Rolex Day-Date 36 Puzzles & BubblesApril 10, 2023
Rolex’s long-held adherence to discretion and conservatism seemingly came to a sudden end this year with the release of the Rolex Day-Date 36 “jigsaw puzzle” dial and Oyster Perpetual ‘Celebration’ collections (which I have affectionately begun referring to as the “Puzzles & Bubbles” watches). Taking a watch so associated with buttoned-up elegance and prestige that it earned the moniker of the “Rolex President” and repurposing it as the “Emoji Rolex” sends a loud and clear message from the brand: don’t take them so seriously and don’t try to box in their creative vision.
We all know watches are as much about expressing our tastes and personalities as they are about function or practicality but there was a certain acceptance that a brand like Rolex exists on a plane incapable of acknowledging this, let alone embracing it. Throw that preconceived notion out the window because, like any of us, Rolex contains multitudes. Like the puzzle on the dial, an abstraction of colors and styles can co-exist in harmony. The same brand can release a titanium Yacht-Master alongside the “Puzzles and Bubbles” watches without being any less of a Rolex.
There are three iterations of the Rolex Day-Date 36 “jigsaw puzzle” dial: Everose gold with orange dial (ref. 128235), yellow gold with turquoise blue dial (ref. 128238), and the one I got to see hands-on which is white gold with turquoise blue dial (ref. 128239). They are all classic Day-Dates with the President bracelet and the Superlative Chronometer certified Perpetual calibre 3255 movement with 70-hour power reserve. As the name denotes, they all come in the 36 mm case (with 100 m of water resistance) that is characterized by that iconic fluted bezel.
While taste is subjective, certain aspects of watchmaking are not. The “jigsaw puzzle dial” is inherently divisive, if not intentionally so. Replacing the days of the week with what could be Oprah’s top 7 favorite inspirational words like “Gratitude” and “Hope” and the days of the month with 31 unique emojis is meant to evoke the, let’s say “spirited” debate we have seen in comments sections over the last week or so. What can’t be debated is the absolutely gorgeous champlevé enamelling on the dial, the rich execution of the turquoise blue, red, fuchsia, orange, green and yellow puzzle pieces, and 10 baguette-cut diamonds in six hues circling the dial. Love it or hate it, the finishing and technique displayed here is top-tier.
In regards to watchmaking and all the things that make a Rolex great, a classic Day-Date President worn by JFK, LBJ, or Warren Buffett is no more “serious” of a watch than these emotional, colorful, Emoji-loving Day-Dates. In fact, you could argue the latter are more impressive considering their finishes and sheer boldness. Now and forevermore, this puzzle-clad Emoji Day-Date and the iconic President are peers of the same collection. You can dislike it but the fact remains.
In any case, these Day-Dates will be produced in very limited quantities and become niche collector’s pieces. That said, the more mainstream Oyster Perpetual ‘Celebration’ collection adheres to the same, albeit significantly toned down, playful ethos as the puzzle dial. Coming in 31 mm, 36 mm, and 41 mm, this new Oyster Perpetual collection features a turquoise blue lacquer dial spotted with variously sized bubbles that encapsulate the colored dials introduced to the collection since 2020: candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, coral red, and green.
The self-referential color choice and variety of sizes of these bubbles —let alone the ‘Celebration’ designation— exist as a tribute to the Oyster Perpetual collection itself and practically begs for collectability. What used to be the accessible entry-level Rolex has emerged as the most fun and lighthearted collection that has an appeal transcending gender, age, or any other designation.
Love them or hate them, the Rolex Day-Date 36 “jigsaw puzzle” dial and Oyster Perpetual ‘Celebration’ watches represent a brand comfortable with embracing playfulness and unafraid of ruffling feathers. We are living in the post-irony era where taking anything about one’s image too seriously is so dated it’s practically calcified. Inhibition is out and lighthearted colorfulness is in. Do with this fact what you will, but Rolex has certainly decided to embrace the cultural shift and I couldn’t be happier to see it.