So, Rolex released some new watches this last week. Let’s dig in. I’m not going to get into the weeds with specs and measurements. If you want that kind of article, there are a lot of them. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this take on the new releases, it’s because you’ve finished what the rest of the internet has to say on them. This is just my thoughts on the new timepieces and what the releases mean for the watch world.
The Bell of the Ball
Let’s start with the elephant-sized oyster in the room, the new Submariner. I know some were unhappy with the slight size increase, but I don’t mind it. To be honest, the only way we were getting slimmer lugs was with a bigger watch. A simple reduction of lug size could be seen as a step backward or maybe even an admission that they messed up with the original maxi-case design. This increase in size is in line with Rolex’s constant pursuit of progress and allows them to improve the watch’s lines significantly. I haven’t had a chance to wear the watch yet, but from all accounts, it wears better than the previous generation, and from photos, it appears to be more curvy and elegant, both pluses in my book. As an owner of a five-digit Submariner, I previously would not have entertained getting a modern maxi-case Submariner. I felt with the beefiness of the case they lost the ability to be worn with anything and everything from a shipwreck to a wedding. First impressions of the new generation are that those elegant lines and legendary versatility are back.
The case changes, while impactful, are subtle. More noticeable are the updates to the green steel “Hulk” Submariner and the white gold blue “Smurf” Submariner. Rolex has decided to get rid of the color-matched dials on both watches. This is a very welcome update on my end as it makes both watches less loud and again makes the timepiece more versatile. I would much rather wear this new green bezel black dial Submariner than the Hulk. Also, we need new nicknames for both watches. The Green Hornet, The Riddler, Robin to go with the GMT’s Batman? Maybe for the blue bezel, the Blueberry Sub, Boysenberry, Dr. Manhattan, if we want more superheroes, Sonic if we don’t?
With these aesthetic improvements comes a movement upgrade as well. The Calibres 3230 and 3235 will replace the Calibre 3135—introduced in 1988—and 3130—introduced in 2001—both of which were well overdue. This is a big upgrade that can not be overstated. It removes yet another blocker for me, and I’m sure others, regarding the acquisition of a modern Submariner. It’s hard to consider a brand new watch with essentially a thirty-year-old movement. The 32xx series is a thoroughly modern Rolex caliber. It’s significantly more durable and efficient than it’s predecessor. The biggest highlights that will be noticed day to day by the wearer are the now 70-hour power reserve, resistance to magnetism, and shock resistance.
I couldn’t be happier with these updates, and I think the Submariner’s changes will be long-lasting. The maxi-case design was a huge departure for the model and had a short run as far as Submariner designs go. The previous case style stayed intact for decades remaining relatively unchanged since the 5512 in 1959. This new case design better embodies the watch and is here to stay. Like it or not, I believe this new case shape will define the next few decades of the Submariner, and the maxi-case will be seen as a bulky blip in the Submariner story.
The Show Stealer
But the Submariner is not the only watch to get an upgrade this past week. In fact, I think the Oyster Perpetual 41 and 36 stole the show. The dials got a very loud revamp, but also Rolex really upped the value proposition of this line. The Oyster Perpetual line receives the same new movement as the no-date Submariner and now comes with the folding Oysterclasp with the Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link. This addition of the comfort extension link was surprising but exciting. It’s a generous feature added by Rolex. We were all at peace with the Easylink being excluded from OPs. It was written off as something you just didn’t get on the OP because it was their cheapest model. This shows that while this is Rolex’s entry-level watch, the Oyster Perpetual compromises on little to nothing.
Honestly, now looking at the Rolex lineup, it would be hard to pull the trigger on a Milgauss or Air-King, which a lot of people thought would be discontinued. I adore both of these watches for the record, and their style is totally my speed, but both are time-only watches still using previous generation movements. Unless you’re someone who is around professional-grade magnets or are buying just based on looks, the Oyster Perpetual is an objectively much better watch for less money.
The dials I admit are a love-hate thing, but this line has always consisted of mostly loud dials with a few subdued ones. I love the silver dial with gold indices and hands as well as the turquoise and pink dialed variants, the rest I’ll reserve judgment till I see them in person. Either way, I suspect the “less loved” variants will follow the current Air-King cycle by being disliked until they aren’t and then becoming collectible. As a side note, RIP White dial OP39.
I’m indifferent about the Datejust 31 updates, but I do like the new green dial. The Sky-dweller line received some updates as well. The watch remains essentially the same, but now with precious metal versions, you can add the Oysterflex bracelet. I’m not a huge fan of this combo, but in general, I like the Oysterflex and like seeing used in more watch lines. I love it on the Yacht-Master, and I think I might like it more on the Daytona and Sky-dweller if they didn’t have metal end links. Call me crazy but I like the gap from the strap to the case. Either way, that’s a taste thing and to each their own.
Overall I’m about as please as I am every year with Rolex’s release. I’m head over heels in love with some of these pieces and very meh about others. The brand has shown it can still keep everyone on their toes as well as pump out hits. Being a Rolex fan is kin to loving a sports team, lots of highs, and lots of lows. But if the 2020 releases have you down, take solace in a phrase that perpetually gives sports fans hope, there’s always next year.