Rolex’s new watches for the year have officially been unveiled and as usual, there were a number of surprises that virtually no one saw coming. In terms of the new models that will be joining the lineup for 2022, probably the biggest surprise is the addition of a stainless steel GMT-Master II that has a green and black bezel and a left-handed winding crown configuration. However, far more surprising than any of the new models that were recently unveiled in Geneva are the watches that Rolex actually didn’t release this year.
No 10th Anniversary Sky-Dweller but a New Rolex GMT-Master II
2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the Rolex Sky-Dweller collection, and while a decade isn’t a very long amount of time by Rolex’s standards, it is still a rather noteworthy milestone year and one worth celebrating. Additionally, given the “move skywards” theme of the teaser video that Rolex released in the days leading up to Watches & Wonders Geneva, it almost seemed like a given that we would see some new addition to the Sky-Dweller lineup this year - even if it was just a new dial color or metal option.
However, not a single thing was added to the Sky-Dweller collection for 2022 and its 10th birthday went by completely unnoticed. Although, the model itself has hardy been neglected (Rolex did just add the Jubilee bracelet to the collection last year), it’s still slightly surprising that Rolex didn’t at least do something to commemorate the watch’s 10th anniversary, given that the brand is famous for introducing new models and dial options to celebrate landmark production years.
Instead, Rolex’s “move skywards” campaign was a reference to both the GMT-Master II and Air-King collections. Rather than releasing a new Sky-Dweller with a green anniversary dial, Rolex unveiled a new version of the GMT-Master II with a split-color bezel insert that features the brand’s signature company color. While this new GMT-Master II might be the most unexpected new Rolex release of the year, I’m personally most surprised that Rolex’s new green travel watch isn’t a member of the Sky-Dweller collection.
No New Milgauss but a New Rolex Air-King
Equally puzzling is that Rolex chose to release a new Air-King this year, while the Milgauss continues to remain entirely unchanged and largely neglected. Since 2016, the two models have shared a case and movement, but given that the Milgauss has always been positioned as the more expensive and premium model, most people (myself included) assumed that it would ultimately be the Milgauss collection that would receive a major overhaul first.
Additionally, when you consider the current-production Milgauss ref. 116400GV was first unveiled in 2007 and the recently discontinued Air-King ref. 116900 didn’t make an appearance until 2016, it becomes even more puzzling as to why Rolex would choose to update the Air-King first - especially given that the Milgauss costs nearly 25% more than the Air-King when purchased at a retail level.
The new Rolex Air-King is very much the logical evolution of the previous model, but the only thing that doesn’t quite make sense about it is why we are seeing it before an updated version of the Milgauss. My only guess is that Rolex plans to debut an entirely new generation of antimagnetic movements inside the Milgauss, and until that new generation of calibers is ready, the Milgauss will continue to remain the neglected model in Rolex’s lineup.
No Titanium Yacht-Master but More Options in Solid Gold
Numerous signs were pointing to this being the year of the Yacht-Master collection. Not only does 2022 mark the 30th anniversary of the very first Yacht-Master watch, but English sailor and Rolex ambassador Ben Ainslie has also been spotted wearing a prototype titanium Yacht-Master 42. Many collectors were hoping that 2022 would finally be the year that a highly utilitarian reference would join the lineup, but the new Yacht-Master models unveiled at Watches & Wonders Geneva could not be any further from the purpose-built timepiece that everyone was hoping would be added to the catalog this year.
Rather than unveiling a no-nonsense titanium reference, Rolex has released new Yacht-Master watches in solid 18 karat gold. The new models consist of a yellow gold version of the Yacht-Master 42, a ‘Falcon’s Eye’ stone dial option for the existing 42mm white gold model, and an off-catalog version of the Yacht-Master 40 in white gold that features an Oysterflex bracelet and a stunning gem-set bezel with diamonds and colored sapphires that are inspired by the aurora borealis and the glow of early dawn.
I’m hardly shocked that there are more solid gold Yacht-Master watches, but I am a bit surprised that given the confirmed existence of Ben Ainslie’s titanium prototype, there is still not a hint of titanium on any of the models within the greater Rolex Yacht-Master collection. Despite all of the rumors about a new tool-oriented Yacht-Master, Rolex’s collection of nautical watches is now more luxury-oriented than ever before following the most recent additions unveiled at Watches & Wonders Geneva.
*All images courtesy of Rolex