While a sleek, dressy watch is the easy solution to the Met Gala red carpet, many attendees have been running in the opposite direction over the past few years. In this brave new world of watches, the sport watch has gone from everyday beater to a natural on the red carpet. Federer has long gravitated toward this category of watches, wearing GMTs and Daytonas during his playing days. However, it’s funny to look back at his visit to the Rolex booth during Watches & Wonders as a chance for him to scout the final detail for his Met Gala tux (notice the first watch he featured on Instagram, after the requisite selfie, was the 1908!). Rolex couldn’t have asked for a better coming-out party for its new watch.
Signs of Rolex history’s are all over the 1908. The name is a reference to the year that brand founder Hans Waldorf trademarked ‘Rolex.’ The watch takes direct inspiration from a piece from 1931. The brand chose that specific ticker because it was the first with a “perpetual” rotor, the small weight on a watch’s movement that spins throughout the day and winds a watch automatically. The Arabic numerals at 12, 3, and 9 o’clock are inspired directly by this almost century-old watch.
The 1908 is landing in Rolex’s catalog right on time. After years of sport watch dominance, dress pieces are starting to push back. “The popularity of traditional dress models, particularly in precious metal, has been increasing exponentially over the last few years,” says David Hurley, the deputy CEO of Watches of Switzerland, which sells new Rolex watches. Even the Cellini, Hurley said, was experiencing some strong upward momentum before Rolex gave it the ax. Starting around January 2021, Hurley says Watches of Switzerland was putting customers on waitlists to get the Cellini and there were none even around to take a peek at inside stores.
The 1908 is already off to a strong start, according to Hurley. Many clients have expressed interest in purchasing the watch or at least coming to see it in person. “For Rolex to release an entirely new model, just because of who they are, and the quality of their timepieces and their popularity, that’s going to create a major ripple,” Hurley says. Notably, many female clients have asked after the 1908, an auspicious sign in the push toward our brave new genderless watch world.
The Met Gala red carpet is typically where the loudest fashion statements of the entire year are made. There’s nowhere else to find Sebastian Stan in head-to-toe Valentino hot pink or Rihanna as the world’s most fashionable omelet. But when it comes to what’s on attendees’ wrists, there are few bigger unveils than Federer’s understated white-gold 1908