Spending Time With The Most Complicated In-House Rolex: The Sky-Dweller
I recently spent a week wearing the most complicated wristwatch made by Rolex today, the Sky-Dweller.
The Sky-Dweller hides its complexity in the simplicity of using it: despite featuring both an annual calendar and a second time zone, the Sky-Dweller is no less utilitarian than its simpler compatriots.
Indeed, the Sky-Dweller is an extremely practical timepiece that takes the businesslike philosophy that Rolex habitually utilizes to new “heights,” all while remaining quite down-to-earth.
The astronomical peculiarity of the annual calendar
The annual calendar has always been one of my favorite complications. The reason is simple: this type of calendar offers the simplicity of automatically getting the lengths of the months right, but ignores the most complicated of them all, February.
This is advantageous because the gearing is then a little less complex, and – naturally – the price reflects this.
The mechanics of the Sky-Dweller’s annual calendar form a subgroup that Rolex’s engineers have named Saros: this is an astronomical term used to denote a period of 223 synodic (moon-dictated) months.
In astronomy, the Saros system aids in identifying and anticipating lunar and solar eclipses. Alignment, important to natural cycles, is the overlying theme of the astronomical Saros system. And it is alignment that also dominates the Sky-Dweller and its clever mechanics.
I’d like to share an interesting tidbit I found while looking into the astronomical Saros system: a mechanical calculation of the Saros cycle was built into the world’s earliest known timekeeper, the Antikythera mechanism, which was found off the Greek island of the same name at the turn of the twentieth century. See The Secret Link Between The FIFA World Cup And The Hublot Antikythera Sunmoon for a bit more information on a modern-day Antikythera for the wrist.
Scientists have studied the Antikythera mechanism, which has been dated to the first century BCE, at length. They have concluded that the Antikythera was an “analogue computer” used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses. Its compact size suggests that it was made to be used portably.
The Antikythera’s plates were etched with what researchers think was an instruction manual; by attaching utilization instructions to the device, the implication is that it was meant to be easily taken along and used on location somewhere. Researchers have also concluded for the same reason that it was meant to be used by a non-scientific traveler.
If you ask me – and I definitely am speculating – Rolex’s engineers were also non-verbally implying the same by naming the annual calendar function “Saros”: it is a complicated function meant to be immediately understood and used by non-specialists.
So easy to use
In addition to the annual calendar, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller displays a second time zone, which makes it a very practical and easy-to-use travel watch.
While most timepieces displaying this sort of complexity would need an entire manual to learn how to use, the Sky-Dweller is exceptionally intuitive. One must only turn the bezel – an interface the Rolex engineers have christened the Ring Command bezel – to the proper setting, then turn the crown to find the correct local time.
My “home time” always remains the same in one of the easiest-to-read two-time-zone displays I have ever encountered.
Likewise, the Ring Command bezel and crown are also used to change the time and set the annual calendar. Indeed, the Ring Command bezel functions much like a function selector: use it to choose what needs setting, then just turn the crown for the rest. Honestly, it couldn’t be easier.
Despite the fact that the 42 mm case is only available in precious metals to date, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller remains relatively casual-looking thanks to its resemblance to the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date.
The clean, easy-to-see dial clearly reflects the well thought-out technology inside the case powered by C.O.S.C.-certified Rolex Caliber 9001, the most complicated movement the brand makes today. It even warranted seven patents.
Boasting 72 hours of power reserve despite being automatic, this 33 mm movement is outfitted with an in-house Parachrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers and a variable-inertia balance wheel.
While it is almost a given with Rolex’s legendary reliability, I still had to ask a watchmaker I know who works in Rolex’s after-sales about the Sky-Dweller’s reliability, particularly since it is a new movement only introduced in 2012.
Off the record, he explained that it’s so well thought-out that it’s easier to service than a chronograph and even the Yacht-Master 2, though he has not had much chance to work on it thus far as practically none have come back.
He and I agreed that the tactile elements of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller are just plain fun as well. All in all, if you are a Rolex fan, you are going to love the Sky-Dweller with its typical Rolex design and extreme reliability.
And if you are not already a fan, you may well become one before you’re done learning to set and adjust the calendar and time zones. All three seconds it will take you learn it.
If you are a Rolex fan and don’t already subscribe to the Rolex magazine, I highly recommend it. You can order, or possibly even pick up, a copy at your local Rolex retailer. Or you can view the magazine on the Rolex iPad app.
You can learn more about the Sky-Dweller in my cover article in the latest issue (#3) of the magazine.
For more information on the incredibly clever crown, please check out the Watch Nerd’s in-depth information in Righting the Rolex Crown.
Case: yellow gold, Everose (pink) gold, white gold, 42 x 14.1 mm, rotating Ring Command bezel for function selection
Movement: automatic Caliber 9001, 33 x 8 mm, Parachrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorption, C.O.S.C. certification
Functions: hours, minutes, sweep seconds; second time zone, annual calendar with date and month
Pricing: from $39,550