A Very Rolexy Rolex Discussion: 3 Reasons The Rolex Day-Date 40 Convinced Me – Reprise
Rolex Rolex Rolex, Rolex Rolex; Rolex Rolex Rolex Rolex Rolex. Rolex Rolex, Rolex Rolex Rolex.
Oh, yeah, and Rolex.
Okay, now that the word has lost all meaning and even the most ardent fan boys are losing their minds because it looks like a made-up word, we can get down to business.
Today’s piece will be a bit of a departure for me. Anyone who knows me will know that I have never gotten bitten by the Rolex bug.
Like Breitling, Rolex has never called out to me as a watch that I must have or that would be the pinnacle of my collection.
I honestly think the reason this is true is because of the downsides to being the most widely known watch brand in the world: copying and overexposure.
The dark side of being well known is imitation, and imitation leads to overexposure in some ways. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of different watches that have borrowed, copied, or straight up stolen designs from Rolex watches over the years.
The newest trend is to call them homage watches (which I am not here to discuss). But, nevertheless, there are more Rolex-style watches than anything else. This results in the subconscious feeling that it isn’t anything special.
When you grow up at the lower end of the income bracket as I did, you end up seeing a lot of cheap imitations of nice products. This is the reason I also don’t care much for carbon fiber accessories, leather seats, or chrome anything: I spent so much of my life around very poor imitations of these very nice things that I’ve become conditioned to loath or detest them as, well, junk.
The sad thing is that the originals are great for a reason, which is why they are so heavily copied and imitated. The problem is that many of us are exposed, not to what was great, but what was poorly executed and conceptually stolen from somewhere else.
I have seen tons of “carbon fiber” phone cases that were barely worth the materials they were made out of. I have sat in hundreds of imitation leather seats that felt neither supple nor comforting, instead feeling sticky or cracked and disintegrating.
By this point, I have bought or seen thousands upon thousands of products that have been “chromed” only to have it feel plastic and fake – or, worse, have the “chrome plating” flake off like the chintzy, economical spray-painted coating it pretty much is.
So when it comes down to it, my first, fifth, hundredth, and maybe even thousandth experience with Rolex-like products were also with things that never made to the highest levels of quality that Rolex represents.
This is also a critical point of note: my experience with Rolex (true Rolex) is definitely the epitome of modern product excellence. There can be no denying that. But the personal experience over my lifetime with things that remind me of Rolex, or that even claim to be Rolex but aren’t, is very poor.
The first, and second, Rolex watches I ever held were actually nothing more than fakes owned by random people in my past. This, combined with seeing a lot of poor imitations, copies, and homages, naturally predetermined my opinions of Rolex before I could even spend time with the real McCoy.
It kind of stinks that I would be prejudiced against something that, according to my own definitions of quality, stands head and shoulders above pretty much everything similar.
Lucky for me, then, at Baselworld 2015 Rolex launched a new look for one of its models that, for the first time, I appreciate for itself instead of comparing it negatively against my past.
That watch is the Rolex Day-Date 40.
Interestingly enough, I’ve even gone completely “nerd Rolex fan boy” and limited it not to the entire line of Day-Date 40s, but to just two specific references within the collection!
I can just hear 19-year-old me spouting some inanely juvenile comment about how I’m a lemming or something. Who knows what I was saying, I tended to mumble anyway.
So I would like to provide a neat list of three reasons why I really, really like the new Day-Date 40 (specifically, references 228239 white gold and 228206 platinum with quadrant dials) and why it has helped me to overcome pre-conceived ideas based on false observations and naiveté.
1. It is something I didn’t expect, therefore proving to me that Rolex will take the occasional design risk
Granted that, compared to many things in the watch industry, Rolex never has been and never will be avant-garde or quirky.
That is fine.
As a young watch connoisseur (okay, watch nerd), I never really wanted everything to be as interesting and unique as Urwerk or as complicated as many grand complications.
When you remember that Rolex has a very specific spot in the world of mechanical watchmaking, the comparisons need to be adjusted. Looking at what Rolex has done over the past fifty years and considering the new designs and styles that have started to slowly come out recently, it becomes clear that the brand is shaking things up as much as it can from its market position.
The new dials and numerals provide enough spice to delineate themselves from previous models, and provide just enough quirkiness to help stuffy watch nerds like myself have something to pay attention to.
The departure of the dials from the norm is rather subtle, but when taken in the Rolex context of style and history, it stands out as a design bullet point. More of this definitely needs to follow and I will find more and more pieces that I can get behind wholeheartedly.
2. The look of the dials is a large departure stylistically compared to what I am used to, and thus made me sit up and take notice
The dial numerals, in the split block style reminiscent of stencils, is awesome, and immediately made me stop and stare. It is a detail that definitely bucks tradition and creates a somewhat edgy display (for Rolex) that takes design cues from industrial graphic design.
I especially love the spacing it creates in the numerals, and the contrast of the pyramid polished blocks set next to flat polished blocks for the VI, VIII, and X numerals is genius. Graphically, it creates visual interest while sticking close to understandable character styles.
Only seven of the eighteen references in the collection share these numerals, and yet of those seven there are two that stand out from the rest. The platinum Ice Blue Quadrant and the white gold Silver Quadrant share a dial background that is as unique as the numerals themselves.
Utilizing alternating directional lines in four quadrants (hence the names), the dial background of these two references plays with light reflections creating movement where there is none. This detail adds greatly to the spacing and contrast found in the numerals and definitely strays from the much safer solid-color backgrounds found on many Rolex models.
The alternating lines also mean that the reflections change as you move your viewing angle. This aspect determines how your brain processes the dial, and if it is always changing then visually you should be more drawn to it (at least I was).
3. The new design direction made an instant connection visually, which allowed me to reassess Rolex based on what it is doing and not compared to others. And as such, I could no longer ignore the awesome things Rolex is doing
I have always researched brands and what they are doing, including brands I’m not too fond of. Every now and then an article (or a thesis in some cases) pops up discussing the technology and engineering of Rolex watches. Of course, I take notice because as a watch nerd I like to stay aware of how Rolex works, how much investment it has made in manufacturing, and at what level the brand really is working on.
When I was not overly attracted to the brand it was easy to hear the facts, accept them as true, but then ultimately dismiss them with an arrogant, “But it’s still Rolex.”
In the back of my mind, however, was always a nagging feeling that I was just ignoring something, a thing I should really like because of reasons I knew were simply opinions and half-truths.
When I saw the Day-Date 40, specifically the references I’ve mentioned, Rolex finally clicked into the category of “Deserves Second Look.” The most interesting thing in retrospect is that I probably saw the other “new” Day-Date 40 references before I saw the one I liked but I dismissed them all as the same old stuff.
Regardless of when the moment came that I couldn’t ignore it any longer, I am newly impressed by facts I technically learned long ago.
The level of manufacturing capabilities that Rolex employs rivals the best in any industry, the science behind creating the most robust and long-lasting mechanical watches around is NASA level, and the investment in quality and consistency borders on obsessive.
Simply put, Rolex watches are perhaps the most reliable mechanical watches available today, they are meant to be worn hard and put away wet, day after day . . . for a lifetime.
Rolex isn’t the most complex (that is now Vacheron Constantin), isn’t the most edgy in terms of design (that would be Urwerk, MB&F, Hautlence, and HYT), and it can’t really be considered the best value proposition (that is probably Seiko). But Rolex is the absolute best at what it does.
Rolex makes incredibly reliable, mid-range watches from the ground up (truly) and sets the standard for precision and consistency across the entire production.
I’m sure many readers will have a lot to say (good and bad) about my thoughts, and I encourage a lively discussion. As a man who builds things for a living, and enjoys watches more so for the interesting mechanics than the heritage, Rolex has always been an outlier for me.
Now, with a couple new references and some interesting design details, Rolex has made it onto my “it” list if only for reasons that are more to do with visual interest and the desire to own something that is the best in its class than with prestige or legacy.
Consider me a convert.
Though people might say converting to what virtually everybody else already likes might just make me a holdout that has finally given in. But I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum (being a drummer it seemed the right thing to do), so I’m fine with showing up late to the party.
At least I know I have my thoroughly understood reasons for waiting and for deciding to change.
Oh, the power of my own opinion!
So, does a Rolex really need a breakdown. Really? Sure!
- Wowza Factor * 7.5 This is where Rolex sits for me, especially considering the most recent design changes, a solid 75 percent. This is saying that it wows me more than three quarters of all watches!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 36.5 » 357.94/s2 Serious G forces for these references, enough to make most people flat-line and me stay up for hours drooling over the first Rolex I adore for its own sake!
- M.G.R. * 65 Very high score for a largely “standard” movement that receives very little decorative attention. Its score is due to the overwhelmingly incredible manufacturing and tolerances put into a movement designed to truly (and I mean truly) last a lifetime.
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate Hmm, could the added functions for the Day-Date be a day and a date function? Still one of the most functional added function pairings on a watch and I suggest prescription-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the crowning achievement! (Sorry for the horrible Rolex related pun.)
- Ouch Outline * 10 – Smashing your thumb with a three-pound sledge while hammering out wheel studs on a 26-year-old Honda Accord. Okay, that is weirdly specific but it is also how my latest Monday night was spent, and I would do it again to get this baby on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * For me, about ten years. For you, ten seconds. It took me a long time to accept that Rolex makes some pretty awesome stuff, but for the non-judgmental among you it should only take a few moments to come to the same conclusion. And when you do, the reverend will be waiting for the rehearsal ceremony.
- Awesome Total * 697.8 Take the year the Day-Date was introduced (1956) and divide by the diameter of the case (40). Add to that the water resistance rating in feet (300) and multiply by the number of functions in the name (2) and the result is one heck of an awesome total!
For more information, please visit www. rolex.com.
Case: 40 mm, platinum (ref. 228206) or white gold (ref. 228239)
Movement: automatic Caliber 3255
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; day, date
Price: 59,600 Swiss francs (platinum); 35,800 Swiss francs (white gold)
* This article was first published on November 8, 2015 at A Very Rolexy Rolex Discussion: 3 Reasons The Rolex Day-Date 40 Convinced Me.
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