To many, Rolex creates conservative designs. Classic, even iconic designs which have been copied and reinterpreted many times over by other brands. Rolex is also a brand which surprises by sometimes creating something very different from what they normally do. The latest examples are the Day-Date Puzzle and Oyster Perpetual Colored Bubbles released during the 2023 Watches & Wonders fair. It doesn’t seem that anybody saw these two models coming, though the Swiss brand has made interesting dials before. One of my favorites is the Oyster Perpetual 36 with the Domino’s logo. This got me thinking: what if Rolex would create nature-inspired dials *a la* Grand Seiko? Instead of referencing Lake Suwa or Mount Fuji, these unique Rolex dials would be made in the image of unique natural features found in Switzerland.
Grand Seiko’s Unique Textured Dials
I’ve always been fascinated by the textures Grand Seiko endows some of its dials with. Most of the time, I can indeed see a snowflake or the calm waters of a mountain lake seen at sunrise by looking at the unique combination of colors and textures. The Japanese brand has come up with multiple types of dials that are each inspired by either a natural formation, large bodies of forests, lakes, or the particular movement of celestial bodies above a city or region of Japan. From what I understand, Grand Seiko has a few ultra specialized artists who have the skills and knowledge to create such dials. Because all of these are made by hand one at-a-time and some artists only do certain types of decoration.
Of all these dials the one Grand Seiko is the most known for is the Snowflake, introduced in 2005 in Japan and in 2010 internationally. The release of the Snowflake coincided with the release of the first Spring Drive caliber which combined quartz and mechanical technologies. The brand wanted to commemorate this monumental engineering achievement by creating unique dial textures. The Grand Seiko designers found inspiration by looking at the snow-capped mountains of Jonen, in the central part of Japan. Luckily, they came upon a prototype from the 1970s which had a similar texture and decided to recreate it.
In short, Grand Seiko looked at Japan’s landscape and natural formations for inspiration to make these dials.
A Few Options for Rolex Nature-Inspired Dials
In order to help visualize what unique Rolex nature-inspired dials would look like, allow me to borrow imagery from other brands. Otherwise, it would make this presentation quite difficult and uninspiring. To be frank, I have never been to Switzerland—at least not yet—but I can easily Google places Switzerland is known for, or elements of the natural world that can only be found there. It also seems that for any watch enthusiast who lives in Switzerland, it is common for he or she to visit the places I picked and to photograph themselves on their adventures. A bit like what the Grand Seiko designers seem to do on the other side of the planet.
The first location I chose is Silvaplana Lake, located in the Southeast part of the country near the border with Italy. This lake has a light blue color, almost teal, and is surrounded by mountain ranges which look green and grey during the summer. I can imagine Rolex being bold here and making a fume dial that goes from teal at the center to dark grey at the edges. The texture could be mimicking the tiny waves (or ripples) that can be observed on a mountain lake. This is a very specific vision as it seems that all Grand Seiko dials were inspired during very specific occurrences.
A good example of such a dial would be the H. Moser Endeavour Centre Second Concept pictured below.
The second location would be the famous Matterhorn, not far from the Silvaplana Lake at the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is a high peak with an almost pyramidal shape. A bit like Grand Seiko’s Snowflake, Rolex dial inspired by snow-capped mountains would be white and come with a texture. While the Snowflake, as its name indicates, represents the texture of a snowflake, a special Matterhorn dial from Rolex would come with a pyramidal texture that would look like that of the mountain. Even more wild would be a version where the dial is split in two as a reference to the peak’s unique location straddling the two frontiers.
A good example of this would be the recently released Christopher Ward Twelve.
The third and last example is Aletsch Glacier, also located in the southeast part of the country. The Aletsch Glacier is the largest of its kind in the Alps and during certain seasons it displays a light blue color which reminded me of a limited Edition Grand Seiko’s released last year. The Swiss glacier is also very long and runs inside a valley surrounded by mountain ranges. Perhaps it would be neat that a Rolex special edition ice blue dial would have some kind of texture that represents the glacier’s unique layout.
A good example of this, naturally, would be the aforementioned Grand Seiko’s references SBGA471 and SBGH295.
Although I doubt that Rolex would make such dials in the near future, I find imagining what the brand would do in that regard quite amusing. Rolex has a unique way of designing its watches and, although it for the most part stays on the conservative side of things, does give us unique dials once in a while (as mentioned in the introduction.) This means that Rolex could do something as unusual as the puzzle dial, for no one had ever imagined seeing something like this happen. And I could imagine Rolex pairing certain textures with the type of watch: waves for a diver, wind gusts on a chronograph, and icicles on an Explorer.
Featured image: www.bobswatches.com