Top 5 Rolex Watches of 2023

Top 5 Rolex Watches of 2023

Rolex had a busy 2023. From new models, movements, and materials to an entirely unconventional release schedule, the Swiss powerhouse kept us on our toes all year. Today, I’d like to share my top 5 releases from Rolex in 2023, highlighting the impact of each watch. As you may know, there are plenty to choose from; Rolex unveiled more than one historically significant watch this year. Without further ado, let’s start with number five.

5. Rolex Perpetual 1908

Rolex 1908

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The Perpetual 1908 is Rolex’s non-Oyster dress watch of new. Out with the Cellini, in with the Cellini-in-disguise. If you’re unfamiliar with the model, I encourage you to read my write-up where I discuss the 1908’s strong points and potential for change. While it's exciting to see an all-new Rolex model, the real excitement lies in the future of the 1908: complications, new materials, etc. For now, it’s nothing that new, hence its position at number five.

4. Rolex ‘Celebration Dial’ Oyster Perpetual

Rolex Celebration Bubble Dial Oyster Perpetual

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This. . . this is something very new. With their ‘celebration dial’ or ‘bubble dial’ OP, Rolex shocked the industry with bright colors and playful design – all within their simplest silhouette. We don’t often see this level of exuberance from Rolex. The historically-stoic brand usually sticks to one of two things: something they’ve already done or a very incremental change of something they’ve already before. The ‘celebration dial’ OP (and similarly-colorful ‘puzzle dial’ Day-Date) is a historically-significant watch from Rolex. It demonstrates a level of fun and creativity that we rarely see from the Crown. I liken it to Anthony Hopkins starring in a goofy comedy movie. . . and winning best actor.

3. Yellow Gold Rolex GMT-Master II

Rolex GMT-Master II Yellow Gold

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Speaking of historically-significant Rolexes, 2023 saw the first yellow-gold GMT on a Jubilee bracelet since the early 1980s. Released alongside a two-tone ‘Rolesor’ version, the gold dual-time watch stole my attention at the Rolex booth in Geneva. As stated in my spring coverage, “this watch instantly achieves grail status for many collectors, and will undoubtedly be hard to get your hands on”. This proved to be the case, as the watch still trades around 15-20% above retail. There’s something about a full-yellow-gold Rolex on a Jubilee bracelet – especially in the Super Case era – that’s so lavish, so elegant, and so heavy that I can’t help but let out a laugh. This watch left me speechless with a smile – I’d be remiss to not include it in a top 5.

2. Titanium Rolex Yacht-Master 42

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in Titanium

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Aside from the unwearable (but still cool) Rolex Deepsea Challenge, the titanium Yacht-Master 42 is Rolex’s first full-Titanium watch. However this time, instead of the titanium compensating for serious heft – as with the 52mm wide and 29mm thick Deepsea Challenge – it pushes the watch into ultra-light territory, coming in at just 100 grams. The Yacht-Master’s slim profile and comfortable curvature, in tandem with titanium’s lightness, makes this watch an easy one to forget on your wrist. Visually, the titanium Yacht-Master is a stunner: glossy indices on a matte black Cerachom bezel insert, matte black dial, and satin-brushed titanium case/bracelet. Unfortunately, these watches still trade over 3x retail on secondhand or grey markets.

1. Rolex ‘Le Mans’ Daytona

Rolex Daytona Le Mans

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Coming in at number one, and the only watch on the list not released at Watches and Wonders, we have the Rolex Daytona ‘Le Mans’. This watch – which, contrary to popular belief, is not limited – is a love letter to the Rolex Daytona, incorporating visual cues from iconic references of old. Its symbolic purpose is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the iconic ‘24 Hours of Le Mans’ race. Along the way, Rolex celebrates the Daytona’s history with a ‘reverse panda’ color scheme (a la the first-ever Daytona ref. 6239), square-tipped subdial indices (a la the infamous ‘Paul Newman’ references), and a red ‘100’ on the tachymeter bezel to celebrate the race’s anniversary. Of course, this watch incorporates all the mechanical elements of the refreshed Daytona design: new movement, new proportions, new bezel, sapphire caseback, etc. However, the ‘Le Mans’ Daytona is a mechanical anomaly, as Rolex modified the caliber 4131 to time up to 24 hours (for reasons that I hope are obvious). Watch enthusiasm is all about the little things; the ‘Le Mans’ Daytona has a laundry list of little things that make it truly one-of-a-kind. While near-impossible to obtain, this has to be the coolest Rolex release of 2023.

Final Thoughts and an Honorable Mention

Rolex Day-Date Carnelian Dial Fluted Bezel

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Rolex didn’t play it safe this year – they went all out by nearly every metric. I hope that 2023 is indicative of future habits from Rolex; this type of unpredictability is always welcome. As an honorable mention, I’d like to include the stone-dial Rolex Day-Dates – specifically the carnelian dial with the fluted bezel. Rolex has a rich history of stone dials and these new Day-Dates are faithful successors.

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