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: Rolex Perpetual 1908 Platinum
TEXT & PHOTOS Francis Cheung

Out of Rolex last year’s releases that were, to many, full of surprises, the Perpetual 1908, despite being introduced as a new watch to the coronet’s catalogue, might seem a bit unassuming compared to the whole excitement surrounding the new Daytonas, the titanium Yacht-Master 42, and the jigsaw Day-Date with the champlevé enamel dial. Presented in both 18K yellow gold and white gold, with the choice between a white and black dial, there were four variants to the model. This year, however, Rolex introduced platinum to the design alongside with the material exclusive dial colour in ice-blue.

The year 1908 marks when Hans Wilsdorf registered Rolex as a trademark in Switzerland and began signing on the watches created, certainly a landmark year for the brand. And to name the watch after the year also signifies the design direction of summarising the essential attributes of Wilsdof’s vision, interpreted in modern terms with the help of current manufacturing technologies. With the Cellini fading out, the Perpetual 1908 is now the watch to showcase Rolex’s approach towards classical watchmaking. 

One of the least expected things from Rolex is the use of a transparent caseback. In the past there were only a few of these in the collection, with the closest dating back to the Cellini Prince in the early 2000s, the return of the transparent caseback certainly adds on to the charm of the watch. And while some might argue that a traditional closed caseback is to stay true to the essence of a diver’s watch, the use of transparent caseback on the 1908 for aesthetic purposes is perhaps cogent in that sense, and putting forward the topic of finishing is nonetheless bold and exciting for what could come from the brand in the near future.

The calibre 7140 held within is perhaps not lavishly finished, but still, it showcases appreciably consistent and fine finishing patterns like Côtes de Genève, circular graining, and even perlage, achieving an effect that is pleasant to look at. On top of finishing, the transparent caseback also helps show off the maison’s technical inventions including the silicon hairspring, dubbed Syloxi, and the Chronergy escapement, a proprietary profile for the pallet fork and escape wheel for better efficiency.

Known to be used exclusively on Rolex’s platinum models, the ice-blue dial is also one of the notable features, if not the most, on this new 1908 variant. Unlike the ice-blue dials that appear on the platinum Day-Date and Daytona that often come with a traditional sunburst finish, the dial here features a rosette-like guilloché pattern which Rolex refers to as the rice-grain motif. The pattern itself radiates from the small second sub-register at 6 o’clock, like waves of two ripples overlapping each other, creating contrasting guilloché facets that neatly fill in the negative space of the dial. At the periphery of the dial, there is another layer of a crimped pattern surrounding the minute track, together with details like the applied coronet and hour markers, a sunken frame around the Rolex stamp and the sub-register, the depth and texture making the watch a lot more interesting to look at. The effect of the texture is especially pronounced if compared to the dial of the yellow and white gold variants from last year, it emanates a sense of delicacy and character that very much fits into the profile of the watch. 

This 1908 platinum really goes a long way to show how far modern watchmaking has come. When compared to the Rolex reference 5241 from the early 2000s, the Cellini Cellinium in platinum that also has an ice blue dial, it becomes obvious that the quality and the number of details have gone unnoticed because we are now so used to the higher manufacturing standard in modern watchmaking. Presented with a matte brown alligator strap and a double folding clasp in the same metal, the 1908 puts up a classical, refined, and composed look that pays tribute to the brand’s origins.