The Rolex Perpetual 1908: Where it Stands, Where it Can Go

The Rolex Perpetual 1908: Where it Stands, Where it Can Go

This year at Watches and Wonders, Rolex introduced a brand new model: the Perpetual 1908. The 39mm three-hander was met with some initial excitement that, over the past 8 months, has dwindled to ambivalence. It’s essentially a refresh of the pre-existing (and now discontinued) Rolex Cellini line of dress watches. That said, don’t let its inspiration take away from its individualiuty. The 1908 does have some distinctive characteristics that will surely be appreciated as we see the line change and grow. As I said in my spring coverage of the 1908, “While this new watch brings a perhaps-favorable sense of familiarity, only time will tell how the model line will evolve”. Today, we’re going to predict those evolutions, discussing the 1908’s future potential for complications, new materials, and size options.

What the Rolex 1908 Already Has Going For It

Rolex 1908 Yellow Gold

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The Rolex 1908’s similarity to the Cellini (see references 50505, 50525, etc) is undeniable. To those with bad eyesight, they may as well be the same watch. Both have near-identical case designs, double-stepped bezels, and crowns. However, I believe the 1908 has three unique characteristics going for it. 

On the 1908’s dial, you’ll notice arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. In fact, this is probably the first thing you’ll notice about the watch. Despite their common association with sports watches (thanks in part to another Rolex model), arabic numerals just seem to work on the 1908’s elegant dial.

The next thing you’ll notice is the observatory hour hand. This is what I picture when I think about the 1908. While it’s not the first watch to feature an observatory hour hand, I feel that it’s a defining characteristic of the model, and I’d be surprised to see it go away in future references.

Rolex 1908 display caseback

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Finally, the 1908 has a display caseback. Contrary to popular belief, Rolex did produce a display caseback before this year’s Daytona, and in fact, it was on a Cellini. As the 1908 line evolves and sees more complications, sizes, and materials (which we’re about to discuss), the mechanics visible through the caseback will be a huge selling point. Again, I’d be surprised to see this go away in future 1908s; I view it as an important piece of this watch’s appeal. This might not be unique to the 1908, though – future Rolex sports models might adopt a display caseback like the refreshed Daytona.

What We’d Like to See in Future Rolex 1908 References 

Keeping in line with the Cellini comparisons (sorry, Rolex), the 1908 will likely follow suit of its predecessor by introducing complications. We’ll probably see one or more of the usual suspects: date, dual-time, and/or moonphase. If/when it happens, I’m excited to see Rolex’s modern take on the moonphase – how much artistic embellishment will we see? Will the sun be more than a blank circle? Will the moon be grumpy? Perhaps a mustache?

Rolex Stelline 6062

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While prior Cellini complications are welcome, if a bit mundane, I hope Rolex uses the 1908 as an opportunity to flex their haute horological muscles. The watch is a perfect blank canvas for something like a triple or perpetual calendar, the likes of which we haven’t seen from Rolex in some time (pictured above). I’m far less confident about seeing these complications over something like a date or moonphase. Still, a boy can dream.

Thus far, we’ve only seen the 1908 in white and yellow gold. Going forward, platinum comes to mind as a prime candidate for the 1908. Conversely, I’d wager that this is the least-likely Rolex to receive the titanium treatment. Beyond case materials, I also expect to see some gem-set 1908s down the line: whether on the bezel or dial. I absolutely love the look of a double-stepped fluted and diamond bezel a la the Rolex Cellini 50609 (pictured below). Speaking of rocks, if Rolex wants to manufacture some hype around the 1908, they should release stone dial versions. We saw a few new stone dials in the Day-Date collection this year, but I’d love to see Rolex return fully to their 70s stone dial glory. 

Rolex Cellini 50609

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At 39mm, the Rolex 1908 is a touch big, at least historically, for a dress watch. I’d love to see some size optionality: a 36mm version of the 1908 as it exists today would be sensational. If gem-setting is indeed in the 1908’s future, Rolex would be remiss not to drop the case diameter below 35mm as well, directly targeting the ladies’ market. To quote Celine Simon, “Despite the growing trend to dub all watches as genderless and to erase any categorization of “men’s watches” or “women’s watches,” I remain a proponent of celebrating, highlighting, and giving space to watches labeled as those made for women”.

Final Thoughts

Rolex 1908 all dials and cases

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As I stood in Geneva admiring the 1908 hours after it was unveiled to the world, I wondered what the public perception would be. Yes, a certain group of people will write it off as a Cellini rebrand. Yes, some people will experience love at first sight and buy one as soon as humanly possible. I fell into neither group (not just because I can’t afford one). Instead, I felt excitement for what’s to come. I like the 1908 as it is, but its potential for evolution as Rolex’s sole non-Oyster-cased watch is nothing short of thrilling. . . if you’re a nerd like me.

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