At first glance, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Celebration Dial might provoke different reactions, almost like a Rorschach test, but don’t rush to trash it if it is not a watch for you. Should someone say, “It’s not a Rolex”, a team of good doctors will swiftly escort that person away to continue the assessement. After all, it is made by Rolex, sold by Rolex, and it says Rolex right there on the dial, so it is a Rolex, no doubt. Different, yes. Unexpected? Not quite. While Rolex has a reputation for conservatism, the palette of colours adorning the Celebration OP – hues of pink and red, green, red, yellow, and blue – was introduced with the 2020 Oyster Perpetual references. Even though the brand is known for a careful and conservative approach to business, it doesn’t mean its products can’t be innovative and daring. The vibrant, bright-coloured Rolex Oyster Perpetual dials turned out to be a brilliant idea. It ignited a trend, inspiring other luxury watch companies to release their colourful collections freely. Rolex’s conservative image didn’t hinder the success of this creative move; on the contrary, it got people talking, changed perceptions, and attracted a broader audience, resulting (again) in increased demand.
Let’s return to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Celebration Dial in 2023. You may see balloons, balls, hard candy, or bubbles when you gaze at the dial. All interpretations are welcome as long as they evoke a sense of joy and fun. I like to imagine them as soap bubbles from a child’s colouring book, meticulously painted.
The mention of soap bubbles leads us to their fascinating journey in art. They have been captivating artists since ancient times, notably depicted in frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum as playful elements in daily life. Bubbles gained significant popularity during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, while in the 17th century, the symbolism of soap bubbles deepened when they represented the fleeting nature of life and the transient pleasures of material possessions. In the 18th century, there were playful and symbolic depictions of soap bubbles, with some paintings using them as metaphors for the brevity of things. There’s an enjoyable work on the shortness of pleasure, showing three angels playing with a naked lady’s bottom to evoke hot air passing to make soap bubbles, a “clear allusion to the brevity of erotic pleasure and the fast-waning delights of erotic life“. A century later, impressionist artists explored the play of light on the delicate surfaces of soap bubbles, capturing their ephemeral beauty in their paintings. In the 20th century, soap bubbles continued to inspire artists, leading to abstract and conceptual interpretations. From Pablo Picasso’s abstract lithographs to artists like Man Ray, soap bubbles have remained a captivating subject, symbolizing joy, fragility, impermanence, and the fleeting nature of life. But isn’t it what time, and by extension,what watches are about?
With this in mind, Rolex’s invitation to celebrate is very appropriate. I have no doubt Rolex will have no issue selling this series (especially the 31mm and 36mm models, maybe not so much the 41mm, but what do I know), not only because it is a Rolex piece in form and execution with everything a brand is attached to it, but in large part because of its appeal as a vibrantly fun object, which can be paired with a great variety of styles and wardrobe items. And scarcity adds to the allure: check out the secondary market prices for the Celebration OP if you need proof. The possibility of “bubbles” becoming a highly collectable item very soon might be a factor at play, as I doubt the Crown will keep producing the Celebration for years. As much as I admire the genius move, intentional or not, intuition tells me the party will not go on forever.
But seriously, only Rolex, with its impeccable reputation for upholding particular values, could pull off such a defiant act without jeopardizing its reputation. Or perhaps we are witnessing a significant change in the giant’s behaviour, and fun dials will become regular releases. If not, will there be many tears shed? Probably not. While it is definitely a positive thing that Rolex made a piece like the Celebration, highlighting its unique ability to accomplish something daunting (read crazy), it is different from the Rolex we want.
The watches themselves
Other than its polarizing dial, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Celebration Dial models are identical to their classic counterparts, be they standard references 124300 (41mm), 126000 (36mm) or 277200 (31mm). This means, in all versions, a sleek Oyster case in stainless steel, with brushed surfaces on top, polished flanks and bezel, a screw-down crown and a comfortable 100m water resistance. Rolex models, from head to toe. Inside, you’ll find either the in-house calibre 3230 or the smaller calibre 2232 – all modern automatic movements with Superlative Chronometer certification. The 3230 benefits from modern technology, such as the Chronergy escapement and a solid 70h power reserve. The 2232, a movement dedicated to feminine watches, comes with a silicon hairspring and, despite its compact size, a 55h power reserve.
The dials are rather impressive, with their glossy lacquered turquoise (Tiffany-like) base and multitude of colourful bubbles. Still, the basics are identical to all other Oyster Perpetual models, with white gold applied markers and hands and Chromalight display. All are worn on a 3-link Oyster bracelet with a folding clasp and Easylink comfort extension. Retail prices, if ever you manage to secure one from an authorized dealer, are EUR 6,350 in 41mm, EUR 6,050 in 36mm and EUR 5,650 in 31mm.
For more details, please visit Rolex.com.