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Among Rolex’s 2020 debuts, the watchmaker’s colorful additions to the Oyster Perpetual lineup will likely attract more new fans to the brand (if that’s possible) than will be drawn by Rolex’s updates to the latest Submariner.

The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual, now with a 41mm size option.

Where Rolex altered the case size by one mm (to 41mm) and updated the caliber on this year’s Submariner and Submariner Date, the Geneva giant matched these for the new Oyster Perpetual collection, but also included a wider range of dial hues, brighter dial luminescence and the premiere use within the Oyster Perpetual line of the excellent folding Oysterclasp and the Easylink extension link.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41

New size & colors

Echoing the new Submariner size, Rolex adds a 41mm case size to the Oyster Perpetual lineup in 2020, replacing the 39mm models. This means that the collection’s other 2020 debut, a new lineup of the already popular 36mm models, will be even more in demand by those who prefer a smaller size.

Oyster Perpetual 41, showing updated luminescent Chromalight. 

Rolex also expands the fun factor of this relatively affordable collection (the starting price is $5,600, compared to $8,100 starting price for the Submariner) with a slate of eye-catching colorful lacquer dials for the Oyster Perpetual 36. The include candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, coral red and green.

A colorful Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36
Oyster Perpetual 36

But these aren’t the only dial options that will attract new fans. One version of the Oyster Perpetual 41 sports an interesting silver, sunray-finish dial with hands and hour markers in 18-karat yellow gold. A second version offers a bright black sunray-finish dial with white gold hands and hour markers.

Throughout the Oyster Perpetual collection Rolex updates the hands and markers with its own luminescent formula called Chromalight, which emits a long-lasting blue glow.

Upgraded caliber & bracelet

The Oyster Perpetual 41 and the new versions of the Oyster Perpetual 36 are equipped with its also-new Caliber 3230 (which powers the new, date-free 41mm Submariner as well).  This caliber enhances the Oyster Perpetual considerably, upgrading and already solid technical resume by adding Rolex’s own ultra-efficient and anti-magnetic Chronergy escapement and the brand’s Paraflex shock absorbers, increasing the movement’s shock resistance.

Oyster Perpetual 41

For collectors who like to swap their wrist wear frequently, the new seventy-hour power reserve that comes along with the new caliber might be the most useful enhancement with the 2020 collection.

The Oyster Perpetual 41 and the new versions of the Oyster Perpetual 36 are equipped with Caliber 3230, now with a 70-hour power reserve.

And finally, this newest Oyster Perpetual will secure to your wrist with the Rolex Oystersteel bracelet fitted with Rolex’s folding Oysterclasp and the Easylink comfort extension link. This allows the wearer to adjust the bracelet length by five millimeters. This is the first time that this extension system has been used on a bracelet for the Oyster Perpetual range.

You can learn more about all Rolex’s 2020 debuts here.

 

By Gary Girdvainis

Chrono24 is a marketplace for luxury watches that offers buyers and sellers the opportunity to buy, and sell, pre-owned, vintage, and new luxury watches.

As iW recently discovered in an interview with Chrono 24 CEO Tim Stracke, Chrono24 does not consider itself strictly as a watch dealer, but instead call itself “a marketplace that provides a service with the technology to connect buyers and sellers, to provide transparency to the market and to make transactions safe through the platform.” Below we excerpt the highlights of our interview.

iW: How long has Chrono24 been in existence?

Tim Stracke: The website was established in 2003, and my partners and I took over the site in 2010. We were able to turn it into a real business at a time when online business was starting to evolve. Today, we have close to 300 employees as our headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany, and we also have satellite offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, and New York that run Chrono24 as a global business. However, besides operating this company together, we are also very enthusiastic about watches.

The vast majority of our employees owns at least one watch that means a lot to them – altogether, we have quite a versatile watch collection. Through this, we probably reach one out of every three luxury watch lovers worldwide (including 9 million unique viewers every month), providing them access to more than 470,000 watch listings from over 100 countries.

When you took it over in 2010 – what changed?

Tim Stracke, CEO of Chrono24

For the first seven years, Chrono24 was pretty much a classifieds site where you could find watches and contact the seller, leaving the transaction entirely between buyer and seller. We converted this into a transactional marketplace, investing a massive amount of energy into make the transaction process secure. Now, the buyer transfers payment to our escrow account, and we make sure that the buyer is happy before forwarding payout to the seller.

We also offer a lot of additional services around the purchasing process. We have a magazine, as well as a lot of data you can use to easily compare prices. One of our more interesting features is the Chrono24 Watch Collection, which enables users to upload their watches and track their watch portfolio like they would their stocks.

In addition to this, we recently added two new functions to our app: The first is our Virtual Showroom, an AR tool that allows you to try on 12 very popular models virtually. These include the Rolex Submariner Date, Omega Speedmaster Professional, Patek Philippe Nautilus, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

The Chrono24 Watch Scanner allows the user to simply scan any watch and automatically identify it.

Our latest addition is called the Watch Scanner, where you can simply scan any watch with your camera to automatically identify it. From there, you can add it to your Watch Collection or even create a listing.

 

How do you gather the data for estimated watch values in the Chrono24 Watch Collection?

We extrapolate the data from the tens of thousands of transactions made on our platform every per month to establish a fairly accurate range of values. For this calculation, we include actual sales prices from past sales, as well as current listing prices on Chrono24. If we don’t have enough data to make a valid estimation – for example, for rather rare reference numbers – we also include listing prices from the past. This calculation is refreshed daily and provides a representation of a watch’s performance over time.

Also, our algorithm ignores any extraordinarily high or low sales prices to avoid inaccurate estimated values. An added value for the user here is that if they’re worried about paying too much for a watch, they can follow it in a separate section of their Watch Collection and immediately see its current and historic value to help make the decision as to which watch to buy even easier. Plus, once they’ve made the purchase, they can add it to their own digital collection to monitor its financial performance over time. We’ve done this with some of our employee’s watches. It’s fun to use.

Is the condition very important?

Of course condition matters, but with watches, it is more about the rarity than the condition in many cases. This is especially true when it comes to limited editions like the Omega Speedy Tuesdays and rare vintage models; it’s quite fascinating how these timepiece perform over time. 

You also provide a Watch Scanner tool in your app. How does it work?

It’s actually pretty easy to use: Once you’ve launched the Watch Scanner tool in the Chrono24 app, simply take a picture of the watch you want to identify. The tool compares the photo with a database of around 15,000 watches and almost 2 million images from more than 6.5 million previous and current listings on Chrono24.

Based on this data, the tool can recognize the model and provides the user with other information like the reference number and its estimated market value according to the Chrono24 Watch Collection.

So far, the tool is able to identify around 15,000 different watch models, which is a lot. But that’s just a small percentage of all existing luxury watches out there. However, since it is based on a learning artificial intelligence program, the Watch Scanner is constantly evolving. We will soon be releasing an improved version that will include a feedback function and be able to identify more models. So far, the tool has been used more than a million times – and it’s only four months old.

Do you envision a physical location (permanent or pop-up) as part of the Chrono24 formula?

Looking back ten years ago, I never could have imagined that Chrono24 would be as big or as relevant as it is today. We acquired one of our retail partners about a year ago. We did this mainly to learn what life is like on the other side of the “screen,” so to speak. We also see the potential for other services. We have partnered with Fratello Watches, and we now sell limited editions through Fratello.

As of today, we are not looking for retail locations; instead, we count on our partners and look to help them sell online. That said, we are an agile business, so it’s hard to predict the future.

What are the strongest markets for Chrono24?

Historically, Germany was our strongest market, but this was obviously due to the fact that that is where Chrono24 started. Today, Chrono24 is a global entity, with the United States and Europe leading the way, followed by Asia, which is growing very fast. That being said, the United States is one of our top-three markets in many aspects, including sales and visits. We are very proud that we have around 900,000 unique visitors from the United States every month and that there are more than 120,000 American user accounts on Chrono24.

Does Chrono24 sell more new or used watches?

It’s about two-thirds pre-owned – or “pre-loved,” as we like to call it – and one-third new watches.

Is Chrono24 a tool to help dealers move aging inventory?

We work with close to 3,500 dealers worldwide and dedicate entire teams to these strong and important partners. While many of our partners have existing storefronts, Chrono24 is becoming a more relevant part of their business, and some of our partners actually sell exclusively through Chrono24. Most dealers offer all of their inventory on Chrono24, and not only aging pieces. 

What trends do you see in the U.S.?

Overall, we see a polarization of price points. The very high end remains strong –especially among well-known and recognized brands like Rolex, Omega, and AP – while the lower end of luxury watches (let’s say under $1,000) is not as strong as it could be. Also, our American users mostly buy from sellers that are also based in the United States – more than sixty percent of all U.S. sales are domestic. Surely one of the reasons for this is the high number of American dealers on our marketplace.

Globally, it’s a different picture: Approximately seventy percent of sales on Chrono24 are made across international borders.

Chrono24 keeps tabs on global watch market. Here are just a few results of last year’s pre-quarantine figures.

What about smartwatches on Chrono24?

Based on what we are seeing, smartwatches are acting like a gateway into more traditional mechanical watches. That said, not many people are searching for Apple watches on Chrono24. It seems our customers are searching for something special, and when they want to buy a smartwatch, they go elsewhere to do their research and make purchases.

How has buying a luxury watch online evolved over the last decade or so?

I remember before Chrono24 started I would spend hours and hours researching watches online and feeling like the platforms at the time made had more of a flea market atmosphere. You would have to search site after site and numerous retailers. If each site had a few hundred options, you might have to search for a long time to find the watch you really wanted to have.

You also needed to have a lot of confidence that the individual or company that you were buying from was legitimate. We are now in a situation where we can provide global transparency, a huge selection, and create a platform that makes for secure and comfortable purchases.

How safe is it to buy a watch from Chron24 with regard to authenticity?

Authenticity is our number one priority, as is the safety and security of the entire transaction from placing to order to when it’s on your wrist. First of all, our global sales team verifies and vets every dealer before we let them on the platform – and not everyone meets our high standards.

Second, we created Trusted Checkout, a free escrow service. Once you’ve found your dream watch on Chrono24 and have come to an agreement with the dealer, you transfer the amount due to an escrow account. We only release the funds to the seller once you have received the watch and are happy to keep it.

If there are issues, our multi-lingual support team is there to help buyers and sellers and guarantee a smooth transaction. Should conflicts arise, we even have a mediation team to guide buyers and sellers toward a mutually satisfactory solution. At this time, we don’t perform physical checks of the watches; instead, we offer a no-questions-asked return policy as part of Trusted Checkout to safeguard ultimate safety for the transaction.

Do you consider Chrono24 a disruptor in the industry?

This is our role: changing the industry, changing the way people purchase watches, especially pre-owned and vintage watches. Considering our global transparency, huge inventory, and market data paired with the low cost for the service of selling a watch, I would say we are creating a new and possibly disruptive platform for buying and selling watches. Several years ago, industry leaders wouldn’t even talk to us, but this has quickly changed as they have seen the service we provide – and probably also the passion for luxury watches we share.

Baselworld caught off-guard as key partners join together to jump ship.

Last week Baselworld sent a press release that described an untenable strategy with regard to existing exhibitors. Highlighting an unwarranted arrogance and a myopic perspective, the leadership of the fair stipulated that any exhibitors who stuck with Baselworld for the new dates in January 2021 must pay a premium of 15% to retain what they had already paid for. Alternatively, exhibitors could request a refund of (up to) 30% of what they had already paid.

If brands chose option B, the release states that 40% of the fees already paid to Basel could be applied to a future space at the 2021 event if the brand had a change of heart and wanted to come back. Either way, the message was clear – we’re keeping your money.

Based on this release I speculated as to what Baselworld would do if any of the remaining key partner brands (Rolex and Patek for example) might withdraw from the event. As the entire watch industry now knows, this came to a head this week with a cabal of brands led by Rolex and joined by Tudor, Chopard, and Chanel, has abandoned Baselworld to partner with the FHH in an as-yet unnamed show to run in concert and in the same location as the newly coined Watches and Wonders – previously known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).

As of now we are not sure who else will join the new unnamed show, and how the various brands will choose between exhibiting at one or the other. You can read the entirety of the release here below which mentions an early April date for W&W and the “new” partner show, but I cannot find any confirmation of this time-frame anywhere else on the FHH site and have had no reply from their staff to confirm this time-frame.

Baselworld leadership is suspect of the quick action taken by these brands after the notification and offers Baselworld had put forth, and may believe that the brands were already planning to vacate en-masse. True or not, it was a time for change. As I’ve posited before, having a single event in either Geneva or Basel would make more sense for all involved.   

Both the initial withdrawal press release and Baselworld’s response are here below:

Update: We’ve also added the April 17 letter from LVMH announcing its plans to depart Baselworld for a new show scheduled for April 2021 in Geneva.

 

FHH PRESS RELEASE:

ROLEX, PATEK PHILIPPE, CHANEL, CHOPARD AND TUDOR LEAVE BASELWORLD CREATION OF A NEW WATCH TRADE SHOW IN GENEVA IN COLLABORATION WITH THE FONDATION DE LA HAUTE HORLOGERIE

Geneva, 14 April 2020

 – Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard and Tudor leave Baselworld to create a new watch trade show in Geneva with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. The show will be held early April 2021 at Palexpo, at the same time as Watches & Wonders. This departure follows a number of unilateral decisions made without consultation by Baselworld management, including the postponement of the watch show until January 2021, as well as its inability to meet the brands’ needs and expectations. The new show, which will be linked to Watches & Wonders, organized by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, is to take place at Palexpo. The aim is to offer partner brands the best possible professional platform, applying a shared vision to successfully meet future challenges in the watchmaking industry. It will also give crucial prominence to the sector’s expertise and innovations, both in Switzerland and internationally. Other brands may also be added, according to terms that have not yet been defined. This new event will be geared predominantly towards retailers, the press and VIP customers.

Jean-Frédéric Dufour, Chief Executive Officer, Rolex SA, and Board Member, Montres Tudor SA, said: “We have taken part in Baselworld since 1939. Unfortunately, given the way the event has evolved and the recent decisions made by MCH Group, and in spite of the great attachment we had to this watch show, we have decided to withdraw. Following discussions initiated by Rolex, it seemed only natural to create a new event with partners that share our vision and our endless, unwavering support for the Swiss watchmaking sector. This will allow us to present our new watches in line with our needs and expectations, to join forces and better defend the interests of the industry.”

Thierry Stern, President, Patek Philippe said: “The decision to leave Baselworld was not an easy one to take for me, being the fourth generation of the Stern family to participate to this traditional yearly event. But life evolves constantly, things change and people change as well, whether it is at the level of those responsible for the watch fair organization, the brands or the clients. We constantly have to adapt ourselves, question what we do, since what was right yesterday may not necessarily be valid today! Today Patek Philippe is not in line with Baselworld’s vision anymore, there have been too many discussions and unsolved problems, trust is no longer present. We need to answer the legitimate needs of our retailers, the clients and the press from around the world. They have to be able to discover the new models from Swiss watchmakers each year, at one time, in one place, and this in the most professional manner possible. That is why, following several discussions with Rolex and in agreement with other participating brands, we have decided to create, all together, a unique event in Geneva, representative of our savoir-faire.“

Frédéric Grangié, President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery said: “Like its partners, CHANEL shares the same independence and the same desire to protect and promote the values, know-how, utmost quality and precision of Swiss Watchmaking. This initiative marks a key milestone in the history of CHANEL Watchmaking and is part of a long-term strategy, which began with the launch of this activity in 1987. This exhibition will allow us to present all of our new creations in an environment that meets our high-quality standards.”

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President Chopard et Cie SA said: “Chopard first exhibited at the Basel fair in 1964 with a stand of some 25 square metres. After careful consideration, our family decided to support the Rolex initiative and retire from Baselworld – a painful decision. The creation of this new watch show in Geneva, in parallel to Watches & Wonders, will allow us to better serve our watchmaking partners and our customers. Through the alliance, these grandes maisons will also be able to collaborate in promoting the values and best interests of Swiss watchmaking.”

Jérôme Lambert, on behalf of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie Council said: “The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie is delighted to welcome a new salon which will strengthen the historical Watches & Wonders event in Geneva next year in early April.” Further information will be published at a later date, in particular concerning the name of the new watch fair and its organization.

Baselworld Press Release:

MCH GROUP IS SURPRISED AT THE STATEMENTS MADE REGARDING THE BASELWORLD CANCELLATIONS

Basel, Switzerland, April 14, 2020

It is with great surprise and equally great regret that the MCH Group takes note of the cancellation of major exhibitors at Baselworld. The new date for the unavoidable postponement of Baselworld 2020 was defined jointly with leading exhibitors. The objective was to find the earliest and best possible date for the industry following the Covid-19 related measures.

 

The companies now “migrating” – including Rolex – spoke out in favor of a postponement to January 2021. They are also represented on the Exhibitors’ Committee, where the future vision of Baselworld has been discussed on several occasions and has met with a positive response, as was also evidenced by countless individual discussions. The intention to move to Geneva has never been mentioned. The MCH Group must therefore conclude that the relevant plans have been in preparation for some time and that the discussions concerning the financial arrangements for the cancellation of Baselworld 2020 are now being put forward as an argument. On the basis of the positive and supportive feedback received from exhibitors, especially the small and medium-sized exhibitors from the watch, jewellery, gemstone and supplier industries, the MCH Group decided last year to invest substantial sums in the further development of Baselworld and in the establishment of additional digital platforms. The MCH Group is convinced that, in addition to a physical platform, a connection with the community must be maintained throughout the year. More than ever before, it sees an opportunity to develop a modern platform in the watch and jewellery industry for brands that do not rely primarily on tradition, but above all on innovation. In the next few weeks, the MCH Group will be making a decision on the continuation of Baselworld and on investments in its further development, which is geared to the long term.

 

April 17 letter from the LVMH Group:

The Swiss watch Manufactures belonging to the LVMH Group, the world leader in luxury, have in turn decided to leave Baselworld in order to join the other flagship brands of the Swiss watch industry in Geneva from 2021 onwards.

 April 17th 2020 – The Swiss watch Manufactures of the LVMH Group, including the LVMH Watchmaking Division (TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith) and the House of Bvlgari, have taken note of the departure of Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Chopard from the Baselworld show scheduled for January 2021. Within this context of clearly weakened representation of the Swiss watch industry and hence inevitably lower participation, it appears clear to the brands composing the Division and to the House of Bvlgari that they must also withdraw in order to preserve their image and their relations with their clients as well with the media. They will therefore not be taking part in the 2021 edition of Baselworld.

The four Maisons are examining various potential event formats corresponding to the need to present their strategic directions and new products to their commercial partners – as well as to the international press – next year. The LVMH Watchmaking Division on the one hand, and Bvlgari on the other, will decide on their plans in the coming weeks, according to their respective objectives.

We are sorry to have to leave this over hundred-year Baselworld event to which our Maisons have been consistently loyal. It is nonetheless clear that we must respond quickly and make other arrangements. We are facing an opportunity to reinvent the format and content of one of the key moments of our watchmaking year, which represented both a major commercial challenge and a lever of influence for our brands. With this in mind, we will do our utmost to be present alongside the other prestigious Maisons that will gather in Geneva in April 2021, and thereby meet the requirements of our partners and clients while offering them an unrivalled experience.”

 Stéphane Bianchi, CEO Watchmaking Division LVMH

 Grouping the entire Swiss watch industry in a single location, Geneva – the historical capital of watchmaking – and around a single date, is a major opportunity to at last revive a sector that all too many divisions and divergent interests have weakened compared to the rest of the luxury sector in which Bvlgari is active and that is making much faster progress. We are looking forward to going to Geneva in April 2021, even though we still need to define the terms of our participation, which we will specify in the coming weeks. We are also delighted not to have to make up for the lack of institutional watch shows, which in 2020 forced us to take tactical initiatives that were necessary in the short term but undesirable in the medium term.”

 Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO Bvlgari Group

 

 

By Gary Girdvainis

First of all I do want to say that I am an absolute fan of the Baselworld fair and have benefited from my attendance in one way or another since my first fair in 1991. During both boom and bust years I always found it an invaluable event to discover new ideas and designs as well as re-connect with industry contacts.

Having said that I will also point out that at my very first World Watch Clock & Jewelry Show in Basel (not distilled into “Baselworld” at that time) a friendly Canadian watch distributor named John Keeping gave me a piece of advice that rings truer today than ever. He said, “Gary this is your first Basel Fair, so what I’m about to say may not make sense right now, but you will come to understand it if you continue in the wristwatch industry.” He said; “no money, no Swiss”. 

Although not quite perfect English, John’s salient bon mot has proven over the years to be more a truism than I could have ever imagined at that early stage of my watching career.    

While accurate on a brand and manufacturing level, Baselworld’s recent offer to PAID exhibitors for the cancelled 2020 event reaffirms why so many industry veterans make reference to the unmitigated gall and Swiss arrogance within the watch industry. Read below an excerpt from the recent Baselworld press release and ponder how you might react with your own money on the line.

From Baselworld press release dated April 3rd 2020:

“In this challenging environment, Baselworld is very conscious of the stakes for all exhibitors and is absorbing a significant portion of costs due to postponing the show by offering to carry forward 85% of the fees for Baselworld 2020 to Baselworld 2021 (the remaining 15% will serve to partially offset out-of-pocket costs already accrued). If needed, exhibitors can alternatively request a cash refund which will be of up to 30% of the fees, with 40% carried forward to Baselworld 2021.”

Now if this was offered up on April 1st I would have immediately called April Fool’s, but in this case the only fools were those brands that thought that Baselworld was going to evolve into a more welcoming event. Basically stick with us and we’ll stick it to you, or don’t stick with us and we’ll stick it to you worse.

 

Outside View

Understanding the caveats of force majeure (and who could have predicted 2020’s turn of events?) have to be considered, and to be fair, Baselworld does have a staff of year-round employees that need to be paid, but this offer is really a slap in the face to their clients – at a time when the image and future of the fair was already under duress.

At this stage it may have been better to take the lumps now and work with the local canton and Swiss government for some kind of relief. The above “offer” will certainly alienate the existing brands and may be cause for pause to others that were on the fence and thinking of coming back to the annual event.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that major hotels, including some of the most expensive in Basel, are denying refunds and generally treating their upscale clientele to a shit sandwich. That, after charging exorbitant fees 3-5 times the usual rate, insisting on seven-night commitments, and demanding dinners and events be held on premises to bulk up the payola for the one week of the Baselworld Fair.

As a thirty-year veteran of the evolving halls of Basel’s watch & jewelry fair I appreciate the density of product and personnel that Basel embodies. It creates a target-rich environment for both editorial and marketing like no other event. That said, it needs to evolve; director Melikof has announced new digital activations embracing and developing the potential and reach in the digital age, but without the brands there is no show.

Baselworld’s managing director Michel Loris-Melikoff

What will Basel become if Rolex, Patek Philippe – or both – withdraw? Having already lost the Swatch Group, Breitling, Bulgari, Gucci, and others, the management is on thin ice. Treating their existing exhibitors like this does not help.

Maybe moving the show to January will give it the chill it needs to make it safe to skate…..

 

 

My Rolex Explorer is peerless. It does it all without ever letting me know it is there. When I do see it, no one knows the time more than I do.

By Saad Choudry

 

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives, wrote Anne Dillard. I have been wearing a Rolex Explorer on my wrist for the past year. It is the kind of watch you forget is there after a while. That’s why I haven’t taken it off since I got it. It becomes part of the furniture of your life.

Day to day with my Rolex Explorer.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer

My days are quite unremarkable and, admittedly, my life is too. The Explorer, however, has a bi-modal persona that suits me rather well. It disappears when I do not need to know the time. When I do need to read the time, the Explorer presents it with uncompromising sangfroid. That is perfect for how I live my life. This personality was certainly deliberately crafted, but not with my life in mind.

It started by Rolex answering the call of the unknown. From the 1930s, Rolex began equipping numerous mountaineering expeditions with Oyster watches. The feedback from these intrepid expeditions was used to create the Professional category of watches that served as tools for time telling and nothing more.

Rolex watches have taken part in some of humanity’s greatest adventures since, with one notable example being the 1953 conquest of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Rolex used information gained from this expedition and combined feedback from other climbers to launch the first Explorer watch in the same year.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing
Norgay climbing Mount Everest
in 1953.

Later, the model’s performance was enhanced with a reinforced case and more legible dial. Over the years the watch has more or less retained its distinct looks, but has been endowed with much of the technical progress Rolex has made to date. To quietly evolve, yet seemingly stay the same is no mean feat.

First Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer, 1953

Latest Explorer

Ten years on since its last major redesign, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer enters this new decade looking fresh as ever. The recipe makes one wonder sometimes why there are other watches in the first place.

It all starts with a corrosion-and-water-resistant stamped stainless steel case. The 39mm size suits modern tastes and isn’t unbecoming for a three-hand tool watch. The lugs are long and slim, meandering around the case to seat the watch flat and low on the wrist. The bezel is also flat and low, mimicking the stance it allows the watch to achieve when worn. This is no disco volante. This is stealth.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer, showing luminous dial.

 The bracelet is sturdy but soft at the same time, never feeling intrusive or meddlesome, as the clasp with its double locking feature secures a comfortable fit. Once it’s on, it’s not going anywhere. And it will hardly ever be there because as it hunkers down, its mirror-polished case band and lug profile reflects the surface of your arm while the polished bezel reflects the world around you, your entire existence and place in the universe appearing infinitely cast into its metallic soul. You see yourself in your watch. You also see a fine level of workmanship unusual for this type of watch.

Originally a tool, the finish of the case and bracelet is of very high quality but it is the muted grace with which it has been applied that really impresses. It is not ceremonious.  The brushing on the case and especially the bracelet is linear, consistently sharp, and luxuriously soft – of generously high standard and very silky to touch.

High Standards     

Rolex has always made great watches, but the fit and finish today makes them better than they have ever been. The standards remain high throughout the construction of the watch. The Twin Lock screw-down crown and its handling is so expertly weighted that operating it might as well be telepathic. There is a feeling of assurance in the well-defined sharp knurling of its toothed circumference.

The Explorer’s 100-meter-water-resistant caseback, also screwed-down, has a straight brushing that soothes like poetry upon feeling it against my hairy wrist every morning. The sapphire crystal is flat, and thankfully devoid of anti-reflective coating because when viewed right it lets you admire a dial that has few equals.

The handset may look familiar, but it is unique to the Explorer. The dial below it is also unique. The applied white gold triangle at 12 o’clock is designed so that its vertex angles will allow the legs to correspond with the points where the middle end link meets the bezel’s peripheral edge. As if that wasn’t erudite enough, the lollipop on the seconds hand kisses the tip of the triangle tangentially with every revolution. It is a joy to watch it happen.

The 3, 6, and 9 hour marker array that the Explorer is known for is handsomely proportioned and crafted with immense deftness out of white gold, as are the remaining applied baton hour indices. All three hands and all the hour markers are generously filled with Chromalight, a proprietary luminescent material that glows a soft aquamarine that isn’t brighter than its competition, but lasts longer.

The cruciformly symmetrical dial has a very subtle granularity to it, its matte varnish contrasting perfectly with a crisp white printed minutes track surrounding it. Held together by the ROLEXROLEXROLEX rehaut, it is a fantastic way to tell the time. And it is the way it tells the time that makes the Explorer special.

Effortless Luxury

Its unadorned opulence speaks to the nuanced craft that Rolex has perfected over the years. There is no pageantry about the way the 31-jewel Caliber 3132 crunches out time all day long. It works as advertised – no fuss, no problem – with the Parachrom hairspring rendering magnetic influences from modern life powerless and the Paraflex shock absorber ensuring that it keeps ticking, even when you’re slip slidin’ away.

The Rolex Paraflex Shock Absorber

Failing to fall outside its chronometer mandate, it provides a consistent 4 Hz companionship that an insurance commercial wouldn’t even dare. To keep matters simple, the only complication is a sweep seconds. Contrary to contemporary trends, this brutal simplicity might make it the thinking man’s sports watch of choice. There is nothing to see but a well-made legible watch with accurate timekeeping that offers the comfort of a versatile package. If brevity is the soul of wit, the proverbial Explorer is its embodiment. In my opinion, it is all the better for it.

The Rolex Twinlock Winding Crown.

The Bracelet

Once the bracelet is sized and the watch is worn, its ergonomics are immediately apparent and you go about your day never noticing it is there. The center of gravity of the watch lies somewhere inside the wrist, I’d wager right in the middle, which makes it a model of excellent balance made possible by the robust and well-finished double folding clasp. This balanced design brings equilibrium to wearing, reading, using, and ultimately living with the watch. That makes it fit right in to my life.

For my needs and for my tastes, my Rolex Explorer is peerless and it does it all without ever letting me know it is there. When I do see it, though, there isn’t a guy around for miles who knows what time it is more than I do.

The Rolex Explorer is a 39mm stainless steel watch with black dial, luminous hands and markers, and is powered by a self-winding movement with a 48-hour power reserve. It has been hanging out with me unwaveringly through every unremarkable day for the past year. I get the feeling, however, that this relationship has only just begun.

Saad Chaudhry lives in Munich and enjoys shifting gears in his sports car.