Rolex doesn’t often release new models, tending instead to offer variations on their core collection with incremental refinements each year. So, there was no shortage of excitement when the Swiss watchmaker revealed the 1908 at the Watches & Wonders Geneva trade show earlier this year.
Not only is the 1908 the first new name added to the Rolex catalogue since the release of the Sky-Dweller in 2012, it’s also the first watch in an entirely new Rolex family, the Perpetual collection. A “reinterpretation of traditional watchmaking style imbued with quintessential watchmaking expertise and the aesthetic heritage of Rolex,” the Perpetual collection opens the door to a vast wealth of classic design from the Rolex archive that is sure to drive collectors into a frenzy.
The Rolex 1908 is named for the year in which Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf registered his brand in Switzerland, and it replaces the Rolex Cellini line of dress watches. The Cellini has had many iterations and fans during its long life, from Elvis Presley to Barack Obama, but in the company of classics like the Day-Date, Submariner, and Daytona, it rarely got the love it deserved. As the Cellini’s replacement, the 1908 has its work cut out for it to find an audience. Thanks to a classic design, a state-of-the-art new movement, and some unique details, however, there’s plenty to love.
The 1908 features a 39 mm case in 18 ct yellow or white gold, a fine size for a modern dress watch and most wrists. The top edges of the lugs are gently chamfered to highlight their graceful curve and the bezel combines fluting with a polished dome. It’s water-resistant to 50 metres, which is less than Rolex’s other watches, but more than enough to protect the movement inside. (If the alligator leather Dualclasp strap didn’t tip you off, this is not the watch you wear to the pool or the beach). Most significantly, the case features a display case back which provides a rare glimpse at the finely finished movement inside.
The movement is the Rolex calibre 7140, which was unveiled this year and carries the brand’s Superlative Chronometer certification. The new movement includes the best pieces in the Rolex parts bin, including a patented Chronergy escapement, which is resistant to strong magnetic fields, and a patented Syloxi hairspring for optimum accuracy and reliability. Paraflex shock absorbers, meanwhile, add durability and impact resistance in the event you should knock your 1908 on a doorframe or (heaven forbid) drop it on the floor.
The significance of this display case back can’t be overstated – as the only watch in the Rolex collection to feature this detail, owners of the 1908 will be the only people aside from certified Rolex technicians who get to admire the inner workings of their watch. The parts on view include an 18 carat, yellow gold oscillating weight and bridges decorated with Rolex Côtes de Genève stripes. The decoration differs from traditional Côtes de Genève thanks to a polished groove between each band.
While many other Rolex watches feature complications like dates, day-dates, and GMTs, the 1908 stays true to its roots in a simpler era of watch design, with Arabic numerals at 3, 9, and 12, and a small seconds subdial at six o’clock. It’s simple, elegant, and – for a brand known for incremental changes – a major departure from business as usual. As the first member of the Perpetual collection, however, there’s likely much more where this came from.