Rolex and Art
In my opinion, the most compelling new Rolex watch presented by the Swiss brand at Baselworld 2017 was the Rolex Cellini Moonphase. More than just a new interpretation of an existing design, this is not only a totally new watch, but it also includes a new movement and set of complications which haven’t been part of the Rolex portfolio for at least several decades. To help frame the ‘purpose and poise’ of the Cellini Moonphase, in Rolex’s words to me this watch is (paraphrasing) “a rare opportunity for the designers at Rolex to artistically express themselves.”
Rolex redesigned and re-introduced the Cellini collection of dress watches in 2014. Since then, the brand has launched an almost unprecedented collection of four different movements for the formal watch family. That includes a time-only Rolex Cellini moon phrase replica watches, one with a date dial, the Rolex Cellini Dual Time, and for 2017, the Rolex Cellini Moonphase. For the longest time, Rolex was keen to produce high-quality albeit simple watch movements. The reason for this being that they wanted to reduce possible problems in the movements for consumers while also increasing production efficiency.
To a degree, as a more mass-market luxury watchmaker, Rolex understood that mechanical movement complications (other than the time or date) are rarely actually relied upon by wearers. This means that they wanted to focus on modern customers’ needs – and left more niche watch makers to focus on producing more complicated watches for enthusiasts that could be produced in smaller volumes.
For that reason, it is exceedingly rare for Rolex to introduce a new complication, and more common for them to simply introduce a new watch personality. The last time they did something like the Rolex Cellini Moonphase was with the Rolex Sky-Dweller fake watches that happened to get a new, much more affordably priced version for 2017 as well. The Sky-Dweller combined a GMT (second time zone) complication with an annual calendar (a calendar that takes into considering both the date and month). An annual calendar complication was new for Rolex, but it nevertheless has an arguably practical utility, as well as a very slick implementation on the dial.
A moon phase complication, however – especially on a dress watch – is a decidedly emotional complication without too much contemporary practicality. A moon phase indicator is designed to track the roughly 29-day cycle of the moon between its waxing and waning phases. With smartphones and other more useful weather and environmental status-indicating technology, it is a rare case indeed that someone relies upon a mechanical timepiece to be aware of the phases of the moon, let alone have any reason whatsoever to actually need to know this information.