It feels strange that we are already discussing what the next batch of Rolex novelties will be, but with the pandemic delaying everything last year, we had to wait quite a long time to see what Rolex was going to bring out. Now, with just a bit more than six months gone since those 2020 Rolex novelties, we can already look forward to what 2021 has in store.
New Explorer II
Kicking off 2021's predictions with what has been widely accepted as the sure-fire shake-up this year, the Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570 will get the chop, and we will see a new version of Explorer II, the ref. 226570. With the model's pretty long production run from 2011 until now and its 50th anniversary falling on this year, an updated Explorer II is pretty much guaranteed.
Like most things, the community is pretty split in terms of how they see this one developing. A lot of people think the new ref. 226570 will have a Daytona-style fixed ceramic bezel, while others believe it will keep its signature steel bezel. Furthermore, people have been split regarding what dial colours it will have. As a Rolex tradition, their anniversary models usually feature green somewhere, so the new Explorer II probably will too, but where? Will it have a green dial or just a green GMT hand and inscriptions, or will its new ceramic bezel be green like the Starbucks? It is hard to say, but no matter what they release, you can rest assured that it will have a new movement and be pretty impossible be hard to buy!
Unsurprisingly we've had a few hoaxes this year with watch releases, least of all the Daytona. Sweeping Instagram last week, a picture of a new stainless steel Daytona with a blue ceramic bezel and blue subdials was making the rounds. As cool as that would be, though, its creator confirmed it was a fake a few days after posting.
Before that picture swept IG, some other Daytona renderings were floating around, claiming that the Daytona was being updated to a 42mm case and given a new movement. While these renderings didn't go viral, they have pointed out something that people would like to change about the Daytona, it wears small and has a 21-year-old movement. Does that mean Rolex will change it this year? Probably not. It's turning 60 in 2023, so if the Daytona ever gets a massive overhaul in the next while, it will likely be then.
Playing with Platinum
Revered for its weight, colour and exclusivity, the king's metal in watchmaking is not steel as you might expect; it is platinum. With their recent move towards precious metal offerings, the rumours around platinum have been growing. Starting with the Platona or platinum Daytona, people are beginning to think it will be discontinued as it was released eight years ago, in 2013. Front runner as its replacement is a platinum Submariner. Never made before, this is a watch that would probably break the internet if it was released. It would probably break the bank too.
Elephants in the room
Amongst two of Rolex's least popular sports models are the Air-King and Milgauss. Both unpopular due to their positioning as entry-level models with no complications and dull dials; these are both rumoured to be discontinued pretty much every year. While the Z-Blue Milgauss is an interesting watch, the Milgauss itself is a far cry from the industry-leading timepiece it is supposed to be. With Omega's insane anti-magnetic resistance, the Milgauss looks like a laughing stock and needs to be updated accordingly or discontinued. It's a great looking watch, but it isn't featuring the level of technology that made it so legendary in its early days.
On top of that, the current Air-King was inspired by the dials that Rolex designed for a vehicle that had attempted to set a new land speed record. That vehicle, the Bloodhound LSR, is currently up for sale as the project fell bankrupt and failed to catch a break in 2020 as the pandemic took grip around the world. With the current Air-King signifying a failure, Rolex will probably be looking to update the model or discontinue it entirely. Rolex doesn't usually 'do' failure.
While the GMT-Master II collection was recently overhauled, a new black and red ceramic "Coke" bezel GMT-Master II in white gold on an oyster bracelet might be a wildcard for Rolex to release. Just like how they released the Pepsi in white gold before releasing it in stainless steel, they might want to surprise us with another fan favourite out of the blue. On top of that, the Yachtmaster II hasn't had any significant updates since 2013, when the stainless steel variant was released. So, we might see Rolex add a new model to the YMII collection. My bet would be a new Oysterflex variant. You heard it here first.