The Rolex Sky-Dweller is the youngest and most complicated watch family featured in the contemporary Rolex catalog.
Released in 2012, it marked 20 years since the last Rolex model inauguration, the Yacht-Master. The new Sky-Dweller also showcased the more obscure side of the brand – their technical prowess for horological innovation.
While Rolex is generally a trailblazer in the materials department, they are a bit more shy about debuting new watch complications. This made the Sky-Dweller’s date, dual-time, and annual calendar complication repertoire even more surprising.
Nevertheless, there’s more to unpack with the Sky-Dweller than just its mechanical complexity, which we’ve done in this guide. Keep on reading to learn all there is to know about Rolex’s ultra-luxurious traveler’s timepiece.
History Of The Rolex Sky-Dweller
Aside from reviewing the individual references that made up the Sky-Dweller when it was first introduced, we’ve also delved into what made it such a radical timepiece for the brand.
Correspondingly, this page has been divided into the following segments:
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The First Rolex Sky-Dweller
The Sky-Dweller debuted at Baselworld 2012 to much acclaim and surprise. It is not often that Rolex releases a brand new model family, and when they do, you can bet that the entire watch industry is paying attention.
Just a short time before the model was put in front of the public’s eyes, Rolex reportedly registered the Sky-Dweller name and this information inevitably leaked. From that point on, discussions ensued throughout the watch community, namely via online forums, as to what the new watch could look like.
The name intrinsically indicated an association with the sky, so many proposed that it’d be some sort of pilot’s watch, similar to the GMT-Master. We now know that this wasn’t completely wrong; the Sky-Dweller was indeed intended for jet-setters, except it’d be worn by the passenger in the cabin as opposed to the pilot.
What could have been predicted is the fact that the three versions of the new Sky-Dweller would be offered exclusively in gold.
Over the years, the brand has used this strategy when releasing new models. First, they release the gold and possibly platinum versions. Then come the two-tone (Rolesor) varieties. Finally, coming in last are the all-steel options.
This was precisely the case with the Sky-Dweller. The three references offered were as follows:
- 326135: Everose case and bezel, chocolate brown dial, alligator strap
- 326938: Yellow gold case and bezel, champagne dial, gold Oyster bracelet
- 326939: White gold case and bezel, ivory dial, gold Oyster bracelet
The Sky-Dweller’s Design
The Sky-Dweller features many characteristics that are remarkably Rolex, but executed in a new way. Beginning with the case, which boasts an Oyster profile except in a new, bulkier 42mm size.
The dials alternated between arabic and roman numeral indices, yet all were marked by the offset dual time zone display. A more familiar date with cyclops was also present at 3 o’clock.
Moreover, the Sky-Dweller was presented either on the well-known Oyster bracelet, or on a premium alligator strap with gold Oysterclasp.
Lastly, and perhaps the most recognized component of all, was the fluted bezel. Except this was not merely a larger version of the variety encountered on Datejusts and Day-Date, this was a Ring Command bezel, only ever seen in the Yacht-Master II. What secrets did this modernized fluted bezel hide below?
The Sky-Dweller’s Calibre 9001
The Calibre 9001 was a completely new movement devised by the Rolex manufacture exclusively for the Sky-Dweller. It wasn’t just any movement, though, it was the brand’s most complicated movement ever.
The 9001 is not only a dual time and date movement, but also an annual calendar which allows for month indications at each hour index.
Naturally, the caliber also featured the brand’s latest paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorption technology. All topped off with an extensive 72-hour power reserve.
The Sky-Dweller’s fluted bezel is, in fact, a Ring Command bezel. This means that not only is the crown used to configure the watch, but the bezel also plays a part.
It can be rotated into one of three different positions, at which point the crown can then be used to adjust a specific indication, such as the home time or the month.
What’s so complicated about that? Well, the bezel itself is comprised of 60 individual components, which helps explain why the Oyster case had to be modified to fit the new movement.
Even though the functions make the Sky-Dweller seem like a delicate timepiece, it is no less resistant to wear than other Rolex sports timepieces. Clearly the brand intended for the watch to travel on the wearer’s wrist, and not in their luggage.
The Sky-Dweller’s Price
The new Sky-Dweller was marked by a couple of features which separated it from the rest of Rolex’s catalog.
First and foremost was its size, which was larger (and heavier) than Rolex’s standard 40mm. The SD is only exceeded in case dimensions by the Yacht-Master, another notoriously large timepiece from the Swiss watch manufacturer.
For those unconcerned and maybe even excited by the larger case, the retail price could certainly be a deterrent. The Everose / strap version was the cheapest, coming in just under $40,000. The white gold and yellow gold versions, both of which boasted an all-gold Oyster bracelet, retailed for $48,850.
While loyal Rolex customers are used to spending thousands of dollars on their favorite timepieces, they may not yet be at peace with spending dozens of thousands.
The astronomic price was clearly a limiting factor to the potential buyer pool, so just 5 years after its debut, Rolex introduced the more-accessible Sky-Dweller in mixed-metal versions.
The Rolesor Sky-Dweller
At Baselworld 2017, Rolex introduced various new styles of the Sky-Dweller, this time with steel/white gold ($14,400) and steel/yellow gold ($17,150) constructions. Options included:
- Blue dial, Rolesor
- Black dial, Rolesor
- White dial, Rolesor
- Gold dial, two-tone
- Black dial, two-tone
- White dial, two-tone
Rolesor is the term that Rolex uses when a timepiece is crafted from both steel and gold. While all of the above models are considered to be Rolesor, not all are two-tone watches given that the steel/white gold combinations appear on the wrist as a single metal.
It’s safe to say that the new Rolesor models were a success. Evidently the retail price of the original Sky-Dweller was indeed an issue, as the “steel” Sky-Dweller versions are still difficult to find more than 2 years after release.
The Sky-Dweller Expansion
In 2018, one year after the highly demanded Rolesor Sky-Dwellers were released, the brand once more introduced new variations on the gold-cased options. At the same time, the three original Sky-Dweller references were discontinued.
The continuous changes to the Sky-Dweller reveal that Rolex has no intentions of making of it a short-lived occurrence – the Sky-Dweller is here to stay.
It’s also sure to see even more aesthetic updates down the line, as the model doesn’t carry the historic significance as, say, a Sub or GMT-Masters. As a result, the brand has more latitude in how much they can push the boundaries of design.
More Guides & Articles
We hope you’ve found this recap of the Sky-Dweller’s history to be informative. Without a question, the youngest model in Rolex’s lineup still has a lot of runway left. Accordingly, we’ll be there to break down any and all updates to the Sky-Dweller right on this page, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, check out some of our other watch guides below:
- A Recap Of The Most Important Watch Model Ever, The Submariner
- How Did The Day-Date Earn The “President” Nickname?
- An Overview Of Oldest & Best-Selling Rolex Model
- Alternatives To The Most Popular Rolex Styles
- Unboxing & Video Review Of The Discontinued Tudor Black Bay Bronze 79250BM
"I've had the chance to try on the Sky-Dweller once before, and it was too big for my wrist. I can appreciate the new complication though. Hopefully Rolex makes a smaller version later on!"Rating: 5.0★★★★★