Sunday morning is showdown time. For this edition, two editors enter with colorful Rolex models from 2023. The Oyster Perpetual 36 “Celebration” features 50 lacquer bubbles representing the five colorful dial variations from 2020. The Day-Date 36 “Jigsaw Puzzle” employs champlevé enameling for multi-toned puzzle pieces. With such an eye-catching dial, it’s easy to miss the ten baguette-cut sapphires in six different hues, the inspirational keywords replacing the day of the week, and the emojis for the date window. In this vibrant Rolex showdown, there’s plenty to discuss, but only you will decide the winner, so be sure to cast your vote. Special thanks go to Warky for suggesting today’s matchup as well. If you have suggestions for future showdowns, let us know in the comments.

Before we start, let’s recap last week’s Showdown between two rugged chronographs. The Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium took on the Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono. It was a close fight, but in the end, the Tudor came out on top with 54% of the votes.

Many comments favored the Tudor, too, but not by much as the Longines had a lot going for it. Our favorite comment was courtesy of Bob Saccimano:

The Tudor for me. The co-branding is cheesy but also kind of fun. The stars on the dial of the Longines rub me the wrong way — I don’t need a Yelp review on my watch, thank you very much.

With the dust settling on last week, it’s time to pick up the axes and start swinging for today’s fight. Ben is backing the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 “Celebration” (reference 126000), with Jorg repping the Rolex Day-Date 36 “Jigsaw Puzzle” (reference 128239).

Ben: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Celebration-motif dial

The Oyster Perpetual is not merely an entry point. It is the foundation upon which the whole Rolex professional line is built. Perhaps I am selling this short already. In reality, the Oyster Perpetual is the distillation of Rolex’s most acclaimed innovations into a single watch. Even the name wastes no time — “Oyster,” referring to the 100m-waterproof case, and “Perpetual,” relating to the 360° continuously winding rotor.

rolex oyster perpetual celebration dial

Typically, you would expect “Daytona” or “Submariner” following these three words. Without such embellishment, the Oyster Perpetual is pure Rolex — supremely comfortable, beautifully proportioned, and with a subtle hint of quiet luxury. While you do not get a safety clasp or Mercedes hands, it is unmistakably a Rolex. And, for some, that is more than enough. I have friends who own at least one of each model in the professional collection, yet they frequently find themselves reaching for their trusty Oyster Perpetual.

rolex oyster perpetual celebration dial

Time for Celebration

The sentiments above reflect my previous position on the Oyster Perpetual. The OP range was always the understated and approachable entry point to owning a Rolex. Flipping the script in 2020 were the outrageously vivid dials of the revamped Oyster Perpetual collection. Sure, there were still the variants with silver sunray and black dials, but the headline grabbers were the new dials in coral red, candy pink, yellow, green, and turquoise. The huge success and unfathomable demand for these pieces, especially the turquoise version, led to many brands releasing similar collections. From Citizen to Sinn and even Omega, it seemed this new OP range kicked off an unstoppable trend. While colorful dials are nothing new, releasing them as a quintet with a “gotta catch ’em all” marketing technique traces back to Rolex’s 2020 smash hit.

Why Be So Serious?

At some points, these Rolex OPs — mainly the 36mm and 41mm models — traded at three times above the iconic Daytonas and Submariners in stainless steel. Call it hype, but the simple time-only Rolex had serious momentum. That was until Rolex decided to discontinue the yellow and coral-red models. And then the turquoise model was no longer available in the 41mm diameter. It was odd behavior, but we found out the reason soon enough at this year’s Watches and Wonders in March. Combining all five colors is the Rolex-dubbed “Celebration-motif dial” Oyster Perpetual in 31mm, 36mm, or 41mm Oystersteel cases. Some refer to it as the “balloons,” “bubbles,” or “gobstopper” (jawbreaker) dial. Or maybe you’re like me and can only think of the Mr. DNA cartoon from Jurassic Park (1993) when looking at the 50 assorted bubbles with black rings.

rolex oyster perpetual celebration dial

Owners’ thoughts on the Rolex OP “Celebration”

My first impressions of the Celebration were sheer disbelief. Rolex, the conservative stalwart of watchmaking, created a ball pit for your wrist. And it’s a competent one at that, with the Rolex caliber 3230 with a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and a deviation tolerance of  ±2 seconds per day. But despite the initial shock, the Celebration OP became hot property, arguably even more in demand than the dials it celebrates. I spoke to an owner, Marc, who is a keen watch enthusiast. He had this to say:

I think it’s the first in a new era for Rolex. It’s changing the guard from the standard guy walking off the golf course in his gold Day-Date to the realization now that the world is about social media and flex. The Jigsaw Puzzle dial with emojis and Celebration dial are moving away from the historical values Rolex always had to new values that encapsulate all generations, which is fantastic for all watch collectors and someone who wants the ultimate brand on their wrist. I wanted this one as I think it will be a future classic in years to come.

Thank you to Marc for his thoughts, and check him out on Instagram here.

It’s apt that Marc brings up the “Jigsaw Puzzle” dial. Jorg believes it’s an even more symbolic and exciting launch from Rolex this year.

Rolex Day-Date 36 "Jigsaw Puzzle"

Jorg: Rolex Day-Date 36 Jigsaw Puzzle-motif dial

Thanks, Ben! I must be honest with you. When the watches we discussed today were first announced, I shrugged my shoulders. They left me indifferent. Sure, they were fun statements from a generally conservative brand but they were not my cup of tea. On top of that, Rolex introduced plenty of other goodness to enjoy at Watches and Wonders this year, like the Yacht-Master 42 in titanium and the new gold and two-tone GMT-Master IIs. But when I took the time to read more about the Day-Date 36 “Jigsaw Puzzle” (also nicknamed “Emoji”), I couldn’t help but smile. It seems like such an absurd statement, but I ended up loving it for two reasons.

Rolex Day-Date 36 "Jigsaw Puzzle"

The first is the over-the-top level of fun that it represents. Do you want a Rolex Day-Date? How about a Day-Date without actual day and date indicators? As most of you will know, the days of the week at 12 o’clock are replaced by the words “Happy,” “Eternity,” “Gratitude,” “Peace,” “Faith,” “Love,” and “Hope.” A cynic might immediately say, “What is this hippie nonsense?” But if you realize that the window at 3 o’clock reveals one of 31 exclusive emojis daily instead of the date, it gets confusingly brilliant. The whole idea is absurd for a brand like Rolex, but the fact that The Crown had the cojones to put it out made it a win for me.

Rolex Day-Date 36 "Jigsaw Puzzle"

What’s even the purpose of the Jigsaw Puzzle dial?

But what did Rolex set out to do with this watch? Was it just a fun, expensive statement, as Mike explained? Did the brand try to appeal to a younger crowd? Was it an April Fools’ joke? Was it related to World Autism Awareness Day? Since we’re talking about Rolex, no information was given on these topics. The press release was business as usual for a watch far from that. But the press info did shine a bright light on how unique the dial is. And that’s where the second reason for my love for this watch can be found.

Rolex Day-Date 36 "Jigsaw Puzzle"

Historically, the Day-Date has been Rolex’s platform for extravagant dials. Fans are familiar with the lacquered Stella dials, stone dials, wood dials, and meteorite dials, and the brand created even more special dials for the Day-Date. Therefore, it makes sense that this new Jigsaw Puzzle dial would grace the Day-Date and no other Rolex model. And if you then get into the details, you can have nothing but respect for the excellent levels of detail and craftsmanship that go into creating it. The dial is made using champlevé enameling, and the results are stunning.

Rolex Day-Date 36 "Jigsaw Puzzle"

The details of the Day-Date 36 “Jigsaw Puzzle”

Rolex created three versions of the watch in yellow gold, Everose gold, and white gold. While all three are brilliant, we’ll focus on the white gold version for this Sunday Morning Showdown as it is visually the closest to Ben’s Oyster Perpetual. The white gold and yellow gold versions come with a dial that uses turquoise as the primary color. The jigsaw pieces featured on the dial are turquoise, red, fuchsia, orange, green, and yellow, each representing one of the critical moments in life, according to the brand. For me, first and foremost, these make for a colorful work of art.

In the next step, the hour markers are not the typical gold batons. Rather, they are ten baguette-cut sapphires in six different colors, each contrasting the puzzle piece underneath. This is to help ensure that you can read the time. It might not be as easy as on a regular Day-Date, but this is no regular Day-Date. While I love the colorful jigsaw puzzle pieces, their edges are complex gold inlays that steal the show. They give the enamel dial a great sense of depth and visual brilliance. Depending on how the light hits the dial, the inlays either pop to emphasize the shape of the puzzle pieces or gently move to the background so the bright colors can stand out. It truly is a magnificent sight.

Just a regular Day-Date except for the dial

The dial makes this a special watch, of course, but let’s remind ourselves of the basics shortly. As mentioned, the Day-Date 36 Jigsaw Puzzle Emoji comes in yellow, rose, and white gold. The cases of all three variants come with the trusted fluted bezel and measure 36mm in diameter, 12mm thick, and 43mm from lug to lug. The case offers a 100m water resistance rating, and the watch comes fitted with the iconic 20mm President bracelet to complete the spectacular look. Inside the case, Rolex uses its in-house caliber 3255. The automatic movement operates at 28,800vph and has a 72-hour power reserve.

But let’s be honest here. You will not buy this particular Day-Date because of its movement or other specs. And there is nothing wrong with that. I read quite a few comments that The Crown took it too far with this Jigsaw Puzzle/Emoji version of the Day-Date. Statements varied from “catering to the horrible celebrity crowd” to “the next watch for Rolex flippers.” Some even went as far as calling it the worst Rolex ever. I’m afraid I have to disagree. That would be your Oyster Perpetual, Ben. I am only kidding, of course; I think both of these watches are fun. But the Day-Date is an incredibly crafted and over-the-top statement., and that’s why I love it.

Time to vote!

There you have it, folks — another Sunday battle with two fun Rolex models going toe to toe for the win! Will Ben’s Oyster Perpetual get your vote, or are you a passionate proponent of the Jorg’s Day-Date? Make sure to vote for your choice below, and also let us know why you picked it in the comments. See you next week for another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown!

Rolex Oyster Perpetual "Celebration" vs. Day-Date "Jigsaw Puzzle"