The History and Evolution of the Rolex Sky-Dweller

ARTICLE DATE 10/25/2019
History and Evolution of the Rolex Sky-Dweller
History and Evolution of the Rolex Sky-Dweller

Less than a decade old, the Sky-Dweller is Rolex’s youngest collection. And since it was an entirely new watch when launched, Rolex was able to design the Sky-Dweller as a modern watch without being tied to a historical model. The result is not only one of Rolex’s largest watches but also one of its most complicated (a watch “complication” is any function that goes beyond time telling). Let’s get into the history and evolution of the Rolex Sky-Dweller.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Debuted in 2012

Since the Sky-Dweller’s history is so short, there is currently only one generation of the watch in Rolex’s catalog — but available in several metal variations. So we will approach the history and evolution of the Rolex Sky-Dweller by looking at the three Baselworld (the show where Rolex debuts new models annually) years where new Sky-Dweller versions were presented.

The Sky-Dweller made its debut at Baselworld 2012 as the first completely new Rolex model in 20 years (since the Yacht-Master‘s launch in 1992). As such, it wasn’t surprising that there was plenty of buzz surrounding the release of the Sky-Dweller. The Sky-Dweller sports a large (for Rolex) 42mm Oyster case but it is emphatically not a sports watch like the Submariner, Daytona, or GMT-Master.

Pre-Owned Yellow Gold Rolex Sky-Dweller
The Rolex Sky-Dweller in 18k Yellow Gold

Rather, the Sky-Dweller is a dressy watch fitted with an annual calendar complication. For those who may not know, an annual calendar watch only requires one adjustment on the part of the wearer once a year — when February turns into March — and for the remainder of the year, the watch automatically adjusts to the correct date as long as it is running. It may seem simple in theory but it is quite mechanically impressive since the movement has to know which months have 31 days and which have 30 days and, more importantly, in what order. So, the Sky-Dweller is Rolex’s first annual calendar timepiece, which also happens to have dual time zones as well.

The dial of the Sky-Dweller indicates the time via the center hands, the date through the window at 3 o’clock, and the month by the small rectangular windows next to the hour markers (where January is next to 1, February is next to 2, March is next to 3, and so on). Plus, there’s also a second time zone displayed by a red arrow pointing to a 24-hour disc placed slightly off-center on the dial. Designed for frequent travelers in mind, the idea is to have the 24-hour disc display home time (aka reference time) and the center hands display local time. Protecting the dial is a scratchproof sapphire crystal, topped with the familiar Cyclops date magnification lens.

Powering the complications of the Rolex Sky-Dweller is Caliber 9001 — an automatic annual calendar mechanical movement built entirely in-house by Rolex that boasts seven patents. Even more impressive is that the fluted bezel that sits on top of the Sky-Dweller’s case is not just for decorative purposes like on the Rolex Day-Date or Datejust, but it is dubbed the Ring Command Bezel because turning it allows the wearer to choose between adjusting the date, local time, or reference time all from the winding crown. Complex to build but easy to use.

The First Rolex Sky-Dweller Models in Yellow, White, and Everose Gold

Rolex introduced three models of the Sky-Dweller at Baselworld 2012: a yellow gold Sky-Dweller with a matching yellow gold Oyster bracelet, a white gold Sky-Dweller with a matching white gold Oyster bracelet, and an Everose gold (Rolex’s proprietary rose gold alloy) Sky-Dweller with a brown leather strap.

More Gold Sky-Dweller Models Joined in 2014

Two years after the initial launch of the Sky-Dweller, Rolex unveiled three more models at Baselworld 2014. Just like the first three editions, these models were also in 18k gold.

Three More Gold Sky-Dwellers Joined in 2014

The 2014 Sky-Dweller models that joined the collection included a yellow gold Sky-Dweller with a leather strap, a white gold Sky-Dweller with a leather strap, and an Everose gold Sky-Dweller with a matching Everose gold Oyster bracelet. With these new models, Rolex now offered the Sky-Dweller in each shade of gold (yellow, white, and rose) with the option of a matching gold bracelet or with a leather strap.

Rolex also added new dial design options in a variety of colors and with the option of Roman numeral or Arabic numeral hour markers.

Steel and Two-Tone Rolex Sky-Dweller Models Launched in 2017

Given that the Sky-Dweller was initially offered exclusively in 18k gold, it was one of Rolex’s most expensive watch collections (compounded by the watch’s complications). However, at Baselworld 2017, Rolex introduced two new Sky-Dweller models, which dropped the entry price point of the Sky-Dweller significantly.

Stainless Steel Sky-Dweller With White Gold Bezel

The first new option is the two-tone Sky-Dweller in yellow gold and stainless steel, also known as Yellow Rolesor by the brand. The two-tone Sky-Dweller features a stainless steel case, a yellow gold fluted bezel, a yellow gold winding crown, and an Oyster bracelet with steel exterior links and yellow gold center links. The other option, called White Rolesor by Rolex, is a stainless steel Sky-Dweller with a white gold fluted bezel. This particular Sky-Dweller is the most affordable among the entire collection thanks to its limited use of gold. However, the stainless steel Sky-Dweller is also the most sought after right now (especially the one with the blue dial), which has led to prices in the secondary market to sky-rocket.

Two-Tone Yellow Gold and Steel Sky-Dweller

Save for the new material options, all the other details, such as the 42mm Oyster case, Twinlock winding crown, 100-meter water resistance, Caliber 9001 movement, and annual calendar plus dual time functionality remains the same. The Oyster bracelets are furnished with folding Oysterclasps, complete with the Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link to lengthen the bracelet without the need for tools.

Sky-Dweller References and Material Options

Despite its short production run, Rolex discontinued both versions of the white gold Sky-Dweller in 2018. Below is a list of all the Sky-Dweller references made throughout the collection’s history so far.

ReferenceCase MaterialBracelet MaterialProd. Years326938Yellow GoldYellow Gold2012 –326939White GoldWhite Gold2012 – 2018326135Everose GoldLeather2012 – 326138Yellow GoldLeather2014 – 326139White GoldLeather2014 – 2018326935Everose GoldEverose Gold2014 – 326933Stainless Steel +
Yellow GoldStainless Steel +
Yellow Gold2017 – 326934Stainless Steel +
White GoldStainless Steel2017 –

Larger than other Rolex dress watches and more complicated than most Rolex Professional watches, the Sky-Dweller is a modern Rolex watch through and through. As its name suggests, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is perfectly suited for frequent travelers — particularly those who have a penchant for the very best luxury watches.