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MisterRolex’s Rolex Predictions For 2023

Rolex Deepsea Full Gold Two Tone

In a previous life, I moderated the Rolex forum on timezone.com, and one of the busiest threads each year would be during the weeks leading up to Baselworld when contributors tried to predict what Rolex would be introducing. I made it a point to NEVER post anything in this thread, as the likelihood of getting it completely wrong and the potential for subsequent public humiliation kept me well away from my keyboard. But now Oracle Time’s esteemed editor has asked me to place my reputation on the line by putting in print my predictions for the 2023 Watches & Wonders Rolex launches. So, here goes!

Historically, Rolex have made two kinds of introductions: logical ones and those which come out of the left field. Logical choices include last year’s launch of the Yacht-Master in yellow gold. As this was previously available in both white gold and Everose red gold, bringing it out in yellow gold was practically the dictionary definition of a no-brainer. It’s the left field (or in the case of last year, left-hand) watches which are hard to predict; nobody expected the Destro GMT Master last year, or November’s ‘drop’ of the titanium hockey puck which is the Deepsea Challenge.

Rolex Milgauss Green Dial

Prediction #1: Milgauss with Air King “shoulders” and green dial

Let’s start with the logical predictions. Looking at the current catalogue, there are two models which haven’t received either movement or case changes in ages: the Milgauss and the Daytona. These two are linked by one significant factor – they are two of the last watches from Rolex to be powered by movements using the conventional lever escapement. Pretty much every other men’s watch now uses Rolex’s own Chronergy escapement which gives watches an extra ten hours of power reserve. The Chronergy system is also highly antimagnetic, as it is constructed from a nickel phosphorous alloy and so should be a pretty good fit for the Milgauss.

However, you can’t just drop a new escapement into an existing movement. You need to redesign the movement, and these new 32XX movements are also fitted with a completely redesigned mainspring barrel. So, if the Milgauss is going to be updated – and it’s my bet that it will – the main change will be the substitution of the current 3131 movement, with a new one, most likely to be called the 3231. Will the Milgauss join the AirKing in acquiring ‘shoulders’?

Rolex Calibre 4130

Prediction #2: Rolex will update their Calibre 4130 movement

For some things, we will just have to wait and see, but one thing we can be certain of, is that there will be a change to either the case or dial, so that the new model is easily differentiated from its predecessor.

The Daytona is a whole different matter. The 4130 calibre which powers it is now the oldest calibre in the Rolex catalogue, having been introduced at the turn of the century. So, logic suggests that it will be the next to be updated, but my gut tells me that Rolex will leave it alone for another year, at least, and probably wait for two, as in 2025 the current model and its movement will have reached their quarter century.

Rolex Deepsea Two Tone
Rolex Deepsea Gold

Prediction #3: Deepsea Two Tone/Deepsea Full Gold

As for the left field introductions, I am sorry – I have no idea – but let me take a swing at some of the possible introductions. Most of us were slightly bemused when they introduced the Sea Dweller in Rolessor (steel and gold), so why not a gold version and a Rolessor Deep Sea? Looking at the Datejust, it used to be available in three sizes 28mm, 31mm, and 36mm, then the 41mm version was added – looking at the size of the Deep Sea Challenge, Rolex seem to see bigger as better – so why not a 45mm or 46mm Datejust?

Also, looking around, we see the revival of high accuracy and high value quartz; F-P Journe makes one and Citizen’s 0100 ultra accurate watch sells for over £15,000. Rolex patented and produced in prototype form their 5355 perpetual calendar high accuracy quartz movement over a decade ago. So, maybe 2023 is the time to actually launch it.

Rolex Oysterquartz 5355

Prediction #4: Oysterquartz Day-Date Ref. 5355

However, something more might be known in the weeks prior to Watches & Wonders. Let me explain why. I always used to say that predicting Rolex introductions was essentially futile, as the firm was extremely good at keeping the information within their walls, but COVID changed all that. Previously watches were announced at Baselworld and subsequently appeared in the retailers’ windows five to six months later.

During Baselworld there were only a few non-working models used as display pieces. But, a big change happened during COVID. Watches are now launched, not on the first day of the show, but when ready and since they are in the stores immediately after introduction, it means that retailers are alerted to the introductions BEFORE W&W, making leaks inevitable, as we saw last year.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Meteorite Dial

Prediction #5: Oyster Perpetual with Meteorite Dial

One of the problems with writing about Rolex is that watch nuts, like readers of this magazine, tend to home in on the professional models and ignore the mainstream, and the more popular models like the Datejust, Day-Date or Oyster Perpetual; but one thing that I can be certain of is that Rolex will, once again, increase the unit value of these watches, perhaps by introducing precious material components like meteorite dials.

This is different from increasing the retail price – although rises there should not be ruled out too – as the secondary market has shown that Rolex watches are remarkably price insensitive. Increasing the unit value can best be illustrated with the Daytona; when launched it came in steel, 18ct yellow gold, or a combination of the two. All three are still available, but so are both white and Everose gold, as well as platinum and let’s not forget the jewelled ‘Rainbow’ Daytona – models like the Yacht-Master are due a similar treatment.

Rolex Rainbow Bezel Yachtmaster

Prediction #6: Yacht-Master with rainbow bezel

All of these introductions have been at the higher end of the price spectrum, thereby pushing the unit value upwards. Similarly, recent introductions on the ladies’ Datejust watches have featured mother of pearl dials with applied gold dust motifs, or diamond studded mosaic ones, all pushing up the unit value of each watch.

If Rolex want to increase their income, this is about the only avenue open to them, as they are physically unable to increase their production, with their factories already running at 100% capacity, and, like the rest of the Swiss watch industry, they are unable to recruit more staff. This is the reason behind the recent announcement that the firm will open a new factory in Bulle, in the predominantly agricultural Gruyères region.

Rolex Office Geneve

Historically, watchmaking has been confined to the Geneva region or the Valeè de Joux area of Neuchatel, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Bienne, and LeLocle (where Tudor, the sister brand of Rolex have located their new movement factory) because that is where trained staff can be found. But the current problem is that there are no more trained staff looking for jobs in these locations. So, Rolex have made the brave decision to site their new factory half way between the two centres, where they will not only build a new factory but also create and train a new 2,000 strong workforce.

None of this will do anything to alleviate the current product shortage, as the new factory is not expected to be in production until the end of the decade. So, there are two things that we can be sure will happen in 2023; that it will still be difficult to find the new Rolex you desire and that the gradual roll out of the Rolex Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programme will continue…….but that’s another story.

More details at Rolex.

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About the author

James Dowling

James began collecting wristwatches around 35 years ago and writing about them a decade later; his third book, this one on the Hans Wilsdorf years at Rolex in London and Geneva will be published in the New Year. His recent pronouncement that quartz timekeeping was the most important horological advance of the 20th Century has seen him ostracised from almost all polite watch circles. But still he persists.