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Four Essential Modern Rolex Watches Designed With Inspiration From the Brand's Archives

Bob's Watches

Rolex has always been on the cutting edge of luxury watchmaking, particularly when it comes to their coveted sports models. That’s part of the reason why vintage Rolexes command such impressive prices. And while the iconic Swiss brand never re-issues or recreates vintage designs, some of its most desirable designs do draw inspiration from these historically important timepieces. 

“Rolex is notorious for only moving forward with their designs,” Paul Altieri, founder of leading online luxury watch boutique Bob’s Watches and one of the world’s top Rolex collectors, tells JustLuxe. “However, despite not manufacturing any outright ‘heritage’ watches, Rolex does implement a few vintage-inspired design traits into the otherwise very modern watches that they manufacture today.” 

Here are four of the best as selected by Altieri and Blake Buettner, Director of Watches at StockX, the billion-dollar live marketplace backed by Eminem and Mark Wahlberg where collectors can build their portfolios of luxury timepieces:

Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 126710BLRO “Pepsi”

Bob's Watches

“The very first Rolex GMT-Master dual-time zone watches from the mid-1950s were made from stainless steel and fitted with half-red, half-blue ‘Pepsi’ bezel inserts. The Ref. 126710 GMT-Master II marked the return of a stainless steel ‘Pepsi’ GMT, one of the most iconic Rolex designs ever made, as well as the return of the steel Jubilee bracelet to the GMT-Master line.”

“It was always just a matter of time before Rolex brought the Pepsi bezel back into a steel GMT,” Buettner points out. “This colorway is like comfort food in watch form. While the look is there, this is no throwback and that’s evident the moment you put it on. That’s a good thing, and I think the watch stands on its own merits; the blue and red bezel is just a cherry on top.”

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500 Cerachrom

Bob's Watches

“This is one of the hottest and most sought-after Rolex releases in recent years, with a long waiting list for new pieces and a significant premium over the retail price for pre-owned examples,” Altieri says. “The new black Cerachrom bezel is more than a little reminiscent of the black acrylic bezels that were fitted to several iconic vintage Daytona chronograph references manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s, a brilliant design move.”

“Steel bezels have been the only option on the Daytona since the late ‘80s,” Buettner notes. “Seeing the addition of a black Cerachrom bezel appear in 2016 was like a breath of fresh air, adding a hint of the iconic Ref. 6263 charm to the modern Daytona. The simple change, along with adding solid black rings to the subdials, which replaced the mirrored rings on the Ref. 116250, finally brought the watch out of its ‘90s aesthetic. It works on every level.”

Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570

Bob's Watches

“The bright orange, arrow-shaped 24-hour hand on the ‘40th Anniversary’ incarnation of the Rolex Explorer II is a design element directly borrowed from the very first version of the watch from 1971,” Altieri points out. “Although it is an undisputedly modern timepiece, the orange hand is aesthetically almost identical to the one on the original version of the Explorer II from the early 1970s.”

“This is among my favorite modern Rolex watches,” Buettner says, “so when the 40th anniversary rolled around in 2011, my expectations were high. That was my first time being at Baselworld so the introduction of the 216570 left an indelible mark. The original orange hand held this mythical status in my head, and to see it return was a huge treat. All these years later, the ‘Orange Hand’ still brings a smile to my face, but my feeling is that it lacks some of the original character of the first Explorer II Ref. 1655.”

Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600 

Bob's Watches

“Most obvious among the various vintage design elements of this watch is the red line of text on the dial,” Altieri says. “It’s an obvious throwback to Rolex’s early Submariner and Sea-Dweller watches which had their names printed in red letters on the surfaces of their matte black dials. The red line of text on the dial of the new Sea-Dweller 126600 is an unmistakably vintage-inspired design element.”

“What draws me to Rolex most are the stories associated with their most iconic models,” Buettner says. “Reading about the exploits of aquanauts and the history of SEA-LAB experiments is better than most fiction. It is in this context that I still place the Sea-Dweller watches of today. To see Rolex acknowledge the very first and rarest of the family with the addition of a single red line of text brought a huge amount of charm to this over-engineered steel dive watch.”

Jared Paul Stern

Jared Paul Stern, JustLuxe's Editor-at-Large, is the Executive Editor-at-Large at Maxim magazine and has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the New York Times' T magazine, GQ, WWD, Vogue, New York magazine, Details, Hamptons magazine, Playboy, BlackBook, the New York Post, Man of the World, and Bergdorf Goodman magazine among others. The founding editor of the Page Six magazine, ...(Read More)

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