Every year, watch enthusiasts speculate about which watches brands will discontinue and which models receive an update. The Rolex universe, in particular, has become a hotbed of speculation. As a result, prices rapidly rise for references that people think will be discontinued. Obviously, these speculations don’t always prove correct. Last year, many gray market dealers were convinced that Rolex would announce the retirement of the famous yellow gold Rolex Daytona “John Mayer” with a green dial. As a result, there was a huge run on the model, leading to skyrocketing prices. Prices came down as soon as it was clear that the model would remain in production for at least another year. In 2022, the same thing is likely to happen with watches from popular brands. That aside, we already know that some of the biggest icons in the industry will be discontinued. So, let’s take a look at the year ahead and see if we can come up with our own predictions of which watches will stop rolling off the production lines.
1. Rolex Daytona “John Mayer” Ref. 116508
This was an easy first pick. Given the hype and astronomical speculation last year, can you even imagine what will happen in 2022? So, why are people speculating this model might be seeing the end of its run? The watch debuted at Baselworld 2016, along with its white gold counterpart with a blue dial, the Rolex Daytona ref. 116509. When these models first hit the market, getting your hands on one was relatively easy. It wasn’t until John Mayer mentioned the watch in Talking Watches with Hodinkee that people jumped. This year marks the sixth year that this particular model has been in the collection, which is not really that long for a Rolex, to be honest. Just to give you an idea, the Rolex Daytona “John Mayer” was introduced at the same time as the current-generation stainless steel Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN. While it seems unlikely that Rolex will update the entire Daytona collection, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Genevan brand surprised us. Of course, those speculating about the “John Mayer” references could be right – we will find out in the near future.
2. Rolex Air-King Ref. 116900
The second Rolex watch I would like to mention is the oddball Rolex Air-King ref. 116900. This watch also first saw the light of day at Baselworld 2016, and from the get-go, it has been a watch that splits opinions: You either love it or hate it. The main reason for this is its weird dial design that mixes elements from the Rolex Explorer and a pair of cockpit instruments that Rolex made in 2006 for the special Bloodhound SSC project. This engineering project aimed to develop a car that could reach a land speed of 1,000 mph, and the two special instruments served as the direct inspiration for the Rolex Air-King’s dial. Add the Rolex Milgauss case to the mix, and what you end up with is a weird combination of influences that some people love and others hate. So, why would this model be discontinued? When the Bloodhound SSC project ran into financial trouble in 2018, it was saved and rebranded Bloodhound LSR, but Rolex was no longer on board, and the instruments were removed from the vehicle. It’s now been almost four years, and, thus, high time for the brand to retire the weirdest of all Rolex models. Whether they would replace it with a new model remains to be seen, but it seems only a matter of time before the current Rolex Air-King will exit the catalog.
3. Rolex Milgauss 116400GV
Speaking of oddball Rolex models, the Milgauss is another quirky Rolex watch that is not on everyone’s list of favorite models. I personally love the Rolex Milgauss because it is weird for a reason. Since the premiere of the very first Milgauss (ref. 6543) in 1954, this model has been part of the Rolex catalog. The brand presented it as a watch for scientists who work in environments with strong magnetism and need a professional watch that could withstand those forces. The current Milgauss generation has been in production since 2007, and it perfectly represents its somewhat strange functionality with all the iconic Rolex design characteristics. The 40-mm stainless steel watch is defined by its two-part inner case manufactured from two ferromagnetic metals, which surrounds and protects the movement from magnetic fields. You can choose from a version with a black dial or Z-blue dial. Both feature a green sapphire crystal and the iconic orange lightning bolt second hand. It is iconic and quirky for all the right reasons, but seeing as it has been part of the Rolex collection since 2007, I would not be surprised to see an updated version of the Rolex Milgauss in 2022.
4. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin Ref. 15202
Let’s move on from Rolex to Audemars Piguet. In 2022, the brand will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its biggest icon: the Royal Oak. Created by legendary watch designer Gérald Genta and introduced in 1972 to save the struggling company, the Royal Oak has become one of the world’s most iconic timepieces. In the last fifty years, Audemars Piguet has only created four references of the Royal Oak “Jumbo.” It all began with the ref. 5402, which was in production from 1972 to 1990. The second reference was the 20th anniversary “Jubilee” ref. 14820 from 1992, and the third was the very hard-to-find ref. 15002, which the brand only manufactured for two years before replacing it with the ref. 15202 around the turn of the millennium. The 15202 has been part of the collection ever since, but it’s time for something new. Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias hinted at a replacement for the ref. 15202 in an interview in early 2021. He alluded to the possibility of a new Royal Oak “Jumbo” in precious metal for the upcoming anniversary. It will be interesting to see what the brand will come up with to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their biggest icon. Hopefully, a new stainless-steel model will be part of the celebrations; after all, that’s how Genta originally designed his Royal Oak.
5. Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A
The last watch on this list is another of Genta’s icons. The Patek Philippe Nautilus is the second of the three icons Gérald Genta designed in the 1970s, the third being the brilliant IWC Ingenieur. While IWC tried to create a modern version of Genta’s Ingenieur, the brand never really succeeded. However, we know for sure that at least one of Genta’s icons will be discontinued. Patek Philippe’s president, Thierry Stern, revealed in early 2021 that the green-dialed Nautilus in stainless steel, the ref. 5711/1A, would be the last model with that reference number and that it would only be in production for 12 months. The announcement shocked watch enthusiasts all over the world. Would this be the end of the iconic steel Nautilus – the direct descendent of Genta’s creation? In an interview, Stern hinted at another bombshell release for the history books. It turns out he was referring to a special Tiffany & Co. version of the ref. 5711/1A. The watch features a stunning Tiffany-blue dial and will be available for 170 lucky customers to celebrate 170 years of partnership between the two brands. After that, the ref. 5711/1A will probably be finished. It will be interesting to see whether the two remaining iconic models of Genta’s trilogy will return in stainless steel in 2022 or if it will be the end of another (or even the entire) trilogy. I certainly hope not because this trio of watches has defined the watch industry for the last five decades.
We will have to wait and see what happens with the watches on this list. Most likely, we will get our answers at Watches & Wonders 2022, which is due to take place in spring 2022. Well, that leaves me nothing else to say but happy hunting!