After weeks of speculation and countless predictions that spanned everything from the probable to the impossible, Watches & Wonders Geneva is finally here, which means that Rolex has just announced all of its new models for 2022. Just like most years, the brand’s new releases span multiple different collections and include a diverse range of models that offer everything from purpose-built tool watches to solid gold statement pieces and everything in between.
So, what new models are joining The Crown’s catalog this year? Here is your first look at all of the new Rolex watches for 2022.
Rolex Air-King 126900
One of the top speculations leading into Watches & Wonders Geneva this year was that the Air-King was either going to be updated or discontinued. Well, those predictions were correct, and we have an all-new generation of the Rolex Air-King for 2022.
At a quick glance, the new Rolex Air-King ref. 126900 looks quite similar to the previous model and it even features a black dial with the same bright yellow and green accents. However, the dial itself has undergone a number of small updates, and the new Air-King 126900 is actually a significantly different watch, both inside and out.
First and foremost, the 40mm stainless steel case now has crown-guards - a first for the Air-King collection, and the bracelet has been updated to feature an Oysterlock clasp. Small updates on the dial (such as a ‘0’ next to the ‘5’ at the 1 o’clock location) offer a better balance, while the applied white gold 3-6-9 numerals are now finished with Chromalight for better legibility in low-light conditions.
Internally, the new Rolex Air-King 126900 is powered by the brand’s Cal. 3230 movement, which begs the questions as to whether or not this iteration of the Air-King actually represents a downgrade compared to the previous generation when it comes to magnetic resistance. The recently discontinued version shared an antimagnetic case and movement with the Milgauss, yet the new model does not make any specific claims about having an antimagnetic shield, so it is unclear as to whether or not this feature has been carried over onto the new generation.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR
Probably the single most unexpected release from Rolex this year is the new GMT-Master II ref. 126720VTNR. Crafted from stainless steel, the new GMT-Master II 126720VTNR joins the current-production “Pepsi” and “Batman” models, but it differs from its siblings in that it has a black and green ceramic bezel, a green GMT hand, and (most unusually) a left-handed winding crown.
As a left-handed version of the brand’s classic pilot’s watch, the date window on the new Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR has been moved to the 9 o’clock location, as has the accompanying Cyclops lens on the surface of crystal. While additional modifications have been required to convert the watch to feature a left-handed winding crown, the ref. 126720VTNR is still powered by the same Cal. 3285 movement as the rest of the GMT-Master II collection and it therefore offers identical performance specifications.
Additionally, just like the other two stainless steel models, the new Rolex GMT-Master II 126720VTNR features a 40mm stainless steel case and it is available with the option of either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet (both options are fitted with the brand’s Oysterlock clasp). Both bracelet versions of the new green and black left-handed model come at a $500 retail premium compared to their “Pepsi” and “Batman” siblings, although you can almost guarantee that this price difference will be quite a bit more when it comes to available examples on the secondary market.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42 Watches
While most of us were hoping for a titanium Yacht-Master to join the lineup this year, Rolex has gone in the complete opposite direction and added a few new solid gold Yacht-Master watches to the collection instead.
The new Rolex Yacht-Master 42 ref. 226658 is essentially the 18k yellow gold version of the Yacht-Master 42 that first debuted in 2019 and just like the white gold model, it features a black dial, black ceramic bezel, and a matching black Oysterflex bracelet. Internally the new Yacht-Master 226658 is powered by the same Cal. 3235 movement, and its black ceramic bezel even features the same sandblasted finish with raised polished numerals. The hands and hour markers are crafted from yellow gold to match the case, but for all intents and purposes, the new reference 226658 is just the yellow gold version of the existing Rolex Yacht-Master 42.
The other new addition to the Yacht-Master collection is a stone dial variation for the white gold Yacht-Master 42 ref. 226659. Known as ‘falcon’s eye’ the stone is a blue version of tiger’s eye and offers a similar iridescent striped aesthetic but in a blue/gray hue instead of golden yellow. Other than the falcon’s eye dial, the watch itself is identical to the current white gold Yacht-Master 42 and it even shares the same reference number.
However, 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Yacht-Master collection and to celebrate the occasion, Rolex has also launched a special gem-set version of the Yacht-Master 40 in 18k white gold that features a diamond-set case and a stunning bezel with diamonds and colored sapphires that are inspired by the aurora borealis and the glow of dawn.
Rolex Day-Date Watches
Alongside the rest of Rolex’s new releases are a number of new Day-Date watches in both 36mm and 40mm. As the brand’s flagship collection, the Rolex Day-Date is only ever crafted from precious metals, so all of the new additions are in either solid 18k gold or 950 platinum, and many of them are fitted with truly statement-worthy dials and bezels.
With that in mind, probably the most noteworthy new additions to the Day-Date collection are the all-new Rolex Day-Date models in platinum that are fitted with fluted bezels. These watches are important because Rolex fluted bezels have historically only ever been offered in gold, and the new Day-Date models represent the first time that Rolex’s signature bezel style has ever been crafted from platinum. With that in mind, to help visually separate it from the existing white gold editions, many of the new platinum Day-Date models are available with ice blue dials - a feature that Rolex exclusively reserves for its platinum watches.
However, the new platinum models are hardly the only additions to the Rolex Day-Date collection this year, and there are numerous other new Day-Date releases with both 36mm and 40mm cases. A few other standout highlights include a black onyx stone dial and a striking green lacquer dial that are both available for the yellow gold Day-Date 40, along with an ultra-lavish model that has a diamond-paved dial with rainbow colored sapphire hour markers.
Rolex Datejust Watches
It wouldn’t be a proper batch of new Rolex releases without some updates and new additions to the Datejust collection, and a whole batch of new dial colors are joining the lineup for 2022. The most notable new Rolex Datejust additions are a trio of 31mm models that feature dials with a striking diamond-set floral motif. However, there are many other new dials added to the collection, including an expansion of the fluted and palm motif dials that debuted last year, along with mint green dials for the stainless steel and White Rolesor editions.
As Rolex’s most diverse collection, the Datejust is frequently home to numerous new dial options and configurations. When the fluted and palm motif dials were unveiled last year on the Datejust 36 collection, most collectors figured it was only a matter of time before they would become available on the 41mm models. This year, the number of options for these pattern dials has significantly expanded, and there is now even a mint green version of the fluted dial available for select Datejust 41 models.
The number of new configurations added to the Rolex Datejust collection exponentially exceeds the number of new reference numbers that are joining the lineup. Many of the latest updates to the collection are simply new dial options that previously didn’t exist, but the watch itself is not an entirely new creation. The number of additional options and configurations is vast, and I’d recommend quickly browsing through Rolex’s website to see a full list of what has been added to the Datejust lineup this year.
A New Rolex Deepsea?
Although it is not included among Rolex’s press materials, the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller also has a new reference number and actually now appears listed among the brand’s new releases. The new reference 136660 marks the third generation of the Deepsea, yet this new version is so similar to the previous version, that Rolex didn’t even bother to mention the update.
Just like before, the new Rolex Deepsea 136660 measures 44mm in diameter and features an incredible 3,900-meter depth rating. Additionally, the watch is still powered by Rolex’s in-house Cal. 3235 movement and both the black and D-Blue “James Cameron” dials remain options within the collection. Given that Rolex has barely notated the update, you’d be forgiven for missing it, but the Deepsea does actually have a new reference number.
One possible difference is that Rolex slightly trimmed down the lug thickness on the new version of the Deepsea. Similar design choices were made when the brand last updated the Submariner, but since a new case would warrant a new reference number, it’s quite possible that the new Deepsea ref. 136660 is just a slightly thinned out version of the previous model.
*All images courtesy of Rolex.