The Rolex Sky-Dweller

Borro Benchmarks: The Rolex Sky-Dweller

Normally when one approaches an article about any Rolex watch, it is with trepidation. Not because each individual product is hard to explain (far from it, in fact – Rolex watches are perhaps the most understood of all luxury brands), but rather because there is simply so much history to most every reference it’s tantamount to impossible to do the piece justice in 500 words.

Part of this challenge arises from the fact that Rolex so rarely release new models. With stalwarts like the Submariner, Datejust, and Oyster selling in perpetuity, the impetus to rush a throwaway novelty to market for the sake of generating a bit of buzz is non-existent, and the Rolex Sky-Dweller was no exception.

The Rolex Sky-Dweller

On August 3rd, 2011, Rolex registered the Sky-Dweller name, and set Internet forums the world over into meltdown. What did it mean? Was Rolex cruelly teasing their fans for the sake of publicity? Was it a sign that a new family was about to born? And if so, what kind of watch would it be?

We had to wait until Baselworld 2012 to find out, but the initial reaction to and subsequent scrap for the Rolex Sky-Dweller suggests the plan worked perfectly.

The cool thing about the Rolex Sky-Dweller is that it is very clearly a Rolex, and very clearly new. Its dial is the most complicated offered by the brand, and its movement is not only that, but also by some way.

Robustness and reliability are the traits Rolex hangs its hat on. The Sky-Dweller gives off an impression of strength with its 42mm case, but the movement complication within is refreshingly refined.

The Rolex Sky-Dweller

Showing a second time zone (the recessed 24-hour sub-dial at six o’clock), the date, the month, and the local time (all of which set by the crown and a revolutionary RING COMMAND system operated by shifting through the setting options by rotating the bezel itself by 30 degrees), the dial presents a tonne of information without boggling your mind.

So why is it so desirable? Yes, it’s cool. Yes, it’s novel (and justifiably so). Yes, it’s a Rolex, and carries the associated status boost, but what really jacked-up desire for the Sky-Dweller was it’s gosh darned scarcity.

Anyone who’s ever tried to buy a Rolex knows there are certain models you can get, and certain models that get you that kind of pitying, supercilious look from the Sales Assistant behind the counter that says. “Oh, you haven’t heard? There’s a five year waiting list for that piece Sir/Madam”.

The Sky-Dweller in Rolesor (with white gold bezel) is rarer than hen’s teeth. If you see one in a store (and you’re not hallucinating), buy it. If you see one pre-owned, buy it. If you meet an owner who’s looking to freshen up their collection, offer them whatever you can in trade. At just six and a half years old, it’s tough to anoint the Rolex Sky-Dweller a classic, but it was born in an era of such virulent scrutiny, anything other than a home-run hit would have fallen flat.

And judging by the trajectory at which this one left the bat, it doesn’t look like coming down to Earth anytime soon.


About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.