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Rolex stuns with 'emoji' watch debut

With a special model released today, Rolex is taking another step into the “hype watch” space — whether traditionalists like it or not.

Among a slew of other watches revealed today at the Watches and Wonders trade show (including a “celebration” oyster perpetual that has watch fans abuzz) were three new Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 models that Rolex has called “time stamped with emotion.”

Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36
Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 (Rolex)

The three watches, made from yellow, white or “Everose” gold, feature a quirky jigsaw puzzle enamel face — with two very surprising complications. Instead of the day showing in the window by 12 o’clock, it displays “inspirational” keywords, as Rolex calls them – ‘Happy,’ ‘Eternity,’ ‘Gratitude,’ ‘Peace,’ ‘Faith,’ ‘Love,’ and ‘Hope.’ The traditional date window at 3 o’clock reveals daily 31 different emojis. The hour markings are 10 baguette-cut sapphires in six different hues that match the dial.

Rolex says that by “displaying a new emotion each day, the watch brings an element of spontaneity to the wearers' daily life and allows them to invest the reading of time with their changing mood.”

Not everyone is in the mood for the watch, however. Most comments on watch blogs like Hodinkee and even on reddit.com/r/rolex have not been kind.

Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36
Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 (Rolex)

But other watch fans say the whimsical nature of these watches is something new for the brand. Experts in the field were left as perplexed as Rolex fans.

“The watch definitely doesn’t feel like a factory Rolex. I never would have imagined they would make a Day-Date without the day and date being clear from the discs showing through the dial,” expert Eric Wind of Wind Vintage tells Yahoo Finance. “But it definitely is something that has stirred the pot and started conversations, so that was probably the point!”

Wind says he expects demand for the watch will be “ridiculous.” Indeed, the watch in some sense speaks to the ever changing demand of the luxury buyer, and in some sense, the “hype watch” buyer who wishes to purchase those ultra-rare timepieces to flash from time to time. The watch will likely be a favorite for “flippers” as well, those who speculate on watches purely based on hype — especially the unique and rare models.

“The Day-Date collection is where Rolex goes to get creative, and over the course of the model’s history, there have been some truly unusual and colorful combinations,” Bob’s Watches CEO Paul Altieri told Yahoo Finance. “That said, the new off-catalog Rolex Day-Date with a colorful puzzle piece dial is easily the most fun and whimsical version of the Day-Date President that has ever been put forward.”

Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36
Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 (Rolex)

Rolex says the new watches will feature its latest 3255 perpetual movement, and of course feature the President bracelet which is exclusive do the Rolex Day-Date range. Rolex did not disclose pricing and availability of this time, but expect it to cost upwards of $30,000 (the starting price of gold Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 models).

The hype and much-derided authorized-dealer waitlist to even get one of these watches may define the legacy of these “emotional watches.” But Hodinkee reporter Malaika Crawford summed up the latest Rolex development best, “Rolex just made an emoji watch. What a time to be alive.”

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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