This was the main event of the 2023 edition of the Salon Watches & Wonders: Rolex presented a brand new collection and it is an event that is rare enough to be highlighted. This collection bears the name of Perpetual 1908 and replaces in its objectives the Cellini collection. The fact that Rolex is changing its name says a lot about the ambition of the manufacture. It’s a bit like erasing everything and starting over, a method totally opposite to the practice of Rolex, which is more adept at continuity and permanent and contained evolutions.
Anyway, Rolex had nothing to lose by reviewing its copy. The Cellini collection, apart perhaps from the charming Cellini Moonphase had above all been a success of esteem and above all, it did not appear sufficiently attractive for lovers of elegant watches in precious metal. It lacked a bit of finesse in the execution and the movement unfortunately remained hidden, which could only insinuate doubt in the mind of the potential buyer. No one doubted the reliability and precision of the movements in the Cellini collection, but we expected a decorative finish on a par with those of watches from other prestigious houses. To tell the truth, the Cellini collection was a sort of in-between. Rolex had indeed taken a step towards the elegant watch but remained prisoner of certain reflexes and practices such as this sadly full background, devoid of any decoration. However, the Cellini collection was not devoid of quality. It took advantage of the technical capacities of the movements and certain ideas were relevant, such as the dual-time display or that of the phases of the moon, for example.
It is strategically important for Rolex to strengthen its credibility in this segment for several reasons. First of all, it is not normal in terms of image that the market leader, the most powerful and prestigious brand, does not have a consistent offer in terms of dress watches. You will notice that I use the term “dress watches” and not “classic watches” because this niche is already occupied by icons such as the Day-Date. Then, at a time when customers are desperately looking for the house’s most famous pieces and find themselves faced with the reality of a demand that is crushing supply, the question arises of the reorientation of this customer base towards other models. It is common knowledge that several competing brands take advantage of the difficulty of buying a Rolex, even in gold, from a retailer. Being able to expand the catalog with a new collection should make it possible to better retain this clientele. The products still have to be attractive. The good news is that they are.
Without being revolutionary, the new Perpetual 1908 collection struck me as attractive and well executed. Its name provides unambiguous explanations. Perpetual leaves no doubt that the movements are automatic but can also evoke the timeless design that transcends time. 1908 corresponds to the date of the official registration of the brand in Switzerland. In fact, it could have been called Perpetual 1931 because the collection draws its inspiration from a 1931 Oyster Perpetual but the message is clear: this collection symbolizes a new beginning so in spirit, the date of 1908 fits better.
The Perpetual 1908 collection currently comprises 4 models, in white or yellow gold, with a white or black dial. The style is resolutely neo-retro in a contemporary setting and this feeling is underlined by several details which give a lot of charm to the different models. I liked the subtly fluted bezel, the shape of the crown, itself also fluted, and the applied numerals and indexes which bring relief to the dial. But the element in my eyes that is the most attractive is the pair of main hands which marks the most significant aesthetic departure from the previous Cellini collection. The choice is wise. These hands are attractive and give an identity to the Perpetual 1908 collection. I have always liked this type of hands because beyond their aesthetic appeal, they provide excellent readability due to the contrast between the hour hand and the minute hand.
The models are also distinguished by their harmonious proportions. First of all, the case diameter is perfect (39mm) for a dress watch. Then, the position of the second hand sector provides proof that the movement was designed to suit this case. Everything is balanced, nothing is shady and this is a fundamental point for this type of room. The finishing of the dials is impeccable. We are certainly not being wildly daring, but the white or black backgrounds are intense and the applied elements, including the crown under the 12, contribute to this perception of quality. The inscription “Superlative Chronometer” just above the sector of the second hand seemed to me a little superfluous but the presence of inscription at this level has existed since the dawn of time at Rolex so it is not inconsistent.
The new caliber 7140 is visible through the transparent back:
The work on the case is also neat. The shape of the slightly domed bezel makes the watches refined when viewed from the side. This is also the best way to appreciate this case (in all cases in polished gold) because it allows you to judge its finesse. The thickness is under 10mm (9.5mm to be precise) which is excellent news because these proportions reinforce the slender style and elegance of the models in the collection.
The movement that equips the 4 pieces is the new caliber 7140 with a frequency of 4hz and a power reserve of 66 hours. The great news is that it is visible through the transparent back which is almost a must for this type of watch. This movement is very pleasant to observe because it generously occupies the case and because the gold oscillating weight mounted on a ball-bearing system is sufficiently open to offer an unobstructed view. Its design is recent and this is particularly noticeable in the traversing balance bridge and in the Syloxi inscription next to the hairspring. The finish is neat with a very nice continuity of the Côtes de Genève. Rolex obviously remains in its logic of reliability and precision and the performances are there with a Superlative Chronometer certification (including in particular a range of precision of -2/+2) obtained once the watch is finished. From an aesthetic point of view, I would have liked the bridges to be more open and the movement to breathe more (the balance wheel is literally encircled) but certain details such as the treatment of the ratchet are appreciable. Anyway, I enjoyed observing this movement and its execution seemed consistent with the context of the watches, which is the most important point.
Not surprisingly, the different models fit easily on the wrist and the overall harmony has its effect. The size of the case is as I indicated ideal because the watches offer a rather marked presence while remaining reasonable and elegant. Of course, it is watches with a white dial that offer the largest perceived size compared to those with a black dial. I also preferred the white dials because the black dial seemed a little dull to me with the white gold case (especially with the black strap) and too contrasting with the yellow gold case. I regretted the absence at this stage of a variation in pink gold even if yellow gold is making a comeback. Also, I would have liked to see a more subtle dial color like gray for example. The pieces are comfortable and perfectly held on the wrist thanks to a double folding clasp. Rolex is also there in its safety logic, personally I would have preferred a nice barb which would have seemed to me better suited from an aesthetic point of view (especially since the strand goes forward). Finally, it should be noted that the water resistance is 50 meters which is a good performance given the thinness of the case.
I personally really liked Rolex’s proposal through its new Perpetual 1908 collection. Without being revolutionary, this collection, thanks in particular to its aesthetic approach that is both more subtle and more identifiable and to its visible movement, ticks more boxes and responds much better to customer expectations for dress watches. Rolex thus gains credibility in this segment while relying on its strengths, which are the impeccable quality of execution and the technical performance of the movement. The question now is whether the clientele will succumb to the charms of this collection. I don’t have a crystal ball, but in any case I am convinced that Rolex has fully given itself the means to succeed. I have the feeling that when a customer has to choose a gold watch from a renowned house, Rolex will now be in the selection, which was not necessarily the case before. This is already a significant first step.
The Perpetual 1908 collection is available at a price of 23,050 euros for the white gold models and at a price of 21,850 euros for the yellow gold models.
+ impeccable quality of execution
+ the charm of the main hands
+ movement performance
+ the visible movement and its pleasant presentation in this context
– no rose gold version at this stage and only extreme dial colors (either white or black)
– I would have preferred a nice barb compared to the double folding clasp which sends the strand forward