Rolex in BaselWorld 2009: Supersizing and home decorating
While companies are struggling to survive and governments making dubious plans to reanimate whole economies, it?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s This Time of Year again… What? Ah yes, Basel, the annual party thrown by the watch business! The haute horlogerie is hit hard by what is potentially the largest blow since the quartz crisis. The Rolex company is hit extra hard according to the Swiss newspaper L?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢Agefi because of a hundreds of millions investment disaster linked with the Madoff scandal. This supposedly led to the departure of CEO Heiniger, who was only the third leader of the company in it?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s long and rich history. True or not, Rolex withstood many storms in the past and presented their newest time pieces last week at BaselWorld like it was business as usual.
The introductions at Rolex follow a specific ritual: There are two kind of pictures coming in on the boards: first there are the official press pictures issued by Rolex. The look and feel of these are somewhat air brushed a strange artificial lighting. The watches are floating in the air, surrounded by abstract flows of color and liquids. Probably the goal is to get us in a state of delirium ready to draw our wallets at the Authorized Rolex Dealer. Secondly, there are the quick shots by the visitors. In the heavy spot lights the watches are covered with dust and carry heavy shadows, exactly what the official pictures try to avoid. While the press pictures trigger a >>What Is This?< < feeling, the amateur shots most of the time leave us with a disappointing >>This Is It?< <. Our German neighbours always stand first in line to take the This-Is-It??¢?Ç¨?Äúshots. They publish them with the R-L-X.de logo all over the place, not really making the result any better. Fortunately, some time later the first good quality wrist shots appear on the net and give a better impression of the new models in real life.
Hot question on the boards: when do the new models hit the stores? Last years showed Europe being ahead of the rest of the world and small countries getting their first deliveries sooner than the big ones. So, in we here in Holland we should be OK. BUT: most of the first pieces go to incrowd, celebs and grey market traders offering them for sky high prices on the net. Well, the money crisis will probably smoothen up this part of the ritual this year.
Another thing softening the hype might be the not so exciting introductions… I try to avoid reading any reviews before writing my own, partly not to be too influenced and partly because first reactions can be very negative. Maybe people expect THE watch that will bring paradise on earth will come out, so disappointment easily takes over. Luckily the ritual always has a happy end. Many afficionados still buy the new models after all and shoot razor sharp and sexy pictures. Proudly they post them on the boards, accompanied by halleluja stories about how paradise did come to earth after all. No better commercials than that: the rest of the WIS world follows.
So, what happened? First a flash back to 2008: Last year the intro of the new Submariner was a rather quiet one because of the spectacular and much debated Deep Sea. This first new Sub in 30 years had a hideous blue color and because of the white gold case and bracelet also a hideous price level. But quiet introductions might not be that bad for a company preferring to bring change at a glacial pace. This year there was no new Deep Sea and the spot light turned on the new TT Sub. The update with bigger case and maxi dial gives the watch more presence, the massive bracelet and new clasp are great improvements that are widely appreciated. The Sub bezel is graphically very pretty due to less numbers on it than the ceramic GMT-bezel and also the font is thinner, giving it a nice subtle balance. In all a TT Sub is not everybody?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s cup of tea of course, but I rate the black version 9/10. With gold writing on the dial and a gold date disc instead of the new white one it would have been a perfect 10.
Than there is the classic Date-Just, better known as DJ. It has gotten it?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s long awaited supersizing, going from 36 mm to 41 mm like the Day-Date last year. It has the well known oyster bracelet and calm and classic dial designs. As pointed out about the Milgauss last year: 41 mm is a whole lot of space for a classic watch that has nothing going on than time and date. No diving bezels, 24 hour hands or text about original ring lock systems to keep the eye busy. How on earth to fill the space? Well, the stick markers were blown up to the same gigantic proportions as on the Milgauss. It will probably take some time to get used to and there is nothing really wrong with the watch, but maybe 39 mm would have been easier to design and a better size for a dress watch.
In the introductions there is always a tactical point from Rolex. For example they introduce their new sports models in gold and two tone first, probably to boost the sales of the gold models a bit. With the DJ they only introduced it with a fluted bezel. It is a nice bezel but most people simply prefer a domed one, so, why not give it to them right from the start?
Well, so much for the news. There was a lot of watch decorating going on at the Rolex stand that can not be classified as design: icy Daytona?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s full of diamonds, some with romans, some with sticks. Some nice but predictable white croco straps for the ladies, like most brands introduced 5 ?¢?Ç¨?Äú 10 years ago. More ?¢?Ç¨?ìhome decorating?¢?Ç¨¬ù going on with the 36 mm DJ?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s: flowery wall papers on the dials, diamond bezels, randomly chosen combinations of sticks and romans in surreal color combinations. I guess Rolex wants more sales to women, fine. But the way to persue this goal does not make Rolex stand out from other brands anymore like they always did in the past. On the other hand, these flower dials can probably be exchanged once the girls get tired of them, just like the wall paper at home. And the watch itself still has all the qualities Rolex always had. So, a lot of decorating, no news, but no harm done either.
The conclusion last year was that after a Deep Sea that can travel almost 4 kilometers under water there is not much functional news to bring anymore for Rolex. Supersizing is continued this year with the intro of the new DJ. More bling, well, same watches, plenty of bling added.
The good news is that the home decorating mainly took place in the Oyster line and not too much in the Professional line. The slight improvements made with the GMT like the ceramic bezel, new clasp and more substantial case are gradually introduced across the sports line. No surprises happening with the roll out of the new TT Subs. We always want to know what?¢?Ç¨?Ñ¢s new at Rolex, but the best news can be sometimes that there is not much going at all.