Sky High

One of Rolex’s most elegant and complicated watches gets a sporty update.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

One of Rolex’s most elegant and complicated watches gets a sporty update.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller in 18 ct yellow gold and a sunray-finish black dial.

With its reputation for step-by-step evolution, it’s not every day that Rolex adds a new model to its stable of timepieces. But in 2012, it did just that with a watch that remains one of its most complicated: the Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, a 42mm with a dual-time function and an annual calendar. 

This year, the brand gave the elegant timepiece a sporty touch by updating it with the Oysterflex bracelet made of high-performance elastomer. Previously, the Sky-Dweller was only available with metal bracelets and leather straps.

A watch designed for the global traveller, it is powered by the calibre 9001, which holds multiple patents. Wearers can easily access and adjust the watch’s functions thanks to the movement. Firstly, the Sky-Dweller can simultaneously display the time in two time zones. While the central hands show the local time, the home time is indicated on a 24-hour format, via an off-centre disc.

Its second key function is an annual calendar function called Saros. As with other annual calendars, Saros can automatically distinguish between months with 30 and 31 days, requiring only one adjustment on the last day of February. 

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The month display is integrated via 12 apertures around the circumference of the dial, with the current month marked in red.

The months are represented by 12 apertures around the circumference of the dial, next to the hour markers, with the current month marked in red – with 1 o’clock representing January, and so on. The date, which changes instantaneously, is shown at a window at 3 o’clock, magnified by the brand’s signature Cyclops lens. The user can easily select the local time, the home time or the calendar displays for adjustment, thanks to the Ring Command system linking the fluted rotatable bezel, winding crown and movement.

It’s not just this mechanism that makes the self-winding calibre 9001 exceptional. It also features Rolex’s blue Parachrom hairspring, made from a proprietary paramagnetic alloy. It is up to 10 times more precise than a regular hairspring in case of shocks. To further boost shock-resistance, its balance is fitted on the brand’s patented Paraflex shock absorbers.

Coming back to what’s new for 2020, the latest Sky-Dweller models – comprising variants in 18 ct yellow gold (pictured) and 18 ct Everose gold – come fitted with Oysterflex bracelets. A lot more than just a regular rubber strap, the Oysterflex bracelet comprises flexible titanium-nickel alloy blades overmoulded with black elastomer, a durable high-performance material. Longitudinal cushions on the inside of the bracelet enhance comfort, as does the Rolex Glidelock extension system, which allows the length of the bracelet to be easily adjusted by up to 15mm, without the use of tools.

It’s an update that gives this sophisticated young icon a fresh and sporty edge.