Rolex Cellini Moonphase: Past As A Teacher, Future As A Leader
Sometimes the best way to know where you are going is to look where you have been.
Learning from the past, honoring the past, or just simply acknowledging the past can be a great starting point in discovering the best direction for moving forward.
Companies and individuals do this all the time, and I personally take my experiences into account when thinking about a new idea. The easiest examples to draw from in my life are design and engineering. The process of creation requires a hefty dose of retrospective for the success of a project. Sometimes you have made mistakes in the past that are best avoided and sometimes you have stumbled on innovations that can be a foundation for your new idea.
Not surprisingly, it can be easy to gloss over the negatives and bolster the positives, leading to missed opportunities and sometimes repeated blunders. The best results are achieved when objective assessment of the past is used to prepare for a new venture.
In corporate life, slow development cycles reduce the risk of failure due to accidentally overlooking something from the past, but it also inhibits adaptation that comes from quick iteration. And there’s the risk that a competitor may get there first.
This can result in a company with a rock-solid foundation and strong product offering, but a lack of excitement, which leads to customers clamoring for something new looking elsewhere.
Every industry has leaders who are undeniably the best at what they do, but people still continue to discuss what they wish the company would do.
For me, and a healthy smattering of watch lovers, the horological equivalent of this is Rolex.
In almost every respect, Rolex is the most successful and the most technically advanced watch company in the world, but for many lovers of complications and classical watchmaking Rolex leaves something to be desired.
That said, in the last half decade Rolex has (at a typical Rolex pace) been releasing watches that break the brand’s decades-long pattern of focusing on top quality in purely functional tool watches – examples being the introduction of the Sky-Dweller and the 2014 re-introduction of the Cellini line – by introducing a bit of pizzazz.
A recent release at Baselworld 2017 might typify one of the longest awaited “simple” complications from Rolex ever: the Cellini Moonphase.
Having not made a moon phase watch since the 1950s (seriously), this new model stands poised to usher in a new age of classic complications at Rolex and a modern return to classical watchmaking excellence (in addition to being the most advanced watch company in the world).
It must be said that I have gotten a lot of flak for my apparent dislike of Rolex, including being told by one reader that since he has been buying Rolexes since before I was born, he believes I am not really entitled to have an opinion about the brand (I am paraphrasing his somewhat sharp response to my post A Very Rolexy Rolex Discussion: 3 Reasons The Rolex Day-Date 40 Convinced Me).
I don’t dislike Rolex at all, and of course I can never disparage Rolex for being what it is. This company chose to create the best tool watches with the most advanced production facilities in the watch world.
As someone who works in product development, Rolex is like the god of industry. Similar to Apple.
But like Apple, I haven’t felt the pull as many people have, and am more excited by the likes of Greubel Forsey, Urwerk, De Bethune, and a whole host of independents. It’s just where the action is for me.
Of course I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a Submariner, Explorer, or Day-Date as a great watch purchase either. When it comes down to it, though, I find myself drawn a bit more to historical Rolex pieces from the days before the modern Rolex Oyster was born, back in the era of the triple calendars or regulator chronographs.
That is why with the return of the moon phase into Rolex’s lineup, I begin to turn my attention to its latest offering with hope and excitement for what may follow.
The Cellini Moonphase shows that Rolex hasn’t forgotten its past (like some companies), but also that it isn’t abusing the memory (like others). The Cellini Moonphase might be one of the best modern interpretations of a brand’s historic timepieces that I have seen in a while (and coming from me, that’s saying something).
The new Rolex Cellini Moonphase is the first moon phase watch from Rolex in more than 60 years, and while it is not a reissue of the famous triple date with moon phase, it pays homage to the past while being something entirely new for Rolex.
The Cellini Moonphase features a date ring on the exterior of the dial, just like the historic 6062 and 8171 references, but instead of the arrow pointer it features a blued crescent moon, a tie-in to the main complication that is now the star of the show.
The rest of the dial layout is decidedly modern with a chapter ring for the minutes splitting the gold hour markers in two and keeping things rather geometric. This is sort of in the same vein with the Sky-Dweller and the Yacht-Master only less rugged and more refined.
The fineness of the lines, markers, and numerals reminds you that this isn’t a sports watch. But of course the real indicator that this should be reserved for suit and tux occasions is the moon phase subdial.
It’s made from a base layer of blue vitreous enamel, and enamel isn’t often used by Rolex as it isn’t easy to get precise and perfect (typical Rolex attributes).
But enamel, while being a classic material, is also long lasting and fade resistant, which are attributes Rolex praises. On top of the enamel layer a silver lacquer is applied to create a field of stars and the new moon outline.
The full moon is something else.
Utilizing a rare material, Rolex made another departure from the typical rigidly constrained design aesthetics apparent throughout its collections. The full moon is an applied piece of meteorite that has been rhodium plated for brightness to match the silver lacquer.
Since the moon is made from meteorite each moon will be a bit different, and when considered along with the enamel imperfections, this is finally a modern Rolex that can be said to be unique by virtue of the materials used.
It isn’t because of a slight difference between crown shapes, an adjustment to the letter spacing, or even a different color for a line of text.
No, the Cellini Moonphase watches will be individually unique because the materials used aren’t perfect, and that automatically makes each piece more desirable to ravenous Rolex collectors (I would think).
But the materials are only an added bonus to an already great-looking watch with a new bit of history to write.
The moon phase in the Cellini Moonphase is already on its way to greatness since the moon phase mechanism is patented due to its adjusting method and the specific way to read it.
The moon phase isn’t displayed like normal moon phases (with a disk passing through an opening to slice up the “moon” during its phases), but instead the new moon and full moon are in plain view while the current phase is pointed out by a triangular marker at the top of the subdial.
To set the moon phase, one first uses the corrector tool and the inset pusher to rotate the moon as close to the indicator triangle as possible. Then you switch to the crown and pull it out to the third position where you can finely adjust the moon so it sits perfectly underneath the marker. Then, adjust the minute hand to be at the top of the hour followed by pushing the corrector the number of days it has been since the last full moon.
You can see how to set the moon phase at https://www.rolex.com/watches/user-guides/new-cellini-moonphase.
Once the moon phase is set, set the date and hour (the date is advanced as a function of the hour hand and not set individually), followed by the minute hand for the precise time and phase of the moon. The unique way to adjust date, time, and moon phase is indicative of an attempt to create something new from what can be considered the most widely used “useless” complication.
But that really isn’t the point of the exercise.
The point is that Rolex is breathing life into a resurrected line that may just hold the next modern classics that Rolex fans have been begging for over the past few decades. The Cellini Moonphase is the first serious step in the direction of a classic complication collection that can trace its roots back to the beginnings of the brand.
As someone who has been waiting for something to excite me from Rolex, it seems that if the last few years are any indication of the future, I may just start waving the Rolex flag myself.
I think starting with the moon phase complication is a great move because it’s relatively straightforward in a mechanical sense, but visually provides a very strong, emotional impact.
That is the power of the moon: a harbinger of things to come, now on your wrist from Rolex. I can bet there are thousands of Rolex enthusiasts who never would have imagined that they could be buying a brand new Rolex featuring a moon phase complication, but now that they can, they can also start imagining the other possibilities.
And that is the fun part about watch collecting: the possibilities.
So with that, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 8.3 The most hardcore Rolex fans would probably say this is a ten, but everything is still relative. And since this is a relatively rare occurrence even to me, I still give it a rather strong bit of Wowza!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 83 » 813.951 m/s2 Twice as much force as a speeding rocket sled and about as surprising, the Cellini Moonphase has me staying up late lusting hard for the first Rolex moon phase in my lifetime.
- M.G.R. * 57.4 Even though Rolex movements aren’t the most wild, crazy, and uber complicated, they are some of the most consistently accurate movements made on a mass scale, and that is pretty darn geeky!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate Given the history of Rolex not adding much in the way of complications to its watches, this watch ends up being one of the most complicated current models, on par with the Yacht-Master, Sky-Dweller, and Daytona. This calls for extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the surprisingly complicated swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 10.3 Getting a jagged tortilla chip stuck in your gums! Taco Tuesdays are all fun and games until someone gets a chip to the gums. It happens all over the country, all too often. But I would gladly be a part of the tragedy if it meant getting a Cellini Moonphase for my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * A what from Rolex?! Yeah, it’s actually that big of a deal. And given the attention to detail and the aesthetic it holds, it really does help a guy fall hard. Better have the preacher on standby . . .
- Awesome Total * 622.5 Multiply the diameter (39) with the water resistance in meters (50) and then subtract the result from the caliber number (3195) and finally divide that result by the number of days in the power reserve (2) for a revitalizing awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.rolex.com/watches/cellini.
Quick Facts Rolex Cellini Moonphase
Case: 39 mm, Everose (pink) gold
Movement: automatic manufacture Rolex Caliber 3195
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; moon phase, date
Also published on Medium.