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Basel Through a Telescope, Part 2

Yet again, the #watchnerd has failed to make it to the halls of BaselWorld. And is therefore forced to observe from a distance. Last year, I was in Finland. This year, North London, and unsurprisingly, it was Rolex that first grabbed the headlines.

Having teased its customers with a new name – Sky-Dweller – Rolex released a picture showing what looked to be an internal rotating bezel of some kind. Many speculated that this could be a new “Pepsi” dialled variant of the GMT II. Possibly even a new chronograph. In the end, it was revealed to be a piece of horological trickery that combines an annual calendar with a second timezone set within the dial within the dial. Those of us who had been berating Rolex for merely tweaking / upsizing their old designs were suddenly faced with something a lot more interesting.

The Rolex Sky-Dweller (c) Rolex 2012
And what is particularly interesting is how they’ve combined the mechanism for setting month / date, time and the second timezone into a single device: the bezel-operated Ring Command. It’s a clever idea – similar to the “gear” device used by Guiliano Mazzuoli in his Contagiri – that changes the mode by rotating the bezel. Rolex has also included the quickset hour feature that sets their GMT watches above most others as well as a month indicator, situated just above each of the hour markers. The deceptively simple “Saros” system used by the Calibre 9001 reminds me of Ludwig Oechslin’s MIH watch (a *good* thing – interestingly, they are both based on chronograph movements) and Rolex have obviously thought about how they present the watch on their website, including a rather good video.
The Sky-Dweller’s main drawback, however, is its looks: with a Datejust-style case and a strange YachtMaster II hybrid dial, the watch is not what one might describe as classically beautiful. In white gold, the watch looks, quite frankly, absurd: the clash of Arabic and Roman numerals coupled with the incongruous indicator triangle being a case in point. The fonts clash and the magnifying Cyclops over the date just looks horribly out of place. To be fair, the Everose gold version is better, with a more coherent dial design, and a more flattering sunburst pattern.

To be honest, I’m not sure what Rolex was thinking. It’s not entirely clear whether this is a watch designed for world travellers, pilots, trans-Atlantic yachties or perhaps just collectors; I can see this fast becoming one of those strange pieces that future generations may discover and to which they may (seemingly randomly) attach value. It’s a shame, as the Ring Command is a relatively original touch, but for me, the Sky-Dweller is, unfortunately, certainly earth bound.

the #watchnerd

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