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Introduction to Rolex Cellini

Named after Renaissance artist, Benvenuto Cellini, the Rolex Cellini range has been home to the brand’s non-Oyster dress watches since the late-1960s. While Rolex Oyster watches are all tied to the same basic case structure to ensure water-resistance, Cellini watches are much more diverse in design. From slim round cases to unconventional watch shapes, quartz calibers to mechanical movements, pre-owned Rolex Cellini watches for men and women come in a wide assortment of styles but are always crafted in precious metals. 

President Barack Obama wears a white gold Rolex Cellini Time, which is even included in his portrait painted by Kehinde Wiley in 2018 for the National Portrait Gallery. 

Rolex Cellini Model History 

Rolex introduced the Cellini collection in 1968 as a lineup of slim gold dress watches. These manual-winding timepieces stood in stark contrast to the automatic Rolex Oyster watches of the era like the sporty Submariner and GMT-Master or robust Datejust and Day-Date

Along with the classic round watches, Rolex expanded the Cellini collection over decades with a bevy of creative case shapes. Notable models include:

• The 1970’s Cellini Midas watches with asymmetrical cases

• The 1980’s Cellini ref. 4350 with eight-sided bezels and integrated bracelets

• The 1990’s Cellini Danaos with cushion-shaped cases

• The 2000’s Cellini Prince with Art Deco style cases

Other Cellini case shapes include oval, rectangular, hexagonal, octagonal and tonneau (barrel).

Depending on the model, Rolex used manual-winding, automatic and quartz movements to power Cellini watches. However, regardless of the variations, Cellini watches are exclusively made in precious metals and their dials almost always include “Rolex Geneve Cellini.”

2014 marked a major design shift for the Rolex Cellini collection. Instead of various case shapes and sizes, Rolex standardized the new Cellini watches with one case design across all models. However, consistent cases aside, Rolex essentially diversified the revamped Cellini line by offering models with additional functions. The first three models were the Cellini Time, the Cellini Date and the Cellini Dual Time. The Cellini Moonphase followed in 2017. 

Rolex Cellini Timeline

  • 1968 – Rolex introduces Cellini collection of dress watches
  • 1970s – Cellini Midas
  • 1980s – Cellini Octagon
  • 1990s – Cellini Danaos
  • 1990s – Ladies’ Cellini Cellissima
  • 2000s – Cellini Cellinium in platinum
  • 2005 – Cellini Prince
  • 2014 – Revamped Rolex Cellini collection
  • 2014 – Cellini Time, Cellini Date, Cellini Dual Time
  • 2017 – Cellini Moonphase 

Cellini Design and Maintenance

Despite the incredible design variety of Rolex Cellini for sale in the secondary market, most vintage and discontinued models share the following design traits: 

  • Precious metal cases in gold or platinum
  • Time-only functionality 
  • Dials marked with Rolex Geneve and Cellini
  • Leather straps or precious metal bracelets

Rolex Cellini watches for women frequently have diamond embellishments, intricately designed gold bracelets and quartz movements. 

Due to recent standardization across all models, current Rolex Cellini watches share even more design features: 

  • Round 39mm cases in 18k white or Everose gold
  • Double bezels with smooth and fluted surfaces
  • Flared screw-down winding crowns
  • Dials with applied 18k gold hour markers 
  • Dials marked with Rolex Geneve and Cellini
  • Leather straps with 18k white or Everose gold
  • Automatic movements with -2/+2 seconds per day accuracy rating and 48 hours power reserve
  • 50-meter water-resistance

Unlike older Cellini watches that only had a time display, the new Cellini collection offers four models with different functions: 

  • Cellini Time – time only
  • Cellini Date – time and date
  • Cellini Dual Time – two time zones, second time zone includes day/night indicator
  • Cellini Moonphase – time, date and moon phase indication

It’s important to remember that Cellini watches are not built to be as robust or water-resistant as Rolex Oyster watches. These are dress timepieces that are better suited for occasions that are not too active. Also, you should understand what type of movement a particular Cellini watch runs on. A manual-winding one will require you to wind it up almost every day and a quartz one will need a battery change every few years. An automatic Cellini will keep running as long as it’s on the wrist but will eventually run out of power reserve if left unworn. 

Rolex Cellini Price and Collectability 

It’s no secret that Rolex Cellini watches are not as famous as Rolex Oyster watches. Therefore, pre-owned Rolex Cellini watches from older and discontinued collections are relatively affordable in the secondary market. For example, vintage Rolex Cellini gold models with small and slim cases, manual movements and leather straps are often priced under $3,000. Editions with full gold bracelets are priced higher, typically starting at around $7,000. 

As expected, newer Cellini watches made from 2014 onwards are valued higher, with retail prices as follows: 

  • Cellini Time – $15,200 
  • Cellini Date - $17,900 
  • Cellini Dual Time - $19,400 
  • Cellini Moonphase - $26,750 

Pre-owned versions of the new Rolex Cellini models are usually discounted anywhere from 20% to 30% in the secondary market. 

Watchmaker’s Perspective

In 2017, Rolex introduced the Cellini Moonphase, a first for the brand since the 1950s. In the 1950s, Rolex manufactured a number of watches with moon phase complications, which now command astronomical prices at auctions. A moon phase complication displays the current phase of the moon by using a disc with a full and new moon on opposite sides. 

From a watchmaking perspective, the challenge in constructing a moon phase complication is in accuracy over time. The most common implementation of the moon phase mechanism uses a disc with 59 teeth, which will need a correction by the owner every two and a half years. This is because the length of the phase of the moon is 29.53 days (and even that number is rounded). 

An informal competition exists between watch brands in an effort to make the most accurate moon phase complication. Rolex is certainly driving innovation with their Cellini Moonphase, which is accurate to a mind-boggling 122 years. That means that the owner should only need to set the moon phase once during their lifetime. As long as the watch continues to run, the phase of the moon being displayed will be accurate.