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3 of Rolex’s UGLIEST Creations

Article By: Logan Hannen

Oct 03, 2018

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to dive into three of Rolex’s least attractive watches!

So some quick criteria – we’re only going to look at pieces that have come out of the Rolex factory with a face only a mother could love, so that means no heinous iced out versions that weren’t bought that way new. We will, however, consider one-off pieces, so long as Rolex designed and produced them in the final form we’ve come to know. Also, fair warning: this is going to read like a rant. Maybe we should call this one “RANT101” instead? Either way, the goal is to demonstrate that Rolex, for all the praise they get, don’t always get it right, and sometimes do so in such a way that it makes me physically upset. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

1: The Rolex Leopard Daytona

Rolex ref. 116598-SE “Leopard” or “Tiger Lily” Daytona
Source: Essential Watches

Produced in 2004 and made of yellow gold, featuring a strap and dial of leopard print, the thing should theoretically be gaudy enough already. Add to it the stones in the bezel and on the end-links, and the result is a blingy, over the top mess that, to be quite honest, is impossible to top. Even though we’re not doing specific rank order here, this one will always get the number one spot regardless. Beyond the bling and patterning, it’s your standard 2004 Daytona in gold, complete with what is assumed to be a Rolex Caliber 4130 under the hood given the manufacture year. I’m not entirely sure who this piece was designed for, to be entirely honest, but it has gone on to become something of a legendary watch, for better or worse, in the Rolex catalog.

2: The ENTIRE Pearlmaster Line

Rolex Pearlmaster ref. 81318
Source: Rolex

I’m just gonna come out and say it – I have not seen a single entry in this line that, to me, justifies it even existing over the Oyster Perpetual and Datejust lines. If you listen to Rolex, it’s meant to be their experiment in the world of “jewelry watches” which implies a certain degree of focus shifted onto design and away from function. It’s to be expected, and I can’t knock them for that alone. That being said, it also seems to be one of the brand’s largest model lines in terms of sheer numbers of references and specific variations (204, to be exact). The Pearlmaster line is marketed as a ladies line specifically which makes sense given the 34mm case size that most models sport, in addition to the gems, jewels, and other flourishes that Rolex employs here. The ugliness, though, comes from two things for me (and you may disagree, in which case I’m slightly jealous, because I want to like these two things). The first is that damn bracelet. I know, Captain America is telling me to watch my language but I mean come on, to me that bracelet looks like Rolex saw the bracelet on the Seamaster Professional, went “we can do it better,” and then proceeded to just not. I want to like it on the grounds of being different from the big three bracelets (the Oyster, the Jubilee, and the President), but it just doesn’t stick it’s own landing for me. The second is the overt attempts of the line to be “feminine” without actually preserving the elegance that the Rolex dress family is known for, as seen in the various models with flowers emblazoned on the dials. I know this model line isn’t meant to appeal to my sensibilities, but I’m still a total mess over why anyone would choose a Pearlmaster over a Datejust or an Oyster Perpetual.

3: The Datejust Ref. 126231-0025

Datejust ref. 126231-0025
Source: Tourneau

Okay, this particular Datejust drives me a bit nuts, and I’m imagining you can see why…”see” was your clue there. That dial, which Rolex themselves call a “discrete Jubilee motif” (seriously, guys – discrete?!), is such a colossal hindrance on the ability of anyone with less than 20/20 vision to read the time that it starts to feel like it belongs more in the Pearlmaster line. Is the dial color beautiful? Of course it is, though I think it more resembles coffee in color than the brand’s “chocolate” nomenclature for it, but that’s a nitpick. The real issue here is the bombast of the whole thing – if you can’t quite tell from the picture, it is quite literally printed with the Rolex name over…and over…and over…to the point where it sort of consumes the watch. To be perfectly honest, it kind of resembles the sort of tacky patterning you might expect on something like a Michael Kors bag, or that pattern that Louis Vuitton does with their logo on some of their products, but on a dial it simply doesn’t work. I’m sure that someone reading this loves the thing and, if you do, then I say more power to you, but it definitely is not for me.

Now I’m pouring a drink because that one took a lot out of me (seriously…LEOPARD PRINT?!). As I’m sure you know by now, as always, keep it classy, watchfam!