If we would make an analogy to the car industry, we would call this an LCI (Life Cycle Impulse), a facelift or a mid-life update. Rolex, aware that it hasn’t drastically changed its watch, claims that it has “restyled” its Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller. There’s indeed a new, or at least updated version one of the brand’s most complex watches and movements. Rolex being Rolex, we’re clearly not talking about major changes, not even to the level of the update found on the Daytona. But there are, nevertheless, some pretty interesting things to see with the 2023 Rolex Sky-Dweller, including a revised movement and new colour schemes. And this includes the pretty amazing white Rolesor version here, with its handsome Mint Green dial.
Before looking at what has changed on the Sky-Dweller, we somehow need to see how it all started. By definition, the Sky-Dweller is the brand’s ultimate traveller’s watch, a watch that isn’t meant to be a tool for pilots, like the GMT-Master initially was, but a companion for frequent travellers, a luxurious instrument to bring them all the necessary indications, in the most practical and intuitive manner. Despite looking fairly simple at first sight, the classic time-and-date display being only broken by the presence of a 24h ring, the Sky-Dweller, released in 2012, is one of the most, if not the most complicated Rolex ever created. How…? Thanks to its combination of an annual calendar, a GMT function and a user-machine interface that relies on the bezel to select and set the functions.
A big and bold model, housed in 42mm case that was exclusively available in precious metals at first, the Sky-Dweller was powered by the in-house and entirely novel calibre 9001, which was capable of displaying the correct date and month according to the Saros annual calendar – with a very clever and discreet way to indicate the current month – and a set of two distinct time zones, local and reference time, in a traditional flyer/traveller manner. A complex piece, positioned high in the Rolex collection, which was released with rather baroque dials at first, looking like this, with its applied Roman or Arabic numerals. Combined with the classic fluted bezel, it gave this model an undeniable visual presence.
In 2017, Rolex applied its first facelift to the Sky-Dweller, redesigning the dial with luminous baton markers, which not only gave the watch a sportier, more casual attire, but also blended even better the 12 apertures for the month. More coherent, more modern, and more appealing, without a doubt. And importantly, the brand created white Rolesor editions, with most of the case made of steel and only the bezel using gold. Lighter, more accessible, more discreet and suited for daily use. Since 2020, and confirmed for the 2023 update, the option of an Oysterflex rubber bracelet is possible on the three gold versions – white, yellow and Everose.
So, what changes in 2023? Visually, not much. Only a trained eye will be able to spot a new edition of the Sly-Dweller. Save for the new colours, the dial retains the design of the 2017 update with applied rectangular markers and a sunray-brushed pattern. Looking very closely at the 6 o’clock position, you’ll notice the presence of two small coronets framing the month indication, something new to this year’s collection, and that also indicates the changes done to the movement. Apart from that, the case is entirely identical, meaning that it measures 42mm in diameter, 13.8mm in height and, no need to hide the reality, a fairly big and heavy watch on the wrist, even in steel. It is a watch that demands a larger wrist to sit comfortably, but anything above 17cm will be treated with a watch of impeccable quality and great comfort thanks to fine adjustment on the clasp. But yes, I clearly encourage you to try to before pulling the trigger.
For this hands-on session, we’ve chosen the most talked-about model in this new collection, the white Rolesor watch. Contrary to most Rolesor-branded models, this does not come with the two-tone effect on the crown and bracelet. Instead, it only indicates the presence of white gold for the bezel (fluted bezels at Rolex have long been exclusively made in gold – or platinum since recently), the rest, understand the middle case, the crown, the caseback and the bracelet, are all done in Oystersteel. Despite its higher-end vocation and its presence within the classic collection, the Sky-Dweller is first and foremost a Rolex. It thus features a sapphire with AR coating, a Cyclops over the date, a Twinlock crown and a screwed back, and water-resistance is rated at 100 metres.
The second thing that has attracted us in choosing the present version is the green dial… Mint Green, to be precise, and those in the know will be aware that this stunning, discreet and fresh colour was exclusive to the Datejust up until now (there’s also a new blue-green dial on the Everose gold edition that is rather lovely too). This lighter and more subdued shade of green suits greatly the watch and the neutral tone of the case and bezel. Younger, casual and refined. What hasn’t changed is the display, which is still deceptively simple. One, the traveller’s part; simple and clear, with an off-centred rotating 24h disc read thanks to a red-framed pointer at 12 o’clock. It works exactly as the central 24h hand of a GMT-Master II, and works as a reference/home time when travelling. The rest is typical Rolex and works according to the flyer GMT concept, where the crown allows to independently set by one-hour increments the main or local hour hand. The date, at 3 o’clock under its loupe, follows the local time.
What about the calendar… Well, first of all, it’s an annual calendar, meaning that it automatically differentiates between 30- and 31-day months, and requires only a single adjustment at the end of February. Second, it comes with one of the most cleverly integrated displays of the month (Moser can also be applauded for that), a patented mechanism where the months of the year are shown in 12 apertures around the circumference of the dial, beyond the index hour marker, with the current month highlighted in red. It’s so simple and easy that it makes me wonder why no one thought about it earlier…
And last but not least, there’s the way all the indications are adjusted. No disgracious recessed correctors that could corrupt water-resistance (and they are a pain to use) or crown with dozens of positions. The best part of the Sky-Dweller, to me, is the Ring Command Bezel. Composed of no fewer than 60 components, this patented innovation consists of a bi-directional bezel that partially rotates left or right in order to select the desired position – date, local time or reference time – and is linked to the crown and movement, to adjust the indications in both directions of the crown. And it’s as discreet as possible, as nothing on the fluted bezel has been added.
The main update on the 2023 Rolex Sky-Dweller collection can’t actually be seen, except with the presence of two small coronets at 6 o’clock. The movement, now dubbed calibre 9002, is part of the latest generation of engine and now features the Chronergy escapement, with an in-house optimized geometry that enhances chronometry and improves efficiency. It is combined with a paramagnetic nickel-phosphorus pallet fork and escape wheel, as well as a blue Parachrom hairspring. The decoration of the movement, the shape of the bridges and the rotor have been slightly revised too, despite the closed back. The power reserve is still rated at 72 hours (despite Rolex mentioning “extended to 72 hours”) and the movement is Superlative Chronometer certified.
Finally, at least for this white Rolesor version, which is also available in blue, white and black, Rolex leaves the choice between the present Oyster bracelet or a Jubilee bracelet, both being closed by a folding Oysterclasp with Easylink comfort extension link.
This new Rolex Sky-Dweller, with its updated movement and the handsome Mint Green dial (reference 336934), might be the most desirable edition so far. Finally, Rolex took the surprising yet pleasing decision to release it at the exact same price as before (I say surprising, because everything tends to go more and more expensive these days), meaning EUR 15,450 on Oyster bracelet and EUR 15,650 on Jubilee bracelet. Not cheap, but all things considered, not that bad for a GMT and annual calendar watch. More details on rolex.com.