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Baselworld 2020 Rolex Predictions

Introduction

2020 has been a tumultuous year. Beyond the bubble of the watch industry, the whole world has been struggling under the weight of the pandemic. Between lock-downs and rising death toll numbers the cancellation of Baselworld seemed equally inevitable as it did insignificant. Its absence left a scent of uncertainty in the air regarding whether Rolex would even release new watches this year in the first place, the confirmation of which we have received through a silent statement from the brand that on the 1st September a global release would take place.

Under normal circumstances the annual Rolex predictions are usually significantly more interesting than the actual watches we end up receiving (or rather put ourselves on the waitlist for). This year however I expect nothing but a snoozefest from the brand, and accordingly will try to keep my predictions realistic. Why do I think this release will be a stinker?

First of all, while Rolex is a long-term player, I do not believe they are tone-deaf to what is going on in the world right now. As the financial down-turn is starting to affect a growing population of people, fancy new luxury watches are becoming significantly harder to rationalize for most people. Then there is the issue that there is none of the fanfare of Baselworld surrounding the new watches. In fact, I believe most people are not even aware that Rolex will release new watches in two weeks’ time. And finally, I just don’t think Rolex needs to release new watches now. The brand is in an incredibly comfortable position, and playing it risky with an interesting release just wouldn’t be smart, and it wouldn’t be Rolex either.

In my mind what Tudor did this year grants us some insight into what we can expect of Rolex. The fact that all they did was basically offer the Black-Bay Fifty Eight in blue should already serve as a warning to not set our expectations too high. Having introduced the surrounding circumstances of this year’s release let’s jump into it without further ado.

Updated Submariner

This one has been a long time coming. It is easy to forget that it has been a decade since we have seen any real changes made to the Submariner. Yes, it really was back in 2010 that we got served with the rather chubby Super-Case. Ten years later I think it would be time for the icon to slim down in line with the growing consensus on what is the perfect size for a wristwatch. While I believe the broad strokes and strong features of the super-case will stay relevant to the overall design language, I expect that the chunky lugs will be sent on a diet and look similar to those found on a GMT-Master while retaining the 40 mm diameter.

The other inevitable change which is already long overdue is a move towards the new cal. 3235 movement. This adds the chronergy escapement which allows for a 70 hour power reserve, a feature which has been slowly introduced into the whole collection during the 2010s. Other than that I don’t think Rolex will realistically change anything with the Submariner, mainly because they don’t have to.

Depending on how frisky Rolex is feeling I do see the possibility of some bigger moves being made regarding the use of colour. I know this prediction is an evergreen, but I believe Rolex will remove the Hulk from its lineup. I am a little on the fence with this call, mainly because even if the Submariner case gets changed it wouldn’t affect the green dial and bezel, meaning the Hulk could still be produced at no extra cost. A reason why I think it might get cut from the roster is because it would steal the limelight from a bold prediction I heard from an AD regarding the submariner. While talking about the red lettering on the Yacht-Master, the Rolex watchmaker stated he believed this would come on the Submariner this year. Make of that what you will.

Coke GMT on oyster Bracelet

To those who have been following what Rolex has been doing with the GMT-Master range, they may have noticed that there currently is no steel model offered on an Oyster bracelet. I think Rolex decided to phase this feature out so that they could reintroduce it together with a red and black bezel variation, also known as the Coke. With Rolex having solved the issue of creating the two-tone ceramic bezels, I think this release will be only a matter of time, and that the oyster bracelet would be perfectly suited for this model. Plus the whole setup just seems very much in line with what Rolex would typically do, create a problem and sell you the solution a few years down the road.

In my mind the bigger question here is not whether this watch will come, but rather whether it will come this year. The GMT-Master range has been garnering a lot of attention recently, and Rolex usually prefer to make adjustments to the watches that don’t sell. I think this is one of those watches they have in the pipeline for a rainy day, the question is just how bad will the weather be on September 1st.

Yacht-Master 2 in steel and with a new design

This last one is a bit of a Hail Mary, but no watch in my mind deserves more attention right now than the Yacht-Master 2. While from a technological aspect it is one of the most impressive watches they produce, it is very much a product of its time and sticks out like a sore thumb in the current professional line-up. It is too big and busy, and has not aged very gracefully in the last decade.

I think this watch deserves the same treatment that the Sky-Dweller got not too long ago. That watch too was a let-down in terms of sales, but since Rolex gave it the good old stainless-steel touch and updated the design people can’t get enough of it. While this model is already offered in steel I see them doing the next best thing, slap on an Oysterflex. Further if you would shrink it to a more reasonable 42 mm in size and clean up the dial so it doesn’t look like a prop from a 2008 rap video and I think you could sell it to a whole new generation.

Closing Thoughts

That is it from my end. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if all Rolex did was offer a new Submariner. The other two predictions in my mind should come soon, but the fact of the matter is that everything is so uncertain now, that I do not think Rolex would want to release anything too “revolutionary“ this year. Be sure to check in with us in September to discuss the new watches!