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Rolex just unveiled 16 new watches for 2021, including a new Daytona and two Explorers

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If you haven’t already called your authorised dealer, get ready for the hold music

The crown has come to sit on its throne. The new Rolex releases dropped this morning for Watches & Wonders and, as usual, it is one of the most anticipated debuts of the entire show. The highlights include a redesigned case and bracelet on the Explorer II, a surprising two-tone drop for the Explorer and a new meteorite dial for the Cosmograph Daytona. A few groovy jungle-motif dials debuted for the Datejust 36 and for the ladies, the emphasis was diamonds, diamonds and more diamonds.

Rolex Explorers
Rolex Explorer Ref. 124273 and Ref. 124270

Explorer

Time for the return of two-tone. The new Rolesor (the Rolex name for the combination of the dual 18-karat yellow gold and Oystersteel alloys) Ref. 124273 may be heralding a return to the blend of metals that saw its height of popularity in the ’80s. The model also marks a comeback of the 36 mm size in a nod to the original model launched in 1953 after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first explorers to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Another update is the lacquered finish on the black dial and features a Chromolight coating on the hour markers and hands that lasts longer than earlier luminescent materials.

Case Size: 36 mm
Case and Bracelet Material: 18-carat gold and Oystersteel
Caliber: 3230
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Price: US$10,800 (S$14,442)

Rolex Explorer II
The new Rolex Explorer II watches

Explorer II

Rolex barely has to lift a finger for a new release. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Explorer II Ref. 216570, the new reference, 226570 has changed very little. While its bracelet is slightly wider and its case is slightly slimmer,  it has the same brushed stainless steel bezel with 24-hour graduations (like the earliest Explorers debuted in the ’70s), the same 42 mm sizing and the same classic orange hue on the 24-hour hand and Explorer II inscription (the latter has been featured on the dial since 2011). It’s good to be king.

What is, relatively new, is that it now houses the upgraded caliber 3285 that Rolex debuted in 2018 and, like the Explorer above, it uses Chromolight to enhance its luminescence. Fitted on an Oyster bracelet, a hallmark of the brand since the ’30s, it has a modernised Easylink comfort extension allowing the bracelet length to be adjusted by roughly 5 mm in case your wrist needs some breathing room.

Case Size: 42 mm
Case and Bracelet Material: Oystersteel
Caliber: 3285
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Price: US$8,550 (S$11,433) for both variations

rolex daytona watches and wonders
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with Meteorite Dials

Cosmograph Daytona

Since prices for Daytonas have already reached into the stratosphere in the secondary market, it’s only fitting that the latest trio of models come dressed in material from an asteroid that exploded in outer space over 1 million years ago. Three versions in 18-karat white gold, 18-carat yellow gold and 18-carat Everose gold feature meteorite dials. The white gold model (Ref. 116519 LN) comes with a monoblock Cerachrom bezel in black ceramic, while the yellow gold (Ref. 116508) and Everose gold (Ref. 116505) editions have metal bezels. All three have the Daytona’s recognisable tachymetric scale, but in the Ref. 116519 LN is it moulded into the bezel, while the other two are engraved in the precious metals. The bracelets also come with the Easylink adjustment. The only difference between the two, other than the metal, is the Everose version includes ceramic inserts inside the links for better flexibility. Production of these will be limited, which makes sense. It’s not every day a great dial material falls from the heavens.

Seasoned Rolex observers will note that this is not the first time meteorites have been used for a Daytona dial. A white gold version with a leather strap and a meteorite dial featured in the Rolex catalog from 2003 to 2016

Case Size: 40 mm
Case and Bracelet Material: 18-karat white gold on an Oysterflex rubber strap or yellow gold and Everose gold models on matching bracelets
Caliber: 4130
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Price: US$34,050 (S$45,533) for white gold, $41,000 (S$54,827) for yellow gold and US$43,700 (S$58,437) for Everose gold

rolex datejust
Rolex’s latest Datejust models

Datejust

There’s nothing quite like a little reinvention to update a classic. Rolex’s Datejust, the ultimate reference watch, now features new “palm” and “fluted” dial designs. The palms, a stylised take on those calming fronds you find in many tropical climes, is available in three configurations: green palms on a steel Oyster bracelet; golden palms on a gold and steel Oyster bracelet with a fluted bezel; and silver palms on a steel and Everose Oyster bracelet, also with a fluted bezel.

The golden fluted dial, meanwhile, echoes the fluted bezel that has become so characteristic of the Datejust. Appropriately, it’s offered with a fluted bezel on a gold and steel Jubilee bracelet. Each of the dials is created by a single artisan using femtosecond, a new in-house laser technology using bursts of ultrashort laser pulses to imprint the design.

Case Size: 36 mm
Case and Bracelet Material: Steel, steel and yellow gold, steel and Everose gold
Caliber: 3235
Price: The Palm dials are available for US$7,050 (S$9427) in steel, US$11,050 (S$14,776) in steel and yellow gold and US$12,000 (S$16,047) in steel and Everose. The fluted dial is US$11,700 (S$15,645).

Lady Datejust

Rolex has long understood that femininity shouldn’t come at the expense of technical expertise or strength. In fact, you might need a long history of resistance training to wear its new Lady Datejust, gem-set with over 1,000 diamonds: There are 291 stones paving the dial, 44 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel and a whopping 596 on the President bracelet. Leaving no surface untouched, the sides of the case and the lugs are also diamond-set for the first time, with a final 158 stones. All in, there are over 7.5 carats of diamonds on this piece; it’s available in yellow or white gold.

Case Size: 36 mm
Case and Bracelet Material: White gold, yellow gold with diamonds
Caliber: 3235
Price: US$134,400 (S$179,726) for white gold, US$131,100 (S$175,313) in yellow gold

rolex daydate
The sparkly new trio of Rolex Day-Date watches

Day-Date

Three vibrant and unapologetically luxurious versions of Rolex’s iconic Day-Date 36 watch are here, each set with hundreds of painstakingly selected diamonds: 450 on the dial, 52 brilliant-cut stones on the bezel and a further 254 in the same cut adorning the case. Rolex never makes a Day-Date in a non-precious metal, so these are encased with 18K white gold, 18K yellow gold and 18K Everose gold, Rolex’s answer to pink gold. The indices of each are enamelled Roman numerals in turquoise (for the white gold), coral (for the yellow gold) and burgundy for the Everose; a polished alligator strap dyed to match the indexes secures each watch to your wrist. It should be noted that you won’t find these in stores: they’re not a part of Rolex’s official catalog and are available for special order only.

Case Size: 36 mm
Case Material: 18K white gold, 18K yellow gold, 18K Everose gold
Caliber: 3255
Straps: Coral, turquoise or burgundy alligator leather
Price: Upon request

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This story was first published on Robb Report US