweller watch built a bridge between their solid-gold predecessor and the Datejust/Day-Date models that offer a similar but simplified overall aesthetic.

As such, the Rolex Sky-Dweller – thanks to the addition of a mostly stainless steel option – suddenly fit in with the rest of the collection. And while the earlier models had not been in demand as much as the later updates, they were suddenly appreciated for their role as inaugural models that represent an important part of the brand’s history and the development of a model that will likely stick around for the long run.

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326139 White Gold Leather Strap

Current Rolex Sky-Dweller References

The Sky-Dweller family is not the most expansive in the Rolex universe. In fact, thanks to the discontinuation of several early references, there are only six models left in the catalog (not including all the different dial and bracelet variations).

Reference 326934

The entry-level model in the Rolex Sky-Dweller collection is perhaps most often seen with its handsome blue dial installed. Here we see a Rolesor fusion of Oystersteel and 18k white gold, which creates a clean and classic look suitable for the beach, the boardroom, and everything in between. For those who appreciate a more monochromatic display, the ref. 326934 is also available with a black or a white dial. This piece is mostly Oystersteel, with only the bezel, hands, and hour markers crafted from white gold. This means that it is quite a bit lighter than the full-gold models, and a little better at withstanding a daily beating.

Reference 326933

The next step up in the luxury stakes sees yellow gold replace the white gold of reference 326934. This model is also available with three dial colors: black, white, and champagne. Like other Yellow Rolesor watches, the bezel, winding crown, hands, hour markers, and center links of the bracelet are all crafted from solid 18k yellow gold. Visually, it is perhaps the most reminiscent of the Datejust model to which the Sky-Dweller cannot help but be compared (especially when paired with the Jubilee bracelet). However, its 42mm diameter means it is a bigger presence than even the largest Datejust model in the collection. That said, the sympathetically sloped and fluted bezel makes this watch sit lower on the wrist than its specifications might indicate, and it does not look at all out of place in more formal settings where the yellow gold feels right at home.

Reference 326938

The full yellow gold Rolex Sky-Dweller is perhaps the most iconic piece within the collection, especially since the update saw the more complex numerals shelved in favor of crisp and clean luminous batons, which add to the visual clarity of the piece as well as its low-light legibility. Every collection needs anchors, and this reference, along with the intensely popular blue dial White Rolesor reference 326934 provides just that.

Reference 326238

While the reference 326938 features a solid 18k yellow gold case paired with a matching gold Oyster bracelet, the ref. 326238 swaps out the metal bracelet for Rolex’s innovative Rubber Oysterflex bracelet. Additionally, rather than being identical to the gold bracelet model just without a metal bracelet, the case of the reference 326238 features small lug hoods for a more integrated appearance where the strap meets the case.

Reference 326935

Everose gold is more than just rose gold. Its hue and luster in real life is truly something to behold. While yellow gold is an incredibly classical material that works in certain situations better than others, Everose has a modern versatility that surely encouraged Rolex to make it a more central part of the brand’s offering. The full Everose Sky-Dweller on a bracelet is, with its smokey dial and $49,450 retail price, a true statement of luxury and a completely unmissable choice.

Reference 326235

The reference 326235 is the Everose gold version of the reference 326938. Just like with the yellow gold model, the ref. 326235 swaps out the gold Oyster bracelet of the ref. 326935 for a rubber Oysterflex bracelet with a matching 18k gold clasp. With an official retail price of $41,500, it is nearly $8,000 less expensive than the Everose gold version on a matching bracelet; however, it still represents a significant step up in price over either of the Rolesor models.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Blue Dial 326934 Oyster Bracelet

Discontinued Rolex Sky-Dweller References

Despite the fact that the Rolex Sky-Dweller collection has been around for less than a full decade, there are still a handful of models that have been discontinued during that time. This includes all of the full 18k white gold models, along with the various solid gold references fitted with leather straps.

Reference 326939

The reference 326939 was a member of the first trio of solid 18k gold Sky-Dweller references that was released in 2012. Just like its siblings, the ref. 326939 featured a solid 18k gold case and a matching gold Oyster bracelet. However, it swapped out the yellow gold and Everose gold of the other two references for a full 18k white gold construction, which gave it a much more subtle overall appearance. The ref. 326939 remained in production until 2018 when Rolex discontinued all of the solid white gold Sky-Dweller references.

Reference 326139

Also featuring a solid 18k white gold case is the reference 326139, which swaps out the matching white gold Oyster bracelet of its sibling for a classic leather strap with a gold fold-over clasp. Just like the models on Oysterflex bracelets, the ref. 326139 features lug hoods that extend from under the bezel to fill the gap between the side of the case and the edge of the strap.

Reference 326138

The reference 326138 is the solid 18k yellow gold version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller that is fitted with a leather strap rather than a matching yellow gold bracelet. Just like the other leather strap models (along with those fitted with rubber Oysterflex bracelets), the ref. 326138 features lug hoods to give its strap a more integrated appearance.

Reference 326135

Just like its yellow and white gold siblings, the reference 326135 is a solid 18k gold Rolex Sky-Dweller that is fitted with a leather strap instead of its matching gold bracelet. Similar to the other strap-equipped models, the ref. 326135 features lug hoods; however, it is entirely crafted from Rolex’s proprietary 18k Everose gold alloy that is specifically designed to retain its warm hue despite prolonged exposure to the elements.

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326135 Everose Gold

How Much is a Rolex Sky-Dweller?

At a retail level, Rolex Sky-Dweller watches start out at around the $15,000 price range for a brand-new White Rolesor reference 326934 and closer to $50k for a full Everose gold example on a matching 18k Everose gold bracelet.

Below are the 2021 retail prices for all of the current-production Rolex Sky-Dweller models:

– Ref. 326934 = $14,800 (Oyster Bracelet); $15,050 (Jubilee Bracelet)

– Ref. 326933 = $17,650 (Oyster Bracelet); $18,300 (Jubilee Bracelet)

– Ref. 326938 = $46,650 (Oyster Bracelet)

– Ref. 326238 = $40,000 (Oysterflex Bracelet)

– Ref. 326935 = $49,450 (Oyster Bracelet)

– Ref. 326238 = $41,500 (Oysterflex Bracelet)

Naturally, the Oysterflex bracelet versions of the various solid 18k gold models cost substantially less than those with matching gold bracelets simply due to the fact that their construction requires quite a bit less gold. Additionally, the Jubilee bracelet configurations of the two Rolesor references come at a small premium compared to their Oyster bracelet siblings, although there is no difference in retail price for the different dial colors.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Stainless Steel 326934 Black Dial

Buying Pre-Owned vs. New

As the Sky-Dweller is one of Rolex’s newest models and one that is not yet even ten years old, there is no such thing as a “vintage” Sky-Dweller. That is assuming we accept the general definition of vintage being something between 20 and 100 years old (older than 100 years would be classed as an antique in this instance).

It is getting easier to find pre-owned Rolex Sky-Dweller watches available for sale, but the prices for them have been going up significantly. Specific models – particularly the White Rolesor version with the blue dial and the new 18k gold models on Oysterflex bracelets – can carry steep premiums over their brand-new counterparts due to the limited supply of these Rolex watches at a retail level and the resulting multi-year waiting lists present at dealers.

When the stainless steel and gold versions were first announced, the waiting lists were predictably lengthy. Consequently, demand for pieces drove up the pre-owned prices overnight. In those days, White Rolesor models were trending for almost double their recommended retail price. And unlike some models that become more accessible after the initial hype cools down, the pre-owned price of a steel Sky-Dweller with a blue dial is still around twice what it costs brand-new.

Previously, it was possible to find a considerable discount on the two-tone and solid gold Rolex Sky-Dweller models but over the last couple of years, secondary market prices for virtually all models have picked up, with many now significantly exceeding their original retail values.

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326934 Stainless Steel

Rolex Sky-Dweller Prices

Like most Rolex watches, you can’t simply walk into a Rolex dealer or boutique and buy a Sky-Dweller that same day. Most models have lengthy waiting lists, and if you want the stainless steel model with a blue dial, it might be several years. Consequently, there exists a significant difference between the brand-new retail price of a Rolex Sky-Dweller and what you will actually have to pay to get one on your wrist today.

Yellow Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326938 (Oyster Bracelet)

Retail (MSRP): $46,650

Secondary Market: $52,500 – $63,750

Everose Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326935 (Oyster Bracelet)

Retail (MSRP): $49,450

Secondary Market: $63,500 – $70,000

Yellow Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326238 (Oysterflex Bracelet)

Retail (MSRP): $40,000

Secondary Market: $43,250 – $48,750

Everose Gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326235 (Oysterflex Bracelet)

Retail (MSRP): $41,500

Secondary Market: $46,500 – $54,300

(Yellow Rolesor) Two-Tone  Sky-Dweller ref. 326933

Retail (MSRP): $17,650 (Oyster Bracelet); $18,300 (Jubilee Bracelet)

Secondary Market: $22,250 – $27,350

(White Rolesor) Stainless Steel Sky-Dweller ref. 326934

Retail (MSRP): $14,800 (Oyster Bracelet); $15,050 (Jubilee Bracelet)

Secondary Market: $24,500 – $35,300

While most Rolex Sky-Dweller watches trade hands for values in excess of their original retail prices on the open market, this is especially true for the White Rolesor model. You will immediately notice that the stainless steel Sky-Dweller ref. 326934 is currently selling at a significantly higher price on the secondary market than its suggested brand-new retail price. This perfectly illustrates how the booming demand for stainless steel Rolex watches (of virtually all kinds) is driving up their resale value.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Two-Tone 326933 Black Dial

Sky-Dweller Features & How to Use Them

Beating away inside the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the in-house Caliber 9001 movement. A blue Parachrom hairspring ensures that timekeeping will be affected as little as possible from exposure to magnetic fields and temperature fluctuations. The movement is also fitted with Paraflex shock absorbers to guarantee a smooth ride for the escapement as it ticks its way through its ample 72-hour power reserve.

This fascinating movement’s setting system was inspired by Rolex’s previous foray into complicated sports watches with the Yacht-Master II from 2007. The key feature that distinguishes this system from most others on the market is the Ring Command Bezel. Using the bezel, it is possible to select the function of the winding crown. By shifting through the options, you can set the local time (which jumps in one-hour increments), the reference time (the 24-hour disc), or the date and the month of the annual calendar. With that in mind, before we get to the functionality of that calendar (and how to read it) it is worth mentioning that the fluted Ring Command Bezel is solid 18k gold on every single Sky-Dweller model. This, along with the center links of the Oyster bracelet on the Yellow Rolesor model, adds a nice weight to the overall wearing experience.

So what exactly is an annual calendar? There are several different types of calendar complications in mechanical watchmaking. The simplest and by far the most common are watches that just show the date of the month and that have to be advanced manually should that month have fewer than 31 days. At the other end of the scale (putting aside moonphase complications for the moment) we have perpetual calendars. These are the set-it-and-forget-it models that not only compensate for the differing number of days in a month but also automatically adjust for leap years too, leaving the wearer with nothing to do in order to keep all of the various calendar functions accurate.

In between those two is the annual calendar. These don’t recognize leap years but do surpass the standard variety in that they mechanically correct for the months with 30 and 31 days in them. As such, they only need manual intervention once per year — at the end of February. As the median option in terms of convenience, annual calendars are likewise right down the middle when it comes time to price. On average, they are certainly more expensive than the bare-bones calendar watches, but they are usually far cheaper than perpetual calendars, whose incredibly intricate inner workings generally come with an equally incredible price tag.

The really fascinating thing about this complication’s integration in the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the setting system used. To make things simple, the screw-down crown of the Rolex Sky-Dweller has just one setting position. Rotating the Ring Command Bezel unlocks access to the various other functions of the watch, which makes for a remarkably simple and straightforward setting process, despite the relatively large number of parameters that can be adjusted. Additionally, this intuitive system extends beyond the setting instructions and it could not be simpler to read. Happily, there are not only 12 hours in a single day, but also 12 months in a year, and each month is conveniently indicated by a window in the dial located on the periphery of the corresponding hour marker.

For example, when we are in February (the second month) the aperture that sits at the end of the 2 o’clock hour baton is highlighted red (or black). For March (the third month) the aperture next to 3 o’clock turns a different color. As such, it is incredibly simple to digest the information at a glance. This complex functionality and remarkable ease-of-use combine to create one of Rolex’s most intriguing options, which, after a few years of searching for its own strong identity and following among the Rolex community, finally seems to be getting the attention it deserves.

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326934 Steel Blue Dial

Does the Rolex Sky-Dweller Get the Respect it Deserves?

The Rolex Sky-Dweller can sometimes get a lot of hate – especially during the years immediately following its launch. The watch is busy – less so than a Breitling Navitimer or an IWC Chronograph, but still significantly more information-dense than the typical Rolex watch. However, here’s the thing — the Rolex Sky-Dweller is by far the most technologically advanced watch in the brand’s arsenal, and here are three excellent reasons why you should show a little more love to the future classic that is the Rolex Sky-Dweller.

Great Aesthetics

This watch is gorgeous – plain and simple. The dial alone, although busy, is still perfectly readable. This is a tool watch at heart but boasts the understated elegance of a dress watch. Even though this watch comes in at 42mm, it wears much more like a 40mm watch. While it may not work for every possible wrist and occasion, it is certainly versatile and has the style and presence to speak to a wide range of people.

Innovative Ring Command Bezel

This is arguably the coolest thing about the Sky-Dweller: the Ring Command Bezel. That fluted bezel does more than just look good — rotating the bezel activates the watch’s functions and it is an ingenious and straightforward addition to the model. Rolex has long been a brand associated with advancements in design, but its history of technological innovation is too often buried by its wealth of heritage and excellent storytelling. The Ring Command Bezel puts Rolex firmly back on the map and hints at even more adventurous innovations in the future.

Variety

The metal options available for the Rolex Sky-Dweller are a huge reason why it deserves your respect. Until recently, the Sky-Dweller was only available in solid 18k gold. However, when Rolex rolled out the stainless steel Sky-Dweller with a white gold bezel, the entry price dropped significantly. All of a sudden, this made the Sky-Dweller one of Rolex’s more approachable models and additional bracelet options and dial colors have only made it more appealing to a wide range of collectors. The Sky-Dweller comes in a variety of metals, including yellow gold, Everose gold, stainless steel and white gold (White Rolesor), and a more classical stainless steel and yellow gold option (Yellow Rolesor). Discontinued options also include full-white gold models and leather strap versions, which means that there is quite literally something for all tastes.

So what are you waiting for?

Rolex Sky-Dweller 326939 White Gold Roman Dial

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