Back in April, amidst a global pandemic that ground the world to a halt, taking the annual watch show Baselworld with it, Rolex announced it was pulling new releases from the calendar indefinitely. Indefinitely often feels like a scary word used to describe some non-existent future—like when your favorite band says they’re taking a “hiatus”—but yesterday Rolex put an end to indefinitely with the announcement of a new suite of watches. There are plenty of pieces to pore over, including colorful Oyster Perpetuals and a new Sky-Dweller, but the crown jewel of this collection is undoubtedly the no-date Submariner.
The new releases follow Rolex’s tried-and-true template. There is nothing flashy to unhinge your jaw; there are no wholly new models. Instead, a magnifying glass is required to appreciate and geek out over the new-new. This is, after all, the Rolex way: take an icon from the vaults and tweak it ever so slightly in the hope of achieving perfection. Last year, the black-and-blue “Batman” GMT-Master II was fussed over; in 2018 the biggest new release was the same model with a blue-and-red “Pepsi” bezel. (Like I said, it’s the little things for Rolex.)
Of course, in the watch world, even if the changes are minute, there isn’t much bigger news than Rolex releasing a new Submariner—something it hasn’t done since 2012. The brand often moves in baby steps with its iconic pieces, and even that might be too large a measuring stick for what’s happening with this new Sub. The biggest visible change here is in the case size: the watch is beefing up from 40mm to… 41mm (for context, your garden-variety ant is 5mm). But the miniscule change in case size is part of a larger effort to sand down some of the model’s clunk. More noticeable to the naked eye are the sleeker crown guards (the two dimples on the right side of the watch protecting the winding mechanism), the slimmed-down lugs (the arms that attach the watch to the bracelet), and a wider bracelet. These small changes add up to a cleaner overall profile with softer angles. On the dial, the only significant-for-Rolex change is that the brand’s crown logo now rests between the words “Swiss Made” at the bottom of the dial.
That’s not all Rolex has on tap for this year, though. While the no-date Submariner’s facelift was done with laser precision, the rest of the new collection is defined by va-va-voom color. Joining the no-date Sub is a fleet of date Submariners with bezels in green, blue, and a combination of blue and gold. I’m a personal sucker for the green-bezeled version, which is known unofficially as “The Kermit.” (Cruising Instagram, I’ve already seen folks suggesting new nicknames like the Yoda, the Shrek, and the Cermit, because the watch’s new bezel is made out of Rolex’s ceramic material Cerachrom.) A whole Starburst wrapper’s worth of eye-popping 36mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual are also on the way: cotton-candy pink, sunburst orange, forest green, a reddish blood orange, and an icy light blue. The other new Rolex pieces include a pair of bulked-up 41mm Oyster Perpetuals and the Sky-Dweller on an Oysterflex bracelet, which is Rolex’s interpretation of a sporty rubber strap.
Not only is the release calendar back on schedule, but it’s back in the most Rolex way possible. There is nothing disarming or startling about what the brand has done with these watches. Instead, Rolex argues that we can reach our destination just fine through small incremental changes.