Though it’s been an integral part of Rolex’s collection since the early 20th century, the Cellini remains a little-known gem. This quintessential dress watch, designed by a brand best known for its sporty and ‘tool’ watches, is often ignored even by enthusiasts. But with its clear, uncomplicated and elegant appearance, we would argue the Rolex Cellini warrants closer attention.
While the names of other Rolexes such as the Submariner or the Explorer indicate their suitability for physical pursuits, the Rolex Cellini, a pure dress watch, was instead named for Benvenuto Cellini, a prominent artist and adventurer during the Italian Renaissance. A man of many talents, Cellini served as goldsmith and sculptor to popes and royalty, so it’s apt that the watch which bears his name has found significant popularity in the arts world—one notable Rolex Cellini wearer is Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (and conductor for the opening titles of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens).
The Rolex Cellini is thought to be the first ever watch produced in large quantities to be awarded chronometric certification. Tasteful and discreet, the aesthetics of the Cellini watch align with the legendary Golden Ratio, which was also featured prominently in the works of Michelangelo, one of Benvenuto Cellini’s contemporaries and a fellow Renaissance Man. A 32mm, slimline case houses hand-wound mechanical movements, and with an insistence on clarity, the face usually displays simply the time and no date—most Cellinis don’t even feature a second hand. Positioned in the market as the Rolex ‘Tuxedo watch,’ the Cellini probably wouldn’t be a good fit for James Bond, as it’s not certified waterproof, though anecdotal evidence suggests you might get away with it up to 30m (but don’t hold us to that).
At Baselworld in 2014, Rolex introduced a new range of three Cellini models, bringing a classic watch firmly up to date while maintaining its elegant and refined appeal. The new Cellini is housed in a larger, 39mm case made of either 18 carat white gold or Everose gold, cast in the Rolex foundry, and incorporating the brand’s precise Caliber 3132 movement.
Below, we discuss a few key models in the range, as well as some guidelines for the price of the Rolex Cellini.
Rolex Cellini Danaos
Named after an obscure term for ‘Greek,’ the jazzy Danaos is something of a departure from the usually sober Cellini style, though it’s still unmistakably a dress watch. A hand-wound movement is set within a white gold case, with a comfortable alligator leather strap. The Danaos was phased out a few years ago but still causes excitement in the pre-owned market, ensuring this is a reliable contender as an investment piece.
Rolex Cellini Prince
The Rolex Cellini Prince is probably the best-known in the range—the earliest models tending to fetch high prices in the preowned market. It’s one of only two Cellinis to feature a second hand, while classic details such as its avant-garde rectangular shape and manually wound mechanical movement make it a favorite among enthusiasts. There are several versions available, featuring precious metals and a variety of motifs on the dial.
Rolex Cellini Classic
The Rolex Cellini Classic is a versatile piece, as appropriate for a board meeting as it is an evening at the opera (you know, if that’s your thing). Typically unshowy, it keeps the aesthetics to a bare minimum, maintaining an understated elegance and sophistication. A scratch-resistant sapphire crystal contains a manually-wound movement and rests on an alligator leather strap, usually black or brown, with a gold buckle. The Cellini Classic is a true style icon, and you can have confidence it will hold its value well.
Though often overlooked, the Cellini has a habit of leaving a strong impression on any wearer that makes it difficult to forget.
With the relaunch, Rolex has indicated that it feels the Cellini’s time has now come, and the collection is beginning to make more of a name for itself, meaning now is a good moment to secure a reliable investment piece as well as a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. The Cellini’s no-frills approach to design ensures that it can easily ride changing fashion trends, so you can be sure that this watch will feel as fresh twenty years down the line as it does right now.
As ever with preowned watches, ownership of the box and papers can affect the value. All Rolex Cellini prices assume the watch has seen moderate wear, and is in very good to excellent condition.