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Live From Basel - Rolex's New 2012 Sky Dweller

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Published on Mar 7, 2012

Rolex continues its tradition of pragmatic, intuitive complications with the incredible new Sky Dweller, which features a second time zone display as well as a fantastic new annual calendar. Home time is read off the 24-hour disc located on the dial. Local time is read using the centrally mounted hands. The date is read off the familiar date aperture at 3 o'clock. But where things get really interesting is the way in which the month is subtly but legibly displayed. Between the ring of 12 hour indices and the periphery of the dial is an outer ring of 12 small rectangular apertures representing the months, in line with each hour index. These boxes all remain empty except the one aperture representing the current month, which is filled with a contrast color indicator. The aperture beside the index for 1 o'clock therefore indicates the month of January while the window beside the 11 o'clock index represents November and so forth.
While we've seen displays similar to this that use the hour indices to number off the month indications — such as in Moser Perpetual Calendar watch designed by Andreas Strehler — the placement of the month aperture directly beside the 12 hour indices creates an even higher level of legibility as opposed to the centrally mounted hand found in the Moser watch.
But the real genius of the Sky Dweller becomes apparent when you realize the amazingly intuitive way the various indications are adjusted. By unscrewing the crown and pulling it out, you release the Command Bezel first seen in the brand's Yacht Master II. This is how you set the Sky Dweller:
1: Home time is set by turning the Command Bezel to Position 3. From the neutral position you rotate it counter clockwise three distinct clicks. Then when you turn the crown, you will see that the 24-hour disc and the central hands are synchronized. You advance the disc until the correct time in 24-hour format appears on the disc for your home time.
2: Local time is set by turning the Command Bezel to Position 2. From Position 3 you turn the bezel 1 click clockwise. Now you will see that the central hour hand has been decoupled and you can advance it forward or backwards without affecting home time. When the Command Bezel is at Position 2, the hour hand jumps in hour increments (exact positioning between the hour indices is determined by the position of the minute hand).
3: To set the date, turn the Command Bezel on more click clockwise to Position 1. Here you can quickset the date and month. The genius of the Sky Dweller is that the date and month can be set both backwards or forwards at any time. Turn the date backwards while the month of December is displayed and you will see at midnight on the 30th of November — the aperture for 11 will be activated and the aperture next to 12 will go blank.
In summary, the watch world was literally full of wild speculation regarding what calendar complication Rolex would unveil this year. Some felt we would see a return to the Tri-Compax watches of yore, but in fact what Rolex has done is even more meaningful. They've beautifully integrated one of the world's most useful complications — the annual calendar, which automatically compensates for the shifting rhythms of the 30- and 31-day cycle of the months and needs to be adjusted only once every year at the end of February — in a way that is brilliantly subtle, highly legible and most of all completely intuitive and user friendly. The Sky Dweller is a testament to Rolex's ongoing advancement as the world's most innovative brand.

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