It’s not hard to see what makes the new Rolex Datejust 36 stand out—it’s the dial.
The focal point of the updated classic is a sunburst dial emblazoned with a unique palm leaf pattern. Just as noteworthy, though, is the laser technique used to create the etching, which, Wired points out, is the same one used to help remove cataracts.
Introduced this spring, the latest Datejust is an attempt by the Swiss watchmaker to freshen up its 76-year-old timepiece, even though it remains one of its most popular models. The main difference between the new watch and past iterations is its surprisingly playful dial. Three configurations of the watch features the stylized fauna which call to mind the tropics: green palms on a steel Oyster bracelet; golden palms on a gold and steel Oyster bracelet with a fluted bezel; and silver palms on a steel and Everose Oyster bracelet with a fluted bezel. A fourth version, meanwhile, has a golden fluted dial meant to echo its matching bezel and features a gold and steel Jubilee bracelet.
These beautiful etchings (including the fluted design) were all made using femtosecond laser technology, according to Wired. Developed during the 1990s, the technique uses ultra-short laser pulses—a femtosecond is one-millionth of a billionth of a second—which produces no heat to cut into a surface of an object. In cataract surgery, the laser is used to cut into the surface of the eye more precisely than even the steadiest surgeon’s hand could ever manage, and the obstructing material is then cleared away.
For the new Datejust, these pulses were directed at the brass dial, creating an intricate design that’s just a few tenths of a micron deep. And because this is Rolex, a company notorious for playing things close to the chest, the etching was handled by an in-house artisan, not an outside expert.
Despite the use of what is literally cutting-edge laser technology, the new Datejust is still priced in line with past iterations, starting at $7,050. Of course, that is if you can find one at MSRP, something that isn’t easy at the moment and probably won’t be for quite some time.