Hands-On With The Surprisingly Elegant Rolex Perpetual 1908

A couple of days before the start of Watches and Wonders 2023, we knew that something elegant was cooking at Rolex. Indeed, the brand’s website wasn’t displaying anymore watches from the Cellini collection, a range introduced in 2014 and representing the dressy side of the Crown. Well, the replacement is here, and it takes the shape of a new collection named Perpetual – a name inspired by one of the first Rolex watches fitted with the Perpetual rotor, and in hom­age to the year Hans Wilsdorf devised the name ‘Rolex’ to sign his creations and registered the brand in Switzerland (Rolex is finally admitting that the past can be relevant…) Let’s have a first look at this new, and surprisingly handsome Rolex Perpetual 1908, the first model of a collection that will surely grow over the years. 

Even though Rolex doesn’t really want to talk about it, the new Perpetual collection is there to replace the Cellini range, which has been entirely discontinued right before the Geneva watch fair, including the appealing Cellini Moonphase 50535 – a watch that I’ve always considered to be a hidden gem in the brand’s portfolio. However, if you put the new name aside, the Perpetual collection is certainly the direct descendant, if not a relatively soft evolution of the Cellini. All the design traits of the previous range have been kept, however, some notable changes are to be seen on the other side of the case.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

Elegant, understated yet typical Rolex, the Perpetual 1908 has an unmistakable vintage and classic flair that is directly inspired by antique models of the brand. You can see some references to mid-1926 Oyster watches – for instance the kind of early Rolex Oyster watch that has been worn by Mercedes Gleitze when swimming across the Channel – or early Datejust from the mid-1940s. It’s also a watch with contemporary features and sharp edges. Fine and nicely chiselled fluting can be found all around, in a discreet yet signature Rolex style. So yes, it is close to a Cellini, it feels undeniably Rolex but it has a level of refinement that the Cellini didn’t entirely manage to meet.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

This Rolex Perpetual 1908 is a straightforward dress watch. Time-only, compact, no complications, no unnecessary decorum. Straight to the point of elegance. For this article, we’ve decided to take a look at the yellow gold version with matte white dial reference 52508, which felt to me the most appealing. The matte black dial also has charm, but the warm colour of gold with this soft white dial is as elegant as you can get. The case of the Perpetual 1908 is compact, at 39mm, with short lugs, and mostly a thin profile of 9.50mm. Not ultra-thin watchmaking, but slender enough to fit under a cuff and to enter the dress watch category.

The case plays on contrasts between the soft polished surfaces of the middle case and lugs, and the sharp, reflecting finely fluted accents on the bezel, the caseback and the crown. A simple recipe that is also used by Patek Philippe with the Calatrava collection, yet with a Clous de Paris pattern instead of a fluted texture. That being said, I can’t deny a certain resemblance between the 1908 and the Calatrava Clous de Paris 6119 (not the worst of references…) The case is water-resistant to 50m (enough, not spectacular) with a domed sapphire crystal on top, and also one on the caseback (Rolex finally shows its movements!)

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

The Perpetual 1908 is a nice watch on the wrist. Balanced, elegant, and discreet with enough luxury, it wears like a charm. It is fitted with an alligator leather strap, closed by a new folding clasp named Dualclasp, explained by Rolex as “carefully designed (…) the Dualclasp always sits centred on the wrist.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

The dial of the Perpetual 1908 is where we can see most of the evolution between this new collection and the Cellini range. No more rayon flammé de la gloire pattern (a rather pronounced sunray-style embossed pattern). The dials, either white or black, are matte with a fine satin finish and black printed railroad tracks for the minutes and seconds. Classic, legible, and efficient. Rolex also decided to give its first model a small-second display, and original hands and markers. Applied numerals are found at 12, 3 and 9 o’clock, and the hour hand has an opened circle before the tip – both are evocations of the sports watch collection, but treated with refinement.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

The big news comes from the back, and that unprecedented movement is now visible. Named calibre 7140, this new engine is a quite impressive combination of past, present and future. Classic in its architecture, with a central rotor, a thin profile, visible ratchet wheel and barrel, it also brings to the table all of the brand’s technologies. This automatic movement is wound by a solid 18k perpetual rotor mounted on a ball bearing, and it incorporates the patented Chronergy escapement made of anti-magnetic nickel­-phosphorus, the Syloxi hairspring, produced by Rolex from silicon with a patented geometry, and a balance wheel with variable inertia and gold Microstella nuts.

Rolex Perpetual 1908 reference 52508 Yellow Gold Review

All of that is protected by a transversing bridge with Paraflex shock absorbers. Beating at 28,800 vibrations/hour, the movement stores a comfortable 66-hour power reserve. And since it is visible under a sapphire caseback, Rolex has made a special effort on the decoration, with the new Rolex Côtes de Genève – a decoration that differs from traditional Côtes de Genève for the slight polished groove between each band – and diamond-cut chamfers on the bridges.

Availability & Price

The Rolex Perpetual 1908 is now available from retailers and is part of the permanent collection. The model presented here (reference 52508) is priced at EUR 21,850. For more details, please consult rolex.com.


Related Posts