Baselworld 2019 Predictions: Rolex

Each year tens of thousands of people try and guess what Rolex will release and each year tens of thousands of people are wrong. A few years back in 2017 a friend of mine, who is extremely reputable within the watch community, told me that Rolex would undoubtedly release a Coke GMT-Master II that year based on everything he knew. It’s been over two years since he shared his “insider info” with me and the GMT lineup is still devoid of a red and black ceramic bezel.

This will be a strange and potentially deciding year (if things aren’t already completely doomed) for the watch fair as so many power players have left in recent years. Rolex, Patek, Breitling, and oddly enough LVMH still remain, but for how long is anybody’s guess. This topic has been covered ad nauseam, so please refer to the countless articles on the topic for more in-depth information, but it will be interesting to see if Rolex changes up their presentation in even the slightest way at all this year. More so it’s interesting to see if they seem to produce significantly more or less novelty watches compared to recent years in light of this year’s potentially gloomy overall Baselworld in hopes of either trying to reinvigorate the event or hold off until next year where they can really shine with highly desirable watches at their own independent presentation.

Now for the fun part: the predictions.

1. Rolex Needs to Do Something About Their Milgauss.

I understand almost everybody is saying that the Milgauss will be updated (especially after the fairly recent heavy focus on a vintage Milgauss on Rolex’s official social media) and I don’t disagree. The hard-to-get watches will remain hard-to-get (just as Rolex likes), but the brand also will likely acknowledge that they want all of their watches to be attractive. When customers pick a less desirable sports model as an alternative to a (pick your ceramic Daytona/Pepsi/new ridiculously overhyped watch of the month) due to waitlists, they still want their watches to look good… having said that even though the Milgauss is relatively new it looks dated and a little too quirky to make most people happy. Watches aren’t supposed to make “most people” happy, but for Rolex to keep increasing sales it doesn’t make sense to keep a relatively hard to move sports model around when it can be redesigned and moved almost at the pace of a black Sub.

Rolex should absolutely look to the designs of Milgeese (how I write the plural form of Milgauss) of old for this new watch. Update the bezel to being ceramic, get rid of the green crystal, and have it be available in a black dial/black bezel and either a blue dial/blue bezel, blue dial/black bezel, or red dial/black bezel option. Both blue dial options would immediately hit Pepsi waitlist territory, with the red dial hitting current BLNR demand. In any case, both options would immediately be highly viable watches within the lineup and have attractive designs. No longer would the Milgauss often be an afterthought for someone who couldn’t get a hold of the recently elusive steel Submariner or GMT-Master II.

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2. There Will Not Be ANY Kind of Stainless Steel Blue Submariner.

So many people want either a stainless steel Submariner with either a blue bezel, blue dial, or both. This will never happen as long as the white gold blue Submariner (the most perfect watch of all-time) continues to be a radiant beauty among the Rolex lineup. This would kill sales of the white gold Sub, the steel and gold blue Sub, and would do nothing more than please customers… which is something Rolex seems fairly reluctant to want to do with new releases unless the release doesn’t hurt existing products and will generate new multi-year waiting lists. A stainless steel blue Submariner would hurt their bottom line as it would affect TT/PM sales as well as create a large group of people who would have normally bought something else, but will now wait like a dumb-dumb for a decade to get a blue steel Submariner.

The black Submariner would also do the completely unexpected and become less desirable. Why? Because a green Sub isn’t a watch that is subtle and can be worn with everything. Currently, that’s why the green Sub doesn’t clash with the black Sub. A blue Sub though is much more neutral in terms of what it can be worn with, and like the BLNR’s impact on the black GMT-Master II, the desirability of the black Submariner will go down as their would now be a more exciting neutral color to wear. Unless a business-savvy company like Rolex wants to do a final Baselworld release in the form of a purely fan-service watch that will affect the viability of their existing watches, it is 100% certain that Rolex will not release a stainless steel blue Sub. Ten years from now though when we’ve passed the sad day that the white gold blue Submariner has been discontinued and Rolex has gone a few years lacking a big hit, the possibility of a blue stainless Sub release will be a very different proposition.

3. For the Love of God, Update All the Daytonas Already.

It really is incredible that we got our first look at a ceramic bezel Daytona all the way back in 2013 in the form of the 50th anniversary platinum Daytona and that this will soon be 6 years later and so far only about half the lineup has ceramic bezels. I can understand even up to 3 years to implement the change across all models of a single collection, but almost 6 years and not even close? The platinum, gold on strap, and stainless steel models all have ceramic bezels, but the entirety of the steel and gold ones as well as the gold bracelet Daytonas still have their scratch magnet gold bezels.

Has anyone else seen the mock-ups of ceramic bezel steel and gold Daytonas that were posted on Rolex Passion Report about a year ago? They looked great! I would have bought one! The sad fact is though that they should have already been in the lineup for about a year now, but aren’t. This transition is taking way too long, and TT Daytonas (while they have never been a fast mover) are looking less and less appealing next to their snazzy updated siblings. I thought Rolex would certainly release updated bezels on all the lagging Daytonas last year as it was already two years out from the initial release of the ceramic bezel steel Daytonas and it wouldn’t impact demand on steel models as much. I have no idea if Rolex will actually complete the overhaul this year or not, so it’s less of a prediction and more of an ask: “finally get all of your Daytonas up to par” (says the guy waiting impatiently for a TT ceramic Daytona with either a blue or black dial).

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4. The Expansion of Oysterflex.

The extent of the expansion is unlikely to be to more than just a few models, but who knows? Rolex is trying to keep up with other watchmakers who are trying to appeal to younger buyers (whether trying to compete with Hublot for their buyers is the right thing for Rolex to do is 100% debatable), but at least it give watch fans a new choice of strap. I wish they still offered Daytonas on leather straps, but it seems that those classier days are sadly behind us. There’s a chance that the entire Yacht-Master line will have the option of an Oysterflex strap, but there’s an even better chance that a steel version of the Everose Yacht-Master is released with the same black bezel and the watch is sold exclusively on an Oysterflex strap. There’s a small chance that the Yacht-Master II line will now have the option to be sold on an Oysterflex strap or bracelet, but this is unlikely and the option to be given to any other collection this year is even less likely (the next collection down from this to get the option would be the Explorer or Air King, if Rolex doesn’t discontinue the Air King altogether).

5. No Coke – Or at Least Not the Type that Many Want

A few years ago all we had in the GMT-Master II collection were the stainless steel black model, the steel and yellow gold, and the yellow gold models. Now we have had a BLNR, a CHNR in TT Everose, a CHNR in full Everose, a Pepsi in steel, and two different types of Pepsis in white gold. I have been one of the most vocal opponents of the new Pepsi bezels in how ridiculous they look… I wouldn’t have expected a company like Rolex to put out an imperfect, inferior product, but they did. While many got on waitlists for the new cranberry and purplish-blue GMT-Master II’s, I thought the watches looked ridiculous and were a very bad look for the brand as a whole. Then again, it showed that Rolex could put out a flawed product and everyone would still start paying 2x retail in order to get one… Incroyable.

As long as Rolex can get the red color right, a red and black Coke bezel should look much better, but still… does the collection need it? No. The only place that Rolex should even begin to look at implementing a Coke bezel is if it’s a new white gold GMT-Master II in order to replace the white gold Pepsi that has been discontinued. Coke fans will complain that it wasn’t released in steel, and two to three years down the line it will get a stainless steel counterpart to replace either the BLNR or the flawed Pepsi. The biggest change to the stainless steel models this year is that the black bezel GMT-Master II has the small chance of getting a red GMT hand, but I doubt Rolex would change this as the green hand looks much better.

CHNR

6. Everose Submariner

Rolex will follow their own lead from 2018 and will release a Submariner in TT Everose as well as full Everose. Both models will likely be offered with a black dial/black bezel as the only option. There is a small chance that Rolex could try something new color-wise with either model coming in something similar to the Fifty Fathoms pictured here:

Many are saying that Rolex could introduce a smaller version of the Submariner, but I highly doubt this will happen.

7. Caliber Updates

If it’s taken Rolex almost 6 years to update only half of their Daytonas with ceramic bezels, don’t expect it to take only about a year to update their movements. New releases this year will have the new movement as some older models are discontinued. The majority of existing watches will likely be overlooked. Rolex could surprise me and update most of their existing lineup, but I’d say it’ll be 2+ more years before we see that come to fruition.

8. Diamond &/or SARU releases:

These are anybody’s guess, but I’m going to go ahead and say Rolex will release a new version of the older white gold/MoP dial/diamond bezel/white strap 116589RBR Daytona. The new version will have a white Oysterflex strap and a transitional diamond and purple sapphire bezel with diamond lugs. They’ll use basically the same dial as the older model. This will likely be 100% wrong…


All in all this will be an interesting year to see how Rolex plays things and could give some insight into if their future plans include presenting at Baselworld again. In the meantime I’m just going to hope they release a stainless steel and gold Daytona with a ceramic bezel before we hit the 2020’s.

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