|Case||Oyster, 39mm, 18ct Everose rose gold, polished finish|
|Crown||Screw down, Twinlock waterproofness system|
|Dial||White lacquer with blue enamelled sub-dial with real meteorite|
|Movement||Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding, Calibre 3195|
|Crystal||Domed scratch-resistant sapphire|
|Waterproofness||Waterproof to 50 m (165 ft)|
|Power Reserve||Approximately 48 hours|
|Functions||Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Moonphase at six o’clock. Date display by centre hand|
|Bracelet||Tobacco alligator leather, with folding Crownclasp|
The Rolex Cellini was first launched in the 1980’s, paying homage to Benvenuto Cellini, a master goldsmith of the 16th century and developed to capture the growing market for thinner, quartz powered timepieces. Since then however, with the automatic movement fighting back, desire and production of the Cellini waned, meaning it got lost amidst the noise and clamour for the Daytona, GMT-Master II and Submariner and, of course, the archetypal Rolexes, the Datejust and Daydate. In fact, it got left behind just about every other model Rolex has released since then. As a result, most will not even know the maison ever made such a model.
Happily for the Cellini however, in 2014 Rolex re-launched the model line with a completely new look. Trying to tap into a new market, it falls under the category of ‘classic’ watches and is aligned perfectly with the traditional definition of a ‘dress watch’; only available in precious metal and on a strap.
There are, as with most Rolexes, many variations of the Cellini, but the one we have here sits at the top of the tree; the Moonphase. Crafted from Rolex’s patented Everose rose gold, the case has a warmth and understated nobility to it, the gently curved edges offset by the shallow, delicately fluted bezel. This is the feature that identifies this watch as a Rolex; in reinventing the Cellini, the brand needed to take some of the star dust from its other impossibly successful models and modifying the bezel in this way was a stroke of genius.
Complimenting the bezel magnificently, the crown is elegantly grooved and slightly flared. It has a delicious tactility when used, albeit such interaction should be expected of a watch costing this much.
The dial is made of white lacquer, with a blue enamelled sub-dial at six o’clock. Within that disc, one can see the full and new moon rotate, the former depicted by a piece of actual meteorite, mined exclusively by the brand. The time is indicated by two delicate highly polished double-sided swords, which reflect the light beautifully. The date can be read around the outside of the dial, pinpointed by a blue centre hand with a crescent moon tip.
The brown alligator strap adds warmth and timelessness to the piece which, in conjunction with Rolex’s excellent folding Crownclasp, says prestige but with understated elegance.
The one drawback, in my eyes, is its lack of versatility. It is almost singular in its purpose; a dress watch through and through. This means it looks sensational with a suit or shirt and jacket, the domed sapphire nestling under your cuff perfectly, but it doesn’t quite sit right with a more casual look. But I suppose that’s precisely what Rolex wanted; one would have a Submariner or GMT-Master II for dressing down and a Cellini for dressing up. Let’s face it, with a watch this stylish, that’s no hardship at all.
The key to this piece is, for me, that it actually looks and feels unlike a Rolex. Yes it retains the brand’s solidity and a version of its fluted bezel but what the Cellini seems to do is, for the first time, start to bridge the gap between it and the holy trinity: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet. I can honestly say that from a distance, the first time I saw this watch I thought it was a model of the former, and I can think of no higher praise than that. Frankly, even when it’s on your wrist and you gaze at the way the deep blue sub dial contrasts with the lacquered white dial and the light bounces off the meteorite, you can’t help but feel Patek Philippe would have been proud of it had they thought of it first.
Of course, that is not to say the entirety of the watch is in keeping with such illustrious company. Rolex’s case back is, as ever, solid gold meaning there is no vantagepoint to see the movement. I can only assume this is because the Cellini’s beating heart, while extremely reliable, is not finished to the standards expected of entry into the rarefied air of haute horology and, therefore, it would be an own goal to do so. The trade off is, however, that you get a sensational rose gold dress watch, combined with legendary reliability and the associated low running costs (relatively speaking), all incorporating a complication that retails for around half the price of anything similar sold by one of the three aforementioned maisons.
Even better, because the Cellini is made in relatively low numbers and does not have the media hype of the Professional line, for example, it manages to stay under the radar. In my view it makes it a wonderful choice precisely because of that; with this piece it is likely that not only will you be the only person in the room wearing one, you may be the only one who even knows it exists. And in the world of watches, that is a pretty special place to be.
The Rolex Cellini Moonphase in rose gold reference 50535, retails for £20,600. Production is low, meaning there is not much saving to be had on the secondary market, with prices around £18-19,000.