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History repeats itself: The Rolex Cellini Moonphase

It has been half a century since the last time Rolex released a Moonphase, and yet the new Cellini Moonphase fails to be received with the excitement and market response it deserves. Why is that the case, and why we believe you would be wise to keep a keen eye on this model for the future and this is what we will explore today.


But first a little history lesson. While Rolex made its name through creating robust sports watches, back before their identity was so narrowly defined they dabbled in all kinds of timepieces. In the early fifties two of these models where triple calendars featuring a Moonphase complication. One was the ref. 8171 nicknamed Padellone which translates into big frying pan in Italian due it’s relatively large case size of 38 mm. The other was the ref. 6062, sometimes called the Bao Dai because it was the personal timepiece of Vietnam’s last emperor. Owing to limited production runs and their incredible age both these timepieces can easily reach the million dollar mark in auctions.


Rolex 8171 Padellone. Picture by Matthew Bain Inc.



With this added bit of context then, why does the return of this complication in form of the Cellini not constantly sell out? The reason lies in the name; Cellini. If this watch would have the words Oyster Perpetual inscribed on the dial this would be a whole different story but for some reason the Cellini range has yet to capture the hearts of Rolex fans. This is a shame because the new Cellini models are the most oyster-esque iteration we have ever seen from the line.


It starts with the 39 mm case. This is no weird square prince case, nor is it a characterless dress watch case, instead it is a tasteful take on the oyster case. On the front, you will find a thinner version of the fluted bezel you have come to associate with models like the date-just. The thin lugs and big crown have a similar charm to that of a vintage sub. And when you turn the watch around you could mistake it for a bubble back.


Picture by Rolex.



That this however clearly is not an oyster is underscored in the beautiful enamel dial, which I personally considered the best dial the brand has made in the last decade. The milky smoothness of the enamel works perfectly to provide a rich background for the black font and works particularly great in harmony with the warm hue of the rose gold version. Unique to this watch in the entire Rolex lineup is the date hand which is blued and looks at the end like a crescent moon.


Central to this piece and the clear highlight is the name giving Moonphase. Unlike most competitors however the Moonphase disc is not hidden through a window but fully exposed, and for good reason as it is made with loving attention to detail. The base made out of a blue enamel disc with painted stars and a curved moon on it made out of a meteorite. This disc is sitting on 59 teeth rotating every 29.5 days allowing for an accuracy of one day in 122 years.


Picture by Rolex.



The lack of appreciation despite the objective qualities that this watch brings with it, however, seems to ring a bell. After all, it would not be the first watch that people at the time failed to appreciate only to become a hit in the vintage world later. Sure, you can never truly guarantee anything about the future value of watches, however, the Cellini Moonphase makes an excellent case for being the watch in the future that everybody will kick themselves for not having picked one up while they still went for retail prices. History repeats itself, and the Cellini Moonphase will be no exception to this. Bringing a unique spin in a new format of the ingredients that made Rolex great in the first place, and with the discounts offered on these models right now, this could be the biggest secret in terms of a value proposition for a Rolex.