50 Years. While it’s hard for us to imagine being committed to a person for that length of time, it’s easy to see how 50 years could pass in an instant when you’re a luxury watch brand with hundreds of thousands of loyal fans. That must be the origin of that classic old adage: “Relationships come and go but a Submariner is forever?” At least we think it goes something like that.
It goes without saying that there are few anniversaries we love as much as watch anniversaries, especially as they start to push past the 40 year mark. If a watch has been around for fifty years, it’s definitely doing something right.
Rolex is known for retooling, redesigning, and refining references on the 50th anniversary of their debuts. Often, the fiftieth anniversary edition of a watch includes some use of the color green, Rolex’s primary brand color.
2021 is the 50th anniversary of the Explorer II, a vision in monochrome black or white with a sexy arrow-style GMT hand. Before we dive into our predictions, let’s recap what Rolex did to commemorate the 50th anniversary edition of other references.
Ah, The Kermit. The watch that kickstarted the twee naming trend for new references and inspired a whole new generation of watch buyers to pivot towards the Submariner. Leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Sub, predictions littered online forums. Collectors wondered how Rolex could improve upon perfection, or risk altering what’s been their bestselling reference since 1960. By adding a green bezel to the Submariner, Rolex respected the integrity of the reference while adding the tiniest bit of whimsy to it. The response from collectors was unequivocally warm, and the Kermit remains an incredibly popular investment piece… if you can get your hands on it, that is.
The green dial on this gold precious metal GMT brought a sleek emerald dial to a beloved GMT complication watch. The 50th Anniversary GMT arrived in 2005 and stayed in production until April 2020, when it was discontinued. It continued to sell well during that time, providing collectors with a dressier, precious metal version of a classic GMT.
The 50th Anniversary edition of the Daytona outfitted the beloved chronograph with an ice-blue dial and a chocolate brown ceramic bezel and subdials. The watch was made entirely in platinum, making an already highly-valued reference even more over-the-top. Reference 116506 was released in 2013 and sold for a retail price of $75,000. Usually, the platinum anniversary is the 70th anniversary, but considering how beautiful this watch is, we’ll give Rolex a pass.
The thin green line that encircles the Milgauss’s dial is a new addition, added in 2007 to reference 116400. For this 50th anniversary update, Rolex pioneered the manufacturing of a tinted green sapphire crystal. While Rolex usually patents its innovations, the green crystal doesn’t have a patent. Why not? Rolex believed the manufacture is so complex that no other watchmaker would even attempt it. Experts surmise that the crystal includes copper and aluminum oxide to contribute to the unique green tint, but only Rolex knows for sure.
One of the more subtle 50th Anniversary references was the Sea-Dweller reference 126600. Rolex expanded the case size from 40mm to 43mm and added a new movement and a Cyclops lens (much to the horror of many Sea-Dweller purists). To top it all off, the Sea-Dweller text was rendered in red, a coy nod to the beloved Double Red Sea-Dweller 1665.
When the 50th Anniversary edition of the Rolex Explorer II hits HourUniverse in 2021, what are we likely to see? Our best guesses vary widely, but all of them are possibilities for the 2021 Explorer II.
We’re partial to Explorer models here at Everest, because our name shares some history with the history of the Rolex Explorer. You’ll love how your Rolex Explorer and your Rolex Explorer II look on a rubber strap as you eagerly await next year’s new reference.
Written by Meghan Clark