So, What’s the Deal with Cellini?

rolex cellini

The Cellini (pronounced “Chel-lee-nee”) line from Rolex made news in 2017 when former President Barack Obama was spotted court side wearing the white gold, white dial Rolex Cellini reference 50509, which retails for $15,200. It was a sign that he could enjoy showing off his taste in watches while still flying under the radar with a lesser known Rolex. 

rolex cellini

Photo courtesy of Theo & Harris

Obama was known for wearing much lower cost watches while in the Oval Office and was often spotted wearing a Jorg Gray JG 6500 chronograph, which was gifted to him by the Secret Service.

But, of course we took note of his choice of the Cellini, which is Rolex’s dress watch line and a strong contrast to their sport watch line. Even the ubiquitous Datejust isn’t a pure dress watch and modern iterations have a 100m water resistance rating. So the Cellini allows Rolex to offer a more refined look and its owners can show-off a subtle in-the-know flex.

rolex cellini
Photo courtesy of Fratello Watches

The Cellini line is named after Benvenuto Cellini, an artist during the Italian Renaissance. In the 1950s Rolex’s director of marketing Rene-Paul Jeannette started espousing the notion that one could and should own several watches, basically some for dressing up and some for rough and tumble adventures. This delineation allowed Rolex to focus on pushing the romance around models like the Submariner and simultaneously promote the separate dressier line of the Cellini models.

While some Cellini models follow a more traditional simple dress-watch esthetic, in the 1970s Rolex employed Gérald Genta (of Royal Oak and Nautilus fame) to design some funkier Cellini watches, including the Rolex King Midas worn by Elvis Presley.

In 2017 the Cellini 50535 was revealed and included pointer date and a moonphase complications, an indicator that Rolex was back in the complex complication game. Today, the Cellini line is known for its distinctive elegance and its use of white or rose gold, Everose, as Rolex calls it. Rolex itself dubs the line “The Classical Watch” and describes them as “sober and refined, the materials noble, the finishings luxurious.”

rolex cellini
Photo courtesy of Monochrome Watches

Most Cellini models have an entirely different philosophy than the Rolex sport lineup, known for robust automatic timekeeping and the well-sealed Oyster case able to withstand the pressure of deep ocean depths. In contrast, Cellini watches often feature lacquered dials, leather bands and no luminous material of its dials and hands.

So the real question for Rolex enthusiasts is would you spring for a Cellini to go along with your Batman GMT? Or, would you allocate that hefty dress watch budget to a better known offering such as a Jaeger‑LeCoultre Reverso or Cartier Tank? Or would you spend less on say a Nomos Orion and save the cash for another Rolex sport model?

Our circle of friends, most who are die-hard Rolex tool watch fans, would probably skip the Cellini. But for those who want to stay loyal to Rolex and, in turn, wear a truly refined timepiece, a Cellini like Obama’s 50509 is a choice we can get behind.

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