At least for me, the new Rolex Perpetual 1908 was one of the biggest surprises at Watches and Wonders this year. Everybody knew that the Cellini line wasn’t the blockbuster hit it was supposed to be from the very beginning. But I don’t think many people suspected Rolex to completely discontinue the collection. As usual, people were more focused on predicting the next stainless steel sports watch that people would get waitlisted for. And yes, there were some “new” sports watches this year, but the one release that really captivated me was the Rolex Perpetual 1908.

Not many people expected Rolex to launch a watch like this. If I had to guess, I’d say probably just as few people actually bought a watch from that discontinued Cellini collection. Have you ever seen one of those watches in the wild? Well, I haven’t. I’m not saying that if I don’t see them, they’re not out there, but there are probably not that many of them. So there you probably have the reason why Rolex wanted to pump new life into this dressier part of its portfolio. Let’s go over what the brand has done here and see what the result looks like in person.

Rolex Perpetual 1908

A slimmed-down Cellini Time

To be honest, I wasn’t all that familiar with the Cellini collection when it still existed, so when I saw the 1908 for the first time, I thought it was a completely new watch. But although many parts of it have been developed from the ground up, the 39mm case of the 1908 strongly resembles the one Rolex used for the Cellini Time, Date, and Dual Time. Look, for example, at the domed and fluted bezel that was already there on the Cellini models. Other than that, though, the rest of the watch is indeed new, and, most importantly, it also feels very different and fresh.

That feeling is also due to the fact that the case has been slimmed down a fair bit. The Cellini Time used to measure 11.1mm thick, but the new 1908 measures only 9.5mm thick. That’s an impressive decrease in thickness for a watch that wasn’t that chunky in the first place. And that, of course, could be achieved because of the brand-new and slimmer 7140 automatic movement. To learn more about everything new with this movement, please check out RJ’s introduction article on the 1908. Now, let’s talk about what the 1908 feels like on the wrist.

Rolex Perpetual 1908

The Rolex Perpetual 1908 on my 17cm (6.7″) wrist

Finally, a Rolex dress watch

When I look at those older Cellini designs, they look nice, but they don’t seem like watches Rolex would make. Just look at the picture of the Cellini earlier in this article. First of all, the Cellini text on the dial is a bit over the top, and the elongated Roman numerals and indices make it feel like the designers were trying just a little too hard. And that’s exactly what they have fixed on the 1908. It still has a much dressier design than the rest of the watches in the catalog, of course. The new dial design, though, just embodies that proud, confident Rolex attitude, just like the brand’s stainless steel sports watches.

Nearly everything on the dial is in just the right place and well proportioned. There are just two things that aren’t, but I’ll get back to those in a second. First of all, the railroad-style tracks for the minutes and sub-seconds hold everything together very well, unlike the more open design on the former Cellini dials. The fairly large 12, 3, and 9 numerals have a strong character. But with the “open” 9 — a beloved element among enthusiasts — the dial still has a friendly character. I even like the “Superlative Chronometer” text above the sub-dial.

What I’m not completely sure about, though, are the hour and minute hands. I think it’s not so much their shape that I have a problem with. Rather, it’s the size and the thickness of them. To me, they look a bit too big and bold for the dressier watch that the 1908 is.

Rolex Perpetual 1908

Have we met before?

Then again, on the wrist, the 1908 feels fantastic and in some way familiar. The watch isn’t directly inspired by any former Rolex reference, but it still has a vintage-like air about it. That makes it feel like you’ve seen this watch several times before. I also really like the fact that it isn’t the dressiest dress watch out there. Even with the fairly plain sub-seconds at 6 o’clock, the yellow or white gold numerals still keep it somewhat sporty.

Rolex Perpetual 1908

But that sporty character might also be reinforced by the fairly large 39mm case and the short lugs. For a dress watch, I would probably choose a smaller size, such as my 34.5mm Breguet 5907. So I must say that the 1908 feels a bit on the large side for my 17cm (6.7″) wrist. Then again, with its short lugs, the case doesn’t stick out too far from my wrist. On the contrary, it actually wraps itself nicely around it. On the older 39mm Cellini models, the lug-to-lug only measured 45.2mm, which is quite short for a watch of that diameter. I wasn’t able to measure the lug-to-lug on the new 1908 myself, but I can imagine it isn’t that far off.

Rolex Perpetual 1908

And one more thing that accentuates the sportiness is the super matte, nearly anthracite black dial. There’s no sparkle, no glossiness, nothing, and I like it. The white dial, on the other hand, has a silvery look and reflects a lot of the light that it catches.

A new clasp and an exhibition case back

Other than the size, the completely new butterfly clasp also increases the comfort on the wrist, even when you want to take the watch off. First of all, the clasp has a new shape that better resembles the shape of our wrists. And it doesn’t just rely on a friction closure. There are actually two levers on both sides of the clasp that have to be used to open it. This will take away that “I’m going to break it” feeling that you may get with a friction-based clasp.

Just like the platinum version of the Rolex Daytona, the 1908 also has a transparent case back, through which you can see the new, slimmer 7140 movement. With the 18K gold rotor, I do think the display case back suits the watch. However, the finishing of the movement, though nice, is not jaw-droppingly impressive. In the end, I don’t think the exhibition case back adds a lot of value, but it is nice to have.

Final words

So, other than the hands, I think the Rolex designers have done a great job with the 1908. They took the Cellini and turned it into something with a distinctly Rolex feel to it. I’m still not sure whether the 1908 will become much more popular than its Cellini predecessors, though. After all, Rolex simply isn’t known for its dress watches. People who buy a Rolex often want others to notice that they are wearing a Rolex. Call it a hunch, but I doubt that will be the case with the 1908.

For more information on the Rolex Perpetual 1908 lineup, please check the official Rolex website.

What do you think? Would you buy the new Rolex Perpetual 1908, and do you think it’ll become more popular than the Cellini watches? Let me know in the comments below.

You can also find and follow me on Instagram: @fliptheparrot

Watch specifications

Perpetual 1908
52508 (yellow gold) / 52509 (white gold)
Black / white with applied Arabic numerals and stick markers
Case Material
Yellow gold (52508) / White gold (52509)
Case Dimensions
39mm (diameter) × 9.5mm (thickness) × 20mm (lug spacing)
Case Back
Rolex 7140 — self-winding movement, chronometer-certified, 38 jewels, 28,800vph (4Hz) frequency, 66-hour power reserve
Water Resistance
5ATM (50m)
Alligator strap (20mm) with a matte finish and double-folding clasp in gold
Time only (hours, minutes, small seconds)
CHF 21,000 (ref. 52508) / CHF22,200 (ref. 52509)
International warranty of five years