Fratello Hates Rolex Watches!

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Rolex crown pendant (courtesy shopicydrip.com)
Courtesy shopicydrip.com (click on image for link)

Fratello hates Rolex? Of course not! The watch website may not be as unrelentingly obsequious as Hodinkee, but they’re definitely in the industry’s pocket. When I say that Fratello hates Rolex, I mean that they dare challenge the idea that Rolex are perfect in every way. Albeit they do so as a question, not a statement. Are Rolex Fans Blind To Design Flaws? Have Your Say! . . .

I’ll skip over writer Ben Hodges’ multiple paragraphs of pandering prevarication to Rolex fanboys – don’t hit me! – and go straight to the first nit he picks re: the new for 2019 Oyster Perpetual.

New Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 in silver

Take a look at the spacing of the coronet logo and the Rolex text below it. Maybe take it a step further and observe the distance to the description of a 360° self-winding rotor and water-resistant case, aka “Oyster Perpetual.” Notice how the coronet [Rolex crown] seems to be in no man’s land compared to the rest of the text.

I suppose the logo takes the place of the 12 o’clock marker, as seen on many other models in Rolex history, so it locks in this position. But when coupled with the relatively minimal text of the OP dial, the distance intensifies.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41

The Superlative printing above the 6 o’clock marker goes some way to explain the Rolex name’s position. And both sets of dial scripting, above and below the center pinion, balance each other in terms of typeface weight and position. Yet, it results in an awkward gap, that to me, is rather glaring.

Translation: Fratello hates Rolex! JK. Mr. Hodges thinks the Rolex crown’s too small on the OP41. Or the text at the bottom of the dial is too small. Simply put, he reckons the new, larger Oyster Perpetual 41mm has too much negative space.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 closeup

Now that Mr. Hodges mentions it, he’s right! Especially when compared to the outgoing, now-defunct Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39. But you know what? I would’ve gone up a point size on the 39’s bottom text and kicked it up a smidge to balance the dial.

I get why Rolex didn’t: traditionally, the description goes in smaller typeface on the bottom. Like this:

Mr. Hodges is well aware that no one gives a sh*t. If he wanted to tug on Superman’s cape, the double indices for the 3, 6 and 9 positions was the place to start. Rolex enthusiasts have done just that, in spades. But the text sizing sure set Mr. Hodges off.

I am fully aware that I am going beyond picking nits here. Most of these complaints will fall on deaf ears, especially from lucky owners of the watch. But when it comes to awarding accolades for particular watch models that showcase the best of what the year had to offer, I feel quirks like this tend to be eschewed in favor of acknowledging the Rolex brand. It made me think that the coronet has a spell that pulls the wool over eyes to ignore odd design choices. 

Rolex Air King

Again, don’t hit me! You’ve been hypnotized!

Mr. Hodge’s next complaint: all those 5’s on the Rolex Air King. “My view is that the asymmetry between double digits and the single-digit is off-kilter,” Mr. Hodges whines, ignoring the the monstrous 3, 6 and 9 and the fact that the Air King’s entire dial is ugly AF. “A suggestion would be to include the 0 before the 5 to equalize the uniformity of the dial.”

Rolex Air King

That’s how mainstream watch blogs roll, you know. They don’t say some part of a watch sucks. They say “Don’t get me wrong. I love this watch in so many ways (which I’ve described at length in monotonous detail). But wouldn’t it have been a bit better if . . . ?” It would have been better if Rolex had never f’cked with the Air King.

To finish his “Fratello hates Rolex” dietribe [sic], Mr. Hodges takes aim at the Rolex detail that also bedevils this watch reviewer: the cyclops!

Rolex Submariner 2020 date with a green bezel

As much as I hate date windows, people LOVE them. For me, the Rolex “date wart” calls attention to a complication that ruins a dial’s minimalist charisma – no matter where you put it, or how you dress it up. For others, a date window is a must; Rolex’s magnifying lens makes life worth living.

Addressing the Rolex cyclops, Mr. Hodge finally shows some teeth, in his preamble:

 . . . the idea for the cyclops is not what irks me. It’s a practical way to magnify the date aperture while minimizing the mechanism wheel size. Rolex tends to commercialize this for mountain climbers checking the date from a distance with one hand above them dangling from a rock.

Rolex ice ad

 

The application is probably more for short-sighted golfers to check the date to mark down on their scorecard. Even so, Rolex takes pride in applying anti-reflective coating on the cyclops and fully transparent glue.

It would be churlish of me to point out that the adventurer in the linked Rolex ad isn’t hanging onto anything. Anyway, it’s the fully transparent glue, stupid!

Rolex date wart

When a Rolex delivers a watch with date cyclops fresh from the factory, it looks clean and clear. After a while, and the watch is put through its paces, dust and lint accumulate around the cyclops. This opaques the area over the dial, making it a challenge to polish regularly. 

Rather than oblige Rolex owners to polish their cyclops – is there a porn site for that? – Mr. Hodges has the answer. “The ultimate advancement would be to mold the date magnification within the entire sapphire. Or apply the magnifier on the underside of the crystal.”

Mr. Hodges isn’t wrong. But he’s made a sloppy landing at the wrong airport. As awesome as Rolex are, there are bigger fish to fry than typeface choices and dirty date warts. Check out our post Rolex: Three Reasons Not to Buy One (Other Than Price). Then ask yourself a simple question: is the perfect the enemy of the Rolex?

4 COMMENTS

  1. If I’m dangling in mid-air off a cliff face with 300 feet between me and the ground, today’s date is the last thing on my mind. The cyclops used to be cool, distinct, design feature. Now that I wear progressive lenses, it is a very practical, desirable feature. Even when I couldn’t tell you the difference between a dive watch and a pilot watch, that wart screamed “ROLEX”!

  2. This font obsessiveness is a timely issue, as I’m struggling to explain what bugs me about another watch altogether.
    I’ve had similar thoughts on making the Cyclop internal. Beyond adding thickness, I am not sure if it is at all feasible.
    Oof, see in the comments where author Ben Hodges replies “You said things our managing editor wouldn’t let me print ;).”

  3. Heh, heh! Actually, I quite like Fratello, principally on account of its contributors’ love of obscure Seiko dive watches. Certainly not the vomit-inducing prick-pit that is Hodinkee. A site where pretension knows no bounds and the height of sophistication (trilled ad nauseam by ‘journalists’ and sycophantic blog-botherers alike) is a mid-century Datejust.
    Which brings me to the subject: as hinted at in your last sentence,’perfect’ is indeed the enemy of Rolex. Most of their designs (not the perversely, wilfully, gloriously (?) hideous one like the Air King and Yacht Master), seek perfection by committee like no other. This can either make them, err perfect, or nit-naggingly sub-par. Like a 41mm OP.

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