As much as watchmakers tell you how the horology industry isn’t as trend-led as fashion, there’s no denying the fact that a watch is ultimately a reflection of the zeitgeist. It is, after all, produced by a team of creative souls— designers, engineers and artisans—who are exposed to the same global influences and creative stimuli as any fashion crew.
Case in point: Rolex’s new Datejust Pearlmaster 39. To say that it isn’t a product of its time would be misleading.With more and more women coveting bigger watches, the new 39mm size is perfectly on point.Then, there’s that face, saturated in colours that seem to echo the seasons: Fresh greens for spring, radiant ambers for summer, ripe berries for autumn and crisp whites for winter—all against a canvas of 18-karat yellow or white gold. There’s one for every season, Rolex seems to be telling us in fashion-speak. “Spring” flaunts an olive green dial and a bezel studded with a blue-green-yellow gradient of baguette sapphires. It has all the lightness and conviviality of Botticelli’s La Primavera, and makes us think of freshly cut grass and picnics in the park. “Summer” parades a crown of baguettes in a palette of reds, oranges and yellows against a lustrous cognac backdrop; conjuring glorious sunsets on a beach with a drink in hand.
With the luscious grape dial of “Autumn” and its array of sapphires daubed in ultramarine, fuchsia and mauve, we’re instantly transported to the Scandinavian countryside during berry-picking season. “Winter” is not what you’d expect, with a diamond-paved dial and links (like a light dusting of snow on the ground) but a garland of sapphires in warm summer hues. Fashion is about escapism, and so too, apparently, are watches: These ravishing Rollies inspire flights of fancy every bit as well as a Dolce & Gabbana silk number.
Yet, for all its fanciful visages, the Datejust Pearlmaster 39 is also an extremely practical timekeeper with a host of state-of- the-art technologies that one has come to expect from Rolex. For starters, it’s equipped with Calibre 3235, a brand new in-house movement specially developed to fit the enlarged case. With 14 patents to its name, the self-winding calibre brings to the table improved precision and power reserve, as well as better resistance to magnetic fields and shocks.
The key lies in the new Chronergy escapement, an optimised version of the Swiss lever escapement (used in the majority of mechanical watches) that is 15 percent more energy efficient. If anyone can improve upon the 250-year-old Swiss lever escapement, surely it’s Rolex. But that’s not all. Parts of the escapement which are traditionally made of steel have been replaced with an antimagnetic alloy of nickel-phosphorus, making the movement immune to the ill effects of magnetism. Considering the number of tech toys (each radiating electromagnetic waves) that govern our lives, this makes a big difference.
The oscillator, the true heart of the watch, is also antimagnetic, thanks to Rolex’s signature Parachrom hairspring. This distinctive blue hairspring is an alloy of niobium, zirconium and a small percentage of oxygen. Besides being anti magnetic, a key characteristic is its elasticity, which allows it to be 10 times more precise than traditional hairsprings in the event of shocks (like when you accidentally drop your watch). All these improvements mean an additional 10 hours of power reserve for a total of 70 hours, so you can leave your watch on your dresser over a long weekend and come back to find it still keeping good time.That’s if you can bear to part with it in the first place.
Text by Charmaine Ho