Thoughts On The New Rolex Releases — Watches & Wonders 2022 (Live Pictures)
The new Rolex releases dropped a few days ago, and that means that we’ve had a fair amount of time to digest the news. On March 30th, I penned an article with the basic specifications and some off-the-cuff thoughts. Now, for better or worse, you get to hear my unvarnished opinion on these watches. As always, we invite you to agree or differ in the comments section…
*Sigh…* Another year, another batch of new Rolex releases. The last time I bought a brand-new Rolex at an AD was in 2014. I walked into a certain shop in Frankfurt, casual as all get-out (South Florida to the core here), and was suitably ignored for about five minutes while I pretended to browse the showcases. Finally, a bored salesperson came and asked me if I needed any help. I said directly, “I’m here to buy a 36mm stainless Datejust on a Jubilee with a black dial.” Fifteen minutes later, I was out the door carrying a plain white bag. Inside, I had “the precious” — at a 10% discount, no less! I remember walking home and thinking to myself, “That’s it. That will likely be the last new Rolex that I ever purchase.”
New Rolex releases pose an internal question every year
Every year, when the new Rolex releases hit the internet, I think back to that day and challenge myself to see if this is the year that I become infatuated with a new Rolex once again. By the way, I didn’t really walk away because of the already-snooty treatment. I walked away because I was satisfied with what I owned. More importantly, though, I didn’t love the chunkier, more jewelry-like direction things were heading. So, coming full circle to 2022, is this the year that my self-imposed embargo ends?
The GMT-Master II “Green Lantern”
Sorry, I’m sticking with my “Green Lantern” nickname for the most popular of the new Rolex releases. Rolex decided to shock the world with a left-handed version of the GMT-Master II. Seriously, no one saw this coming, and I’d bet that Vegas would have struggled to calculate odds on such a debut. There are two positives on reference 126720VTNR aside from offering something to the sinister crowd. First, I like the colors, and a bicolor Cerachrom bezel is always a good thing. Second, the watch is “available” on both Jubilee and Oyster bracelets, which is nice.
Overall, though, I find this release — here we go — laughable, and here’s why. The elephant in the room around all of the watches I’ll discuss today is called “availability”. Simply put, barring a pandemic (oh, wait…), complete economic meltdown, or an additional Rolex factory, this watch will be impossible to find. The irony, and the joke, is that left-handed people make up 10–12% of the world’s population. This watch is being built especially for them, and they won’t even be able to find it. It’s sort of like Rolex saying that it has satisfied everyone else out there who wants a watch, so it’s heading into truly specific areas in order to grow market share. As if…
More than that, though, compare this watch to the Pelagos LHD and take notice of something lovely. The date window is on the opposite side of the crown — where it should be. The new GMT, however, stacks loads of visual weight at nine o’clock. Is it wrong? Well, there are no rules, but it looks unwieldy. This, despite the fact that a right-handed watch has the crown, Cyclops, and date window all at three o’clock. Maybe I’m just too much of a traditionalist, but the watch simply looks “off.” Maybe I’m missing the positive of being able to read the date while wearing long sleeves, but yeesh! To me, this is the most confounding of the new Rolex watches. Some have celebrated the fact that it’s different; I’m just not there yet.
Firstly, I need to thank our man G2 for his solid work at the trigger on these new Rolex releases. He took some great photos! Next, let’s talk about the latest Air-King. Reference 126900 can be seen above on the left next to the prior 116900. Can you spot the differences? There’s a decent amount to unpack here, including a move away from the thick 40mm Milgauss case to a bespoke thinner case with crown guards. Furthermore, Rolex gave this watch the 70-hour 3230 automatic and added more lume to the dial (the 3/6/9). Finally, Rolex added a “0” before the “5” to bring more symmetry.
So, here’s the deal — this thing still looks like a Snellen chart. Perhaps I should be giving props to Rolex for sticking to its guns with this design, but I’m struggling. The case, on the other hand, is a bold move, and normally, I’d be prognosticating about its potential use in an upcoming Explorer II. The brand, however, just replaced that last year, so I have my doubts (oh, but what if!!!). Back to the consolation prize called the Air-King, though, with a view on what would have absolutely have stolen the show. The reference 1400M or 14000 Air-King models were 34mm watches that, amongst several choices, could be had with a dark blue “Explorer” dial. Now, sit there and imagine that dial in this new case. Explorer, we have a problem… Sadly, with its current gesicht, this shall never be the bride, but always the bridesmaid.
The Yacht-Master 42 in yellow gold
It’s a weird year when the Yacht-Master is actually my favorite of the new Rolex releases. However, I’ve always had a strange thing for the YM models on Oysterflex bracelets. No pun intended, but they are serious flex pieces and comfortable to boot. I saw my first one in the wild — a 40mm version in rose gold — while attending a business meeting in Lecco, Italy. As they say, if the shoe fits… The watch looked effortless. Since then, I’ve enjoyed looking at the 40mm model and the 42mm piece in white gold. Adding a 42mm model in yellow gold was a no-brainer and I simply cannot find any faults here aside from wondering whether 42mm would fit my tiny wrist. Here’s a seriously hot take — the Yacht-Masters on Oysterflex are the only current Rolex watches I remotely desire.
As an aside, for whatever reason, we didn’t have a hands-on experience of the Falcon’s Eye 42mm white gold Yacht-Master on Oysterflex. Falcon’s Eye is essentially a blue version of Tiger’s Eye quartz, and Rolex used it as the dial material here. This watch, folks, is actually my favorite, and at €30,100, is “only” €3,650 more than the €26,450 yellow gold version.
The Platinum Day-Date 40 with fluted bezel
The last of the major new Rolex releases is the Platinum Day-Date 40 with a fluted bezel. This marks the first time that a 40mm Day-Date is available with a fluted bezel. Previously, only the smooth version was available. Above, Rolex provided a 36mm model for comparison. I can’t find the 36mm version on the website any longer, so perhaps it is now out of production. Personally speaking, I’m a die-hard fan of the 36mm case size for both the Day-Date and the Datejust. Still, this is one sexy watch. As I mentioned in the previous article, this one is “P.O.A.,” so it’s for the very few.
I will mention the green Day-Date that RJ wrote up the other day because it’s fairly significant. It contains a lacquered dial and those tend to garner a lot of love amongst collectors. After all, they remind us of the old “Stella” dials. This is a great-looking watch, although I’d still wish to see it in a 36mm case.
Final thoughts on the new Rolex releases
Overall, I know that I’ve been fairly rough on these new Rolex releases. They just didn’t truly shake me, but I know that it was an “off-year” with no major model lines in need of an update. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m hoping for these days. I’m not personally pining for a “Coke” or black-bezel GMT-Master II, but I had hoped to see one or the other. I also thought that the Milgauss was due for some sort of a refresh, but perhaps that will be 2023 or 2024 for its 70th anniversary. Maybe we will see the Air-King case on something else in the future. Regardless, we know that you love to comment and argue about Rolex, so as I mentioned above, let us hear it. Try, although it’s hard, to take the availability issues out of your thinking and tell us — what did you think of this year’s novelties?
For more information, visit the official Rolex site.