The Rolex Perpetual 1908 is a completely new watch collection from Rolex with a new design, movement, and story.
A major contributor to the Rolex success story has been the company’s exemplary perseverance and consistency — it has handled collection updates with a gentle touch, introducing minute improvements and enhancements once or twice a decade. This helps explain why the Rolex Perpetual 1908 watch collection of 2023 came as such a major surprise to everyone — Rolex debuts all-new watches much less frequently than most all of its competition.
The Rolex Perpetual 1908 is the new dress watch from Rolex. It completely replaces the Cellini collection which is no longer available. Over time, the Cellini grew into a complex line of watches that ranged from so-called time-only pieces all the way to ones with phase of the moon displays with meteorite in them. Whereas the Cellini took a decidedly contemporary approach to create a dressy-elegant watch, the Rolex 1908 is clearly inspired by timepieces from the first half of the last century and specifically, those Rolex watches first fitted with a Perpetual rotor.
If you were wondering, the name “1908” pays homage to the year when Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, devised and registered the Rolex name for its watches in Switzerland. According to the visionary founder himself, he came up with the name while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along the Cheapside in the City of London when “a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.” The word “Perpetual” in the name refers to the Perpetual self-winding system of Rolex, implying that the 1908 is an automatic watch.
Importantly, the word “Oyster” is missing from the name and, of course, that is for good reason: The Rolex Perpetual 1908 is not equipped with the famed Oyster case of the brand like all its other watches are. Instead, the Perpetual 1908 comes in a 39 mm-wide case crafted from 18ct yellow gold or 18ct white gold and is matched to an alligator leather strap. As a direct consequence, its water resistance is not 100 m (or more) as it is on Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches, but is 50 meters. This is plenty enough for a delicate gold watch with a leather strap — where neither is intended to be immersed or worn in the water.
The design of the Rolex Perpetual 1908 is characterized by wide, high-contrast, streamlined dials in “Intense White” or “Intense Black,” according to Rolex terminology. The 1908 is fitted with a sword-shaped hand for the minutes and a hand with a circle for the hours, perpetuating traditional design with a contemporary touch. The hands are faceted, a neat detail that, you will find, improves legibility because under most lighting conditions one side of the hand will be bright and the other dark — and it is this contrast that is easily identifiable for the human eye.
The Rolex Calibre 7140 debuts in the 1908 watch collection — an all-new movement wholly developed and manufactured by Rolex. The company has focused on reducing the movement’s thickness while incorporating the latest technologies. The resulting Calibre 7140 features the patented Chronergy escapement that combines high-energy efficiency — leading to longer power reserve — and dependability. It is also among the few Rolex watches to use the brand’s Syloxi silicon hairspring, fitted to an oscillator protected by high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers.
We are yet to see how the 1908 will contribute to the Rolex success story, but we can already say it carries no smaller weight on its shoulders than the role of the sole dress watch collection in the Crown’s line-up. With a clear dial, neatly balanced proportions, a new movement with a silicon hairspring, and overall legibility superior to that of the now-discontinued Cellini, it is well-equipped to tackle this daunting challenge.
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