By Nancy Olson
Back in the day, when the spring watch fairs were face-to-face, Rolex was always one of the hottest tickets in town at BaselWorld, with devoted fans, journalists and jewelers in queue to see the latest innovations. Well, some things have changed, but watch aficionados were still waiting with high anticipation to see what Rolex had in store for this year’s virtual Watches and Wonders. The 2021 Rolex watch introductions comprise notable tweaks to the classics, with size, material and dial modifications adding fresh looks to the Explorer, Datejust and Daytona.
The iconic Explorer is newly available in a Rolesor version and an Oystersteel version both sized at 36mm like their 1953 forebear. I must admit that I like the re-issue of this size, following 2010’s step up to 39mm.
Other updates include the watch’s Chromalight display, whose intensity purportedly lasts longer due to a new and exclusive luminescent material enhancing the numerals, markers and hands on the black lacquer dial. This new-generation Explorer is equipped with the self-winding caliber 3230.
Rolex Explorer II
With a remodeled case and bracelet for 2021, the 42mm Explorer II is shown with a white or black lacquer dial. Both feature the familiar orange 24-hour hand and matching “Explorer II” imprint, which has been a mainstay of the watch’s design since 2011. The 42mm case has been oh-so-subtly reshaped and this touch, I think, makes for a smoother transition from case to bracelet. The Explorer II is fitted with the self-winding caliber 3285.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Speaking of dials, perhaps the most striking of the new dials are those found on the Cosmograph Daytona. Created from metallic meteorite (with black counters at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock), no two dials are exactly alike and each is a thoughtful complement to the watch case, which is available in white, yellow or Everose gold. The new models are fitted with the self-winding caliber 4130, which was first introduced in 2000.
The Datejust 36 collection is also featuring some attractive new dials, including one with a palm frond motif that hints of the tropics, while staying clearly within the lines of elegance—particularly the olive-green version. Other new Datejust 36 dials include silver- or golden-fluted designs that I think offer an elegant look with a welcome twist.
Rolex Day-Date Diamonds
When I think of Rolex, diamonds don’t immediately enter my mind since I tend to focus more on the brand’s more soberly sensational pieces. But its jewelry-like watches for women are truly stunning and come with years of practical experience behind them. Of particular note is the 36mm Day Date in colorful versions (loving the orange) bedecked in diamonds.
Also of note, a new Lady-Datejust model set with over 1,000 diamonds on the case, bezel and dial is my favorite for 2021. At 28mm, the yellow-gold watch (also available in white gold) is ultra-feminine, perfectly pairing a stunning exterior with the gravitas of a mechanical movement. The self-winding caliber 2236, first introduced in 2014, runs the show.