I had dinner recently with Jean-Marc Jacot, CEO of Parmigiani, and he asked me a question I struggled to answer. “Tell me a brand people love,” he said. “Not admire, not respect – but really love.”
After a little debate about the parameters (no football teams, political bodies or charities to be allowed), we determined there might only be one – Ferrari. Our argument went that if Ferrari went under, the tifosi would shed copious tears of grief and enter into acts of self-flagellation normally the preserve of fictitious Catholic monks. No other brands would elicit such a reaction.
We also agreed the only watch brand that comes close is Rolex.
Which is why this year’s Rolex Sky-Dweller, the first all-new model to come out of the furtive Rolex manufacture since man discovered fire, is such a big deal. The name and the design are new, as is Rolex’s decision to do an annual calendar (which only needs adjusting once a year, in February) for the first time.
Aesthetically, the jury is out – those not in favour are concerned about the off-centre GMT ring, mainly. But what is much less in doubt is its cleverness.
At the heart of it is the ‘Ring Command’ bezel, which is every bit as cool as it sounds. It rotates into three positions, each of which corresponds to one of the indicators its user can adjust when the crown is pulled out – the time, the date and the second time zone.
As novel is the annual calendar. The month is displayed in those little windows above the numerals, so that if it’s August, the window above the 8 will be black, rather than white. Rolex has also engineered the movement so you can wind the crown both forwards and backwards without any fear of damaging the mechanism, which, if you didn’t know, is not the case with most watches. It’s available in white, yellow or Everose gold; it took five years to develop; and, of course, because it’s a Rolex, it’s built to survive Armageddon.
Rolex Sky-Dweller from £26,290; rolex.com