The Sky-Dweller has always had a slightly contradictory character. It’s the most complicated watch Rolex makes (in terms of mechanical complexity, it’s only rivaled by the Yacht-Master II) and when it was introduced in 2012, it was only available in precious metals. At the same time, it’s clearly intended to be an extremely practical watch – durable, easy to use, and easy to live with, even under the stress of navigating the world’s increasingly unfriendly skies. However, in 2017, cheap Rolex introduced two Rolesor versions of the replica Rolex Sky-Dweller In Stainless Steel watches (Rolesor is the company’s term for its mixtures of steel with white or yellow gold) which immediately made this most practical of complicated watches, instantly more accessible. In Everose and on a strap, the Sky-Dweller is a $39,550 watch, and in white gold on a white gold bracelet it’s $48,850, which obviously makes precious metal versions of the Sky-Dweller as much statement pieces as anything else. (Jay-Z has been frequently spotted wearing a yellow gold best replica rolex watches, for example.) Though we’ve done A Week On The Wrist with a Sky-Dweller before, that was an Everose model on a strap and with the newer, less overtly luxurious models out, we thought this would be a good time to revisit the Sky-Dweller. The new version in steel, with a white gold bezel, is now the most affordable model, at less than half the price of the precious metal versions, and that’s the one we chose for our latest A Week On The Wrist.
The Sky-Dweller is a combination of two complications: a dual-time zone, or GMT complication, and an annual calendar. The former is easy to understand: the watch displays the time in cheap rolex watches two time zones simultaneously, and has an hour hand that can be independently set, forwards or backwards, in one-hour jumps. The latter is a feature of “true” GMT watches, as is the fact that the hour hand is set from the crown and can be re-set to a new timezone without stopping the entire watch. There are simpler dual time zone watches, which have a 24 hour hand that can be independently set, but to use them as a traveler’s watch – that is, to display local time with the hour and minute hands, and home time with the 24 hour hand – generally requires quite a bit more fiddling with the crown and also involves stopping the watch while re-setting the hour and minute hands, thus requiring the user to also re-set to a time standard.
The annual calendar is the second complication found in the Sky-Dweller, and is also relatively straightforward. The Gregorian calendar has days of varying length – some months have 31 days, and others have only 30. Most notably, February is the oddest man out, and depending on whether or not it’s a Leap Year, can be either 28 or 29 days in length (29 in a Leap Year). A perpetual calendar watch automatically jumps to the first on the correct day at the end of the month, no matter the month (so, for instance, on February 28th in a non-Leap Year, and on February 29th in a Leap Year, the date will, at midnight, advance to March 1st). Thus, a perpetual calendar never needs to have the date adjusted manually. An annual calendar, on the other hand, “knows” (so to speak) if it’s a 30 or 31 day month but it does not know to jump to March 1 on February 28th or 29th. Thus, an annual calendar needs to have the date manually re-set once a year. Of course, a standard calendar watch has to have the date advanced manually five times a year – once for each 30 day month, and once at the end of February.
The annual calendar has some significant advantages over the perpetual, although some of these have been eroded in the last couple of decades by advances in perpetual calendar design. Relative to perpetual calendars, annual calendars have been generally mechanically less complex, as well as less apt to be damaged by mishandling on the part of their owners. Interestingly enough, the annual calendar is a quite recent innovation in wristwatches – it wasn’t until 1996 that the first patent for an annual calendar was granted, to Patek Philippe, who launched the complication in the reference 5035. Ironically, Patek’s original design was actually relatively complex but just as with the perpetual calendar, the last couple of decades have led to increasingly reduced parts counts, and buy Rolex annual calendar mechanism required the addition of only four wheels to the existing fake Rolex date mechanism.