That being said, the Rolex dress universe remains an untapped reserve of variation and rarity, real rarity. Just as Cam outlined in his review of fabric dials, one of the most exciting aspects of collecting can be defining traits, such as dial material, setting apart one watch from all the rest Rolex manufactured. This is especially highlighted in our collecting community that is beginning to tire from seeing the same models over and over.
Among the most rare and valuable dress Rolex ever produced are those with dials of stone or wood. Let’s dig into a selection of these ‘organic’ dialed Datejusts and Day-Dates.
Starting with the most often seen of the bunch, probably the only I would classify as relatively common, but certainly the sleekest, the onyx dial. Seen in both Datejust and Day-Date executions and almost always without hour markers, these offer a strikingly minimalist look that pops off the wrist thanks in large part to the stark difference between the onyx stone’s deep black hue and the well-paired 18k yellow gold case.
While recognizing the divisiveness here, I personally love the Onyx collection as they offer one of the best high-low vintage Rolex looks. In the same way that wearing a vintage Submariner with a more formal suit provides just the right juxtaposition to complete a look; a yellow gold Onyx dial on bracelet looks best, in my eyes, with jeans, a hoodie, and a pair of black loafers.
Staying in the relatively common range, next up we have the Burlwood dials. Sticking out here is the variety as each example shows its own unique grain and small knotting. While the advertisement below seems to suggest dials were made with few different wood materials in the 70s and 80s, all I have come across are labeled as burlwood. The same reference 18038 burlwood dial Day-Date can be many varying shades of brown on top of having a unique grain—just as the two examples Craft & Tailored has offered.
From a design perspective, most burlwood dials do have hour and minute markers which I actually enjoy. Beyond the obvious increase in legibility, these dials are often very busy and chaotic, the inclusion of markers offers some very much needed structure to the design.
Cam talks about an exquisite and equally as rare white gold Rolex Day-Date Ref. 18239 with a Lapis gem-set dial. Cam talks about the story and history of the “Stone Dial” Rolex references while providing a review of this stunning example!
Produced throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the hard stone dials are some of the most eye-catching and, as stated, rare Rolex watches ever produced. While we’ve only detailed a couple here, there is a whole litany of different stone dials that Rolex produced over the years – some of them in incredibly limited numbers. Phillips put together a pretty great collection of dials in the 2015 “Glamorous Day-Date” auction with a number of rare materials including Black Opel, Bloodstone, and Pink Coral.
While stone dial watches may not be ideally suited for everyday wear, and they may not fit everyone’s collection preferences, they do contain a number of Rolex’s rarest varieties and most unique pieces. There’s definitely something to be said for a conversation piece watch with a unique and eye-catching dial.
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