Monochrome Watches
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The Surprisingly Elegant Rolex Perpetual 1908

The Cellini collection is dead. Long live the new Perpetual collection.

| By Brice Goulard | 5 min read |
Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

A couple of days before the start of Watches and Wonders 2023, we knew that something elegant was cooking at Rolex. Indeed, the brand’s website wasn’t displaying anymore watches from the Cellini collection, a range introduced in 2014 and representing the dressy side of the Crown. Well, the replacement is here, and it takes the shape of a new collection named Perpetual – a name inspired by one of the first Rolex watches fitted with the Perpetual rotor, and in hom­age to the year Hans Wilsdorf devised the name ‘Rolex’ to sign his creations and registered the brand in Switzerland (Rolex is finally admitting that the past can be relevant…) Let’s have a first look at this new, and surprisingly handsome Rolex Perpetual 1908, the first model of a collection that will surely grow over the years. 

Even though Rolex doesn’t really want to talk about it, the new Perpetual collection is there to replace the Cellini range, which has been entirely discontinued right before the Geneva watch fair, including the appealing Cellini Moonphase 50535 – a watch that I’ve always considered to be a hidden gem in the brand’s portfolio. However, if you put the new name aside, the Perpetual collection is certainly the direct descendant, if not a relatively soft evolution of the Cellini. All the design traits of the previous range have been kept, however, some notable changes are to be seen on the other side of the case.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

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Elegant, understated yet typical Rolex, the Perpetual 1908 has an unmistakable vintage and classic flair that is directly inspired by antique models of the brand. You can see some references to mid-1926 Oyster watches – for instance the kind of early Rolex Oyster watch that has been worn by Mercedes Gleitze when swimming across the Channel – or early Datejust from the mid-1940s. It’s also a watch with contemporary features and sharp edges. Fine and nicely chiselled fluting can be found all around, in a discreet yet signature Rolex style. So yes, it is close to a Cellini, it feels undeniably Rolex but it has a level of refinement that the Cellini didn’t entirely manage to meet.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

This Rolex Perpetual 1908 is a straightforward dress watch. Time-only, compact, no complications, no unnecessary decorum. Straight to the point of elegance. For this article, we’ve decided to take a look at the yellow gold version with matte white dial reference 52508, which felt to me the most appealing. The matte black dial also has charm, but the warm colour of gold with this soft white dial is as elegant as you can get. The case of the Perpetual 1908 is compact, at 39mm, with short lugs, and mostly a thin profile of 9.50mm. Not ultra-thin watchmaking, but slender enough to fit under a cuff and to enter the dress watch category.

The case plays on contrasts between the soft polished surfaces of the middle case and lugs, and the sharp, reflecting finely fluted accents on the bezel, the caseback and the crown. A simple recipe that is also used by Patek Philippe with the Calatrava collection, yet with a Clous de Paris pattern instead of a fluted texture. That being said, I can’t deny a certain resemblance between the 1908 and the Calatrava Clous de Paris 6119 (not the worst of references…) The case is water-resistant to 50m (enough, not spectacular) with a domed sapphire crystal on top, and also one on the caseback (Rolex finally shows its movements!)

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

The Perpetual 1908 is a nice watch on the wrist. Balanced, elegant, and discreet with enough luxury, it wears like a charm. It is fitted with an alligator leather strap, closed by a new folding clasp named Dualclasp, explained by Rolex as “carefully designed (…) the Dualclasp always sits centred on the wrist.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

The dial of the Perpetual 1908 is where we can see most of the evolution between this new collection and the Cellini range. No more rayon flammé de la gloire pattern (a rather pronounced sunray-style embossed pattern). The dials, either white or black, are matte with a fine satin finish and black printed railroad tracks for the minutes and seconds. Classic, legible, and efficient. Rolex also decided to give its first model a small-second display, and original hands and markers. Applied numerals are found at 12, 3 and 9 o’clock, and the hour hand has an opened circle before the tip – both are evocations of the sports watch collection, but treated with refinement.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

The big news comes from the back, and that unprecedented movement is now visible. Named calibre 7140, this new engine is a quite impressive combination of past, present and future. Classic in its architecture, with a central rotor, a thin profile, visible ratchet wheel and barrel, it also brings to the table all of the brand’s technologies. This automatic movement is wound by a solid 18k perpetual rotor mounted on a ball bearing, and it incorporates the patented Chronergy escapement made of anti-magnetic nickel­-phosphorus, the Syloxi hairspring, produced by Rolex from silicon with a patented geometry, and a balance wheel with variable inertia and gold Microstella nuts.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

All of that is protected by a transversing bridge with Paraflex shock absorbers. Beating at 28,800 vibrations/hour, the movement stores a comfortable 66-hour power reserve. And since it is visible under a sapphire caseback, Rolex has made a special effort on the decoration, with the new Rolex Côtes de Genève – a decoration that differs from traditional Côtes de Genève for the slight polished groove between each band – and diamond-cut chamfers on the bridges.

Availability & Price

The Rolex Perpetual 1908 is now available from retailers and is part of the permanent collection. The model presented here (reference 52508) is priced at EUR 21,850. For more details, please consult

14 responses

  1. There wasn’t a lot wrong with the cellini. The only thing wrong with this is the price.

  2. Maybe there wasn’t a lot ‘wrong’ with the Cellini…altho, of course, that might be dependent on the model, as there are many I find totally unappealing. But on all of them I’ve seen, there’s something that doesn’t work very well, or that could easily be made more interesting/attractive. I prefer the black dial version; the black-gold combo is always a winner, and a white and gold combo lacks something in contrast, and tends to run garish. White and gold smacks of Louis XIVth excess.

    With the new models, I greatly prefer the hands, the dial layout, the markers. The font for the numbers is, to me, a *bit* off; a bit too industrial. Small seconds is nice.

    Yeah, the sticker shock kills it, a lot like the new IWC Ingenieur.

  3. I must agree.
    I meant to day there wasn’t a lot wrong with some of the Cellini’s. As in, I could find a model I’d wear pzrfectly fine in the line.

  4. It was obviously late, excuse the typo’s.
    At this price, there’s the small matter of the Lange Saxonia Thin Gold Flux, however…

  5. Yeah, among others. Possibly includes my perfect autumn watch…the Saxonia Terra with pink gold case. That might be a bit higher tho…and harder to find.

  6. The problem with Cellini was the name. I think it is taken from a great artist and goldsmith from the 16th century. To me, this connection was artificial, and it was not relatable to what Rolex is a as brand. Maybe it mean something in 1968, when Cellini was founded, but it just felt like poor marketing.

  7. @ V.

    Yeah, I felt the same about the name. It never seemed fitting and I really didn’t like it emblazoned on the dial. The 1908 – although expensive – marks an improvement in all the best ways.

  8. Cellini is just an unattractive watch for me, from inside to outside. Regarding this 1908, I can’t help thinking of getting a Breguet 5157 instead.

  9. Really classic and well-designed. Love the new thinner automatic movement.

  10. What is visually devoid on this 1908 model in my opinion is a well deserved moonphase; now, it is one thing to place a moonphase but quite another to have it appropriately and cohesively designed! Secondly, the exhibition caseback MUST harbor a visually appealing movement as a worthy visual if Rolex are now going to do see-thru rears. There is competition from LANGE & the rest, so no mediocre approach will suffice!

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