Rolex Cellini: The Underrated Dress Watch

By Montredo in Lifestyle
February 25, 2020
Rolex Cellini: The Underrated Dress Watch

Why must Rolex always mean Daytona, Submariner or Datejust, when it could instead suggest something as extraordinary as the Rolex Cellini? A brief appreciation of an underestimated collection from the most famous watch brand in the world.

Italian Renaissance on the wrist

The namesake of the collection is the Italian polymath Benvenuto Cellini, who made a name for himself as a sculptor and goldsmith in the mid-16th century. He was active during the Italian Renaissance, which – beginning in Florence – revolutionized the architectural, artistic and literary world stage.

Unlike most Rolex watches of their time, which were subject to the mantra “form follows function,” with their oyster cases and screw-down crowns, and were meant to break records rather than hearts, the Cellini collection deliberately went a different direction. Conceived as a pure-bred dress watch right from the start, aspects such as water resistance or versatility were pretermitted in deference to aesthetics.

His bust can be seen at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Classic, bold, and back to classic

Today the Cellini collection is considered the most classic of the Rolex brand, but this has not always been the case. As so often happens, the exception proves the rule:

Contrary to the slowly evolving Cellini DNA, there were certain models that really stood out. The King Midas, for example, while still a genuine Cellini watch, provoked with its bold and Rolex-atypical design language. These aberrations were soon, however, left by the wayside.

And so, after this short experimentation phase, Rolex admitted that at the end of the day Cellini should represent timeless elegance. The Danaos models, launched after the King Midas, show rather well how the Biel watchmaker interpreted that formal refocus.

King Mida: a short Cellini excursion to the land of Gérald Gentas.

Barack Obama wears Cellini

In the current Cellini lineup – presented at Baselworld 2017 – the Rolex dressers are now available in two gold alloys and four variants: as a simple three-hand watch; with date; with a second time zone and day and night display; and finally with moon phase. None of these complications detract from the Cellini’s striking elegance.

Always 39mm, always in white or Everose gold.

Although (or precisely because) the Cellini watches don’t in any typical way scream “Rolex, ” there is at least one prominent world-class wearer: ex-President Barack Obama. One photo in particular, showing him, and his watch, with former Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Toronto, went off like a bomb in watch forums:

Britain’s Prince Harry (R) and former U.S. President Barack Obama watch a wheelchair basketball event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

To take up the initial question again: The Cellini positions itself as a “just a dress watch” with a price of at least 14,200 euros, which rarefied territory – far removed from ceramic bezels and helium valves – is of course very difficult to maintain. If you want to assert yourself there, you must start with a perfect finish, one that can make even a maven marvel. But since here the Cellini already falls short, without even a sapphire glass caseback through which one could at least admire finely filigreed watchworks, we can’t really blame those who would prefer to wear Jaeger-LeCoultre, Grand Seiko and others.

This is a real shame, though, since the Rolex Cellini otherwise fulfills all the criteria for a noble and elegant watch in 2020.