A Steel Sky-Dweller… This is a watch many of us were secretly hoping for (we did) but we knew chances of actually seeing it would be small. Well, it seems that dreams can become reality, as here we are: for Baselworld 2017, Rolex introduced its most complicated watch – and what certainly is the ultimate traveller’s watch – in commoner attire; meaning a more casual look and more accessible prices. Here are the Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel ref. 326934 and Two-Tone ref. 326933, both of which come with more than just a material evolution.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller Explained
What is the Rolex Sky-Dweller? Basically, it is one of the most practical watches you can think of, the perfect instrument for travellers or busy business people piece. It is a complex watch, with many functions, but not just for the fun of it. Indeed, as nice and mechanically interesting as a perpetual calendar can be, it has a rather subjective inherent purpose. An annual calendar however, which is much easier to develop and assemble, only slightly less precise and much more accessible, offers real added value, compared to a normal calendar. This is one of the functions of the Sky-Dweller. Add to that an extremely practical function for business travellers: the dual-time display, allowing you to keep track of home-time when traveling or another time-zone when you’re working with colleagues in another city/country for example. We all love the beauty of an integrated perpetual calendar, however this combination annual calendar / dual-time makes the Rolex Sky-Dweller one of the most rational offers on the market.
With such a description, you might have envisioned an extremely complex watch – which it is indeed, being the most complex Rolex in the catalogue – however this complexity isn’t reflected on the dial. Rolex is Rolex and legibility and functionality are key. For the Sky-Dweller, the “Crown” imagined an extremely simple and perfectly legible display for the annual calendar. How many months in a year? 12. How many hours on a dial? 12. You get the idea. Next to each hour marker is a small rectangular window, which corresponds to one of the months of the year. The current month is highlighted in red while all the other windows remain white. Simple, clever, legible. Linked to that is the everlasting date window at 3, located under the no-less everlasting cyclops (a hallmark of all Rolex watches with date, even the Sea-Dweller now).
The dual-time function created some debate at first, when the watch was introduced, simply because it was quite oddly positioned on the dial. Rather than a 24-hour bezel (as on the GMT-Master II) or a dual-time window (like many competing brands), Rolex decided to equip the Sky-Dweller with a rotating 24-hour disc, with an off-centered position (yet with a look and fonts that recall the GMT-Master II). However, this display animates the dial and gives the watch a rather unique look. Plus, legibility is great – a triangle at 12, below the Rolex logo, points to the current hour on the disc. Local time is indicated classically by 3 hands (hours, minutes, seconds) on the central axis.
Another part of the Rolex Sky-Dweller’s greatness is hidden, however you’ll enjoy it as a wearer: the way adjustments are made. Combining the winding capacity, plus the adjustment of the date, the month, the local time-zone and the reference time-zone into a single crown should be too complicated in theory. However, recessed pushers are not Rolex’s style (bad for water resistance). So, what Rolex did is create a way to adjust all these settings via the bezel using a system that it calls “Ring Command Bezel”. Instead of pulling the crown in X positions or pushing small buttons, you simply rotate the crown in one of the 3 positions and then the selected function (date, local time or reference time) can then be rapidly adjusted in either direction using the winding crown. This patented “Ring Command Bezel” mechanism is composed of no less than 60 components. The best thing is that no one would guess that this classic Rolex fluted bezel is such a complication and that it actually rotates. It is clever, it makes adjustments easier and it improves reliability.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller is powered by a specific movement, developed especially for this watch: the Calibre 9001. It is one of the most complicated movements that Rolex has ever developed. It is of course a Superlative Chronometer, it boasts 72 hours of power reserve, it features Paraflex shock absorbers, a large variable inertia balance wheel and the blue Parachrom hairspring (antimagnetic). And even with the Ring Command Bezel and the SAROS (annual calendar) mechanism, it is built to last a lifetime (and then some).
The 2017 Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel 326934 and Two-Tone 326933
The Rolex Sky-Dweller has always been available in multiple versions (12 models, with 3 different golds, on strap or bracelet, with many different dials – rose, champagne, silver, black, brown). Yet, until now, every one of these models was manufactured in precious metals (white, yellow or pink / Everose gold) with prices starting at EUR 34,850 (yellow gold on leather) and going up to EUR 44,700 (white gold on bracelet). Clearly not what we would call a cheap watch, which explains why, despite all its intrinsic qualities, it remains quite rare in the wild. However, times are changing: the market is not in the best shape ever, stainless is hot these days, the trend might be more for sporty chic than for precious gold and finally, Rolex has a younger CEO.
A 18k Everose version of the Rolex Sky-Dweller (ref. 326135)
This is why for Baselworld 2017, the Rolex Sky-Dweller has undergone a significant overhaul. Two new references are added to the collection, and for the first time on this model stainless steel has been used for the 42mm case. Along with the Day-Date (and the Cellini collection too), the Sky-Dweller was the only Rolex model to be offered exclusively in precious metals. Those days are over. Two new references: the Ref. 326933, in Rolesor, meaning a combination of steel and yellow gold, for the fluted bezel, the crown and center bracelet links – which means that the price goes down massively at EUR 15,650. The second reference added to the collection is the even more interesting Ref. 326934, which comes in full stainless steel (case, crown, entire bracelet) with the exception of the fluted bezel, which is made in white gold (traditional for Rolex) – and here, it means that the entry-level price for the Sky-Dweller goes down to EUR 13,150, almost a third of the yellow gold / leather version. Quite an interesting deal!
The introduction of stainless steel is not the only evolution to note. Indeed, following the recent evolutions adopted on certain watches (Day-Date, Datejust), these new version of the “Sky” receive a redesigned, modernized dial. Say goodbye to the old-fashioned Roman numerals or the omni-present present Arabic numerals. The 2017 Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel 326934 and Two-Tone 326933 feature sportier and more contemporary rectangular indexes, in line with the 2017 Steel Datejust for instance. Combined with the cold look of steel and the use of metallic bracelets only, the 2017 Sky-Dweller becomes more casual than before (luminous indexes) and simply more modern. Some will probably argue that Rolex should stop with “maxi dials” (it’s true that the indexes are quite fat) but the “Sky” still benefits from this overhaul. Another small detail concerns the hour and minute hands, which are now slightly larger (to complement the new indexes) and longer.
The 2017 Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel 326934 is available in three versions – white, blue and black – and the Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel-and-Gold 326933 in three versions too – white, champagne and black. Not only was the good news about the much more accessible prices but also the evolution of the dial of the Sky-Dweller gives a fresh, modern look to a watch that was probably not the easiest to sell previously. You asked for it, Rolex brought it to you. More details on rolex.com.
Technical Specifications – Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel 326934 and Two-Tone 326933
- Case: 42mm diameter x 14.1mm thick – steel with white gold bezel / steel with yellow gold bezel, crown, center bracelet links – sapphire crystal on the front, steel caseback – 100m water resistant
- Movement: Rolex Calibre 9001, in-house, Superlative Chronometer certified – automatic – 4Hz frequency – 72h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, dual-time, annual calendar – adjustments made by the crown with Ring Command Bezel
- Bracelet: steel or steel-and-gold Oyster bracelet with Oysterclasp
- References: 326934 / 326933
- Price: EUR 13,150 for the 326934 (steel, white gold bezel) – EUR 15,650 for the 326933 (Rolesor yellow gold)
- Availability: September 2017