Blog – Beckertime, LLC Pre-Loved Rolex & Luxury Timepieces Sat, 20 Jul 2019 15:34:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Rolex Water Resistance Thu, 18 Jul 2019 17:19:52 +0000 Although much of the Rolex name has been built on their relationship with the world’s ocean’s and those who explore them, water remains one of the biggest enemies of mechanical watches. Since their invention of the Oyster case in 1926, a milestone that did more than anything else to bring wristwatches into the modern era, […]

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Although much of the Rolex name has been built on their relationship with the world’s ocean’s and those who explore them, water remains one of the biggest enemies of mechanical watches.

Since their invention of the Oyster case in 1926, a milestone that did more than anything else to bring wristwatches into the modern era, Rolex timepieces have withstood the elements better than most. However, even horology’s most successful manufacturer has its limits, and the underwater environment is an incredibly testing proving ground.

Waterproof or Water Resistant?

Oyster Case Patent 1926

If you read up enough about watches, you will see the terms ‘waterproof’ and ‘water resistant’ used interchangeably—but they are, in fact, very different. The easy way to think about it is, there is no such thing as a 100% waterproof watch, not even from Rolex.

Waterproof suggests something that will stop water encroaching under any circumstances. While Rolex’s Oyster case watches, everything from the Datejust to the Deepsea, are among the best in the industry, forced to undergo some of the severest testing, they are still formed from a number of parts that have to fit together. Anywhere those components meet; the sapphire crystal over the dial, the case back, and especially the crown, is a potential weak spot where water can intrude if care isn’t taken.

It is for that reason the term ‘waterproof’ was outlawed by the FTC in the 1960s and replaced with the more accurate ‘water resistant’ when it came to watches.

Rolex Water Resistance

The water resistance of Rolex models really falls into three categories.


At the lowest end is the brand’s range of pure dress watches, the Cellini collection. Even though they are the only examples in the catalog without Oyster cases, they are still given a water resistance rating of 50m, helped along by their tapered, fluted crown which screws into the case. That means, technically, they can withstand the pressure of water pushing down on them at a depth of 50m.

Rolex Cellini 18K Yellow Gold 6229

Any Scuba enthusiast knows that is a long way down, below the depths most recreational divers will venture without advanced training. Does it mean, then, you can wear a Cellini on your next dive trip? No, it does not!

That 50m rating is given under static laboratory conditions, the watch slowly introduced to the increased pressure and doesn’t take into account the huge dynamic changes caused by movement underwater. The closest you should take a 50m-rated watch to a dive is when you’re rinsing off afterwards, and still then I probably wouldn’t risk it with a model costing well into five figures. Even snorkeling, where you would rarely descend below 10m, is out.


The next tier of water resistance in the Rolex portfolio are the non-dive Oyster pieces.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 77080

These, thanks to the case design which has barely altered from that 1920s original, ensure a resistance of 100m—and here’s where it gets a little more interesting.

ISO 6425, the International Organization for Standardization rating, states that a 100m water resistance is the minimum for dive watches. So, again, could you time your next underwater excursion with a Daytona or a Sky-Dweller? And again, no!

A true dive watch has to withstand a whole extra battery of tests before it can be called so. And while 100m is a formidable depth for any human to dive to (the maximum for a PADI Open Water Diver is a mere 18m) it is once more a case of the extra pressure added on by moving about underwater. Even on the surface, say if you were jet skiing, a 100m grade isn’t enough to fully safeguard your watch against the force of the water hitting it at great speed. Jumping into and swimming in a pool, even a bit of snorkeling, are all fine with a 100m watch. Scuba diving? No.

Dive Watches

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 ft

The last level at Rolex is, of course, the trio of dive watches. Here we have models that are rated to at least 300m. That’s for the legendary Submariner. The bigger brother, the Sea-Dweller, is safe down to 1220m. And should you want to go looking for something around two-and-a-half miles underwater, the behemoth that is the Deepsea will reportedly keep working at an utterly incredible 3,900m.

These, you will not be surprised to hear, are ok to use far beyond the bath tub and down to any depth anyone will realistically ever go.

What Affects Water Resistance?

My car, according to the manufacturers, will give a fuel economy of 50.4mpg. However, due to a combination of factors, i.e. its age, my driving style (which has been described as both ‘delinquent’ and ‘volatile’) and the fact I haven’t bothered to have it serviced since 2013, means that figure is now not even close to reality.

It is not all my own fault though. The carmaker will have tested its economy in the most favorable conditions they could in order to get that figure, all the better to entice me in.

Rolex Submariner Aftermarket Ref. 16610

A lot of those points are transferable when talking about watches and their water resistance. Yes, a brand new Day-Date, one that literally just rolled off the line with all its seals intact, had never been knocked and was then assessed under the precisely controlled environments of Rolex’s lab, will most certainly win its 100m certificate.

But in the real world, there are a host of things that can degrade that performance over time. A water resistant watch doesn’t just stay water resistant out of the goodness of its heart.

Firstly, age will reduce the effectiveness of gaskets and seals, and they don’t have to deteriorate by much to start allowing moisture inside. Subjecting your watch to extreme temperature variations; for example, wearing it in a sauna or hot tub, will have a similar effect—even a hot shower will take its toll eventually, and comes with the other issue of the increased pressure forcing water in.

Any significant blow can misalign one of the rubber seals, and it will likely be something you won’t know about until it’s too late.

Also, using a third-party component can cause problems. For example, fitting a non-Rolex diamond bezel; the minute tolerances needed to ensure a perfect fit are something only the brand itself can be reasonably expected to accomplish.

And perhaps the most common one, forgetting to screw the crown back in after winding or setting the watch. It is something we have all done at one point or another. Sometimes you notice it in time and get away with it, sometimes you learn an expensive lesson.

What To Do

We all know prevention is better (and in this case, cheaper) than the cure.

If you wear your watch in the sea, whether diving or just splashing around, it is vital you wash it with fresh water afterwards. Salt water is extremely corrosive and will eat away at the metal and/or rubber seals over time.

In addition, make sure you stick to Rolex’s recommended servicing schedule—perhaps the most straightforward way of ensuring your watch retains its optimum performance.

What Happens During a Service?

The good news is, every model made since 2015 gets a suggested 10-year gap between maintenance appointments. It is important to remember however, that applies to what the brand calls ‘real-life usage’. If your Rolex leads a par

ticularly hard life, it will be in your best interest to up the frequency at which it gets a professional onceover.

Each one also gets a warranty when sold brand new, including its water resistance, of five years from the date the timepiece was purchased brand new from the authorized Rolex dealer; one of the longest of any luxury manufacturer. The myth that Rolex guarantees its watch’s will remain impervious to water for life has been doing the rounds for a long time and is, I’m afraid, just plain wrong.

So what is the best way to protect the integrity of your Rolex? Well, committing to having your watch pressure checked at least once a year is something that will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Most service centers will have the facility to do this, and the price for the test and to replace any seals or gaskets that may have failed is not an expensive day out. And certainly not in comparison to the fees that can pile up if water does actually infiltrate the case of your beloved piece.

If the worst happens and moisture does get in, time is very much of the essence. Getting your watch to a service center as quickly as you can will make the difference between being charged for just a service and a few extra parts, and receiving an eye-watering bill for, at best, a replacement dial and at worst, a whole new movement. In the case of the latter, it can sometimes work out cheaper to buy a new watch entirely.


When all is said and done, Rolex watches are incredibly well made and extremely resilient. Water getting inside is far more often a result of a mistake by the owner than anything else.

The important things are to respect the limits built into your particular model by not pushing the watch beyond what it was designed to do, sticking to an annual pressure check and, more than anything, making sure you screw that crown back in!

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The Top 3 Things to Consider When Buying a Used Rolex Watch Wed, 17 Jul 2019 15:11:19 +0000 As time goes on, it seems like its getting harder and harder to buy a Rolex watch. If you’re in the market for a brand new example, a trip to your local Authorized Dealer can often be a dispiriting event, with the brand keeping supply of their most popular models incredibly low. It is one […]

The post The Top 3 Things to Consider When Buying a Used Rolex Watch appeared first on Beckertime, LLC.

As time goes on, it seems like its getting harder and harder to buy a Rolex watch.

If you’re in the market for a brand new example, a trip to your local Authorized Dealer can often be a dispiriting event, with the brand keeping supply of their most popular models incredibly low.

It is one of the factors that has led to such a massive upsurge in the pre owned market, which always has a far broader choice in stock and often at more competitive prices.

But it is by no means without its drawbacks. There are a huge number of things to take into consideration before you part with any money here too. From finding exactly the style of watch you want, to knowing the trip falls to look out for, to researching exactly where to make your purchase, it can all seem like an insurmountable amount of information to take in.

Below, we have listed some of the most important points to think about before you pull the trigger on your next used Rolex watch.

1. Model

If this is going to be your first acquisition from the brand and you have been doing some exploration of the various different models on offer, you will have seen just how extensive your options are.

Rolex is most well known for their tool watches, those pieces originally designed to serve a definite purpose beyond merely telling the time. So, something like the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller were made for divers, both recreational and professional, each with a formidable waterproofing. The GMT-Master was for long-haul airline pilots, and their passengers, to help fight off jetlag with its dual time function. The Daytona and its trio of sub counters was destined for a life on the motor racing track.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610

However, that was a long time ago. These days, and I’m going to offer a sweeping generalization here, no one uses any of these watches for their once intended reason. That means, just because the deepest underwater you’ve ever ventured was in the bath tub, you can wear a Submariner with pride. You can sport a Daytona and still drive like you have your granny in the backseat. The important thing is to get the watch that appeals to you on some level.

On top of that, these watches still have features that come in very handy in day to day life.

A dive watch, as well as being inherently extremely tough, has a rotating bezel which can be used to keep track of time in almost any situation. The same with a chronograph, the name for a mechanical stopwatch like the Daytona. I used mine to make sure I didn’t overcook my pasta last night.

Don’t worry about the labels attached to the tool watches, no one’s looking.

Of course, there are others in the portfolio outside that group. Models such as the Datejust and the Day-Date, although very much built to last, were intended first and foremost as dress watches. Their styling however, which has barely changed over the generations, lends itself to almost any setting. You can wear them with jeans and a t-shirt or with a business suit. In that way, they can be something to consider if you are not thinking of starting a whole collection, and are instead after that one good watch that will last forever and is versatile enough to go anywhere.

2. Budget

Another thing that becomes clear very quickly when you start looking at high end luxury watch collecting is that there is always a more expensive option.

It is not exclusive to Rolex by any means, but it is just a fact. The model you choose will also be available in a more precious metal, or with some kind of gemstone enhancement or there will be a version which is scarcer and so more highly regarded and sought after.

It is possible (incredibly easy in fact) to spend a lot of money on this new hobby. If you actually have a lot of money, then all to the good. If, on the other hand, your disposable income resides with the rest of us in the real world, then I cannot recommend highly enough working out your budget and then being disciplined enough to stick to it.

Letting your emotions get the better of you and overstretching your finances for your dream watch happens to the best of us (ahem!) But in my experience, you will enjoy your new purchase all the more if you haven’t also spent this month’s mortgage payment on it.

It is not always the simplest thing to do. Luxury watches are, after all, entirely about emotion. However, do at least try!

What Influences the Price?

There are a number of factors which will affect the price of any pre owned model.

We’ve already touched on one of the biggest ones—rarity. Obviously, the fewer examples of a particular watch there are in circulation, the more valuable they are. And when you are talking about one of the real icons of the vintage scene; Double Red Sea-Dwellers, Paul Newman Daytonas and the like, the sky really is the limit as far as cost is concerned.

Of course, it isn’t just the mythical pieces of yesteryear which are going for a huge premium these days. With Rolex’s draconian stance on regulating supply to their authorized network, certain brand new models are being snapped up by professional freelance dealers and are then sold on the preowned market for up to double their retail. The latest GMT-Master II, for example, in steel with either a red and blue (Pepsi) or blue and black (Batman) bezel are reaching incredible sums, with no shortage of customers. In fact, most of the steel sports watches are trading well above MSRP.

Rare Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 1024

That brings us to another strange anomaly with Rolex prices—metals. Many in the tool watch collection have been given gold and even platinum variants over the years which, you would be forgiven for thinking, would cost considerably more than the steel versions. And that is indeed true if you are buying new. But as we have seen, you just can’t buy a new steel sports watch from a Rolex store anymore. So we are at a stage now where something like a preowned Daytona in Rolesor, Rolex’s name for their half gold, half steel blend, costs significantly less than an all steel piece. Even in solid 18k gold, it is only marginally more expensive than in stainless steel. The price is very much dictated by the demand rather than the value of the materials involved.

And lastly, another cost-affecting factor which runs contrary to expectations; condition. For the newer pieces, looking box fresh is still very desirable. But for those hardcore collectors of important vintage models, elements such as a cracked ‘spider’ dial, a faded bezel or a touch of patina can actually add to the allure, giving each example a bit of backstory as well as making each one unique—with prices going north as a result.

3. Seller

We have put this section last, but in reality, it is actually the most important. Rolex is by far the most counterfeited watch brand on earth. Out in front in  the portfolio is the venerable Submariner, which reputedly has more fakes in circulation than the real thing.

The quality of some of these forgeries has now reached such a level that they are becoming indistinguishable from the genuine article. So if you are shopping for a preowned Rolex, how do you know if you are getting an authentic watch?

Well, in short, there is no easy way. Even the most experienced brand experts can’t tell with 100% certainty anymore from a picture on a website, and the industry is teeming with retailers who are less than trustworthy.

Your job is to hunt out those honest dealers who have the knowledge and expertise to stand by their stock and confirm its validity.

Pre-owned Online Store

The best places to start are sites that have specialize in buying, selling and educating buyers about timepieces. Like BeckerTime, there are several specifically tailored to Rolex and have a wealth of experience and love to educate potential buyers. This way buyers know all options available and know what they are buying and why.

Check to see how long they have been in business and if they are offering such things as warranties, certificates of authenticity and whether they have a money back guarantee in place. Beyond that, the best will have a Rolex trained master watchmaker to check each watch and offer after sales services.

This is definitely not something to rush into. Like I said, with the pre owned Rolex industry being a hugely profitable business, it is rife with the unscrupulous. But, if the internet is good for one thing, it is for sniffing out the bad actors and swindlers and you can be sure that if someone has had a negative experience with a dealer, that information will be available online somewhere. You really can’t do too much homework.

Last Word

Those are some of the most important considerations to take into account before buying a previously owned Rolex, but I would like to add one more. A lot is made of just how good an investment many of the brand’s watches make, and it is certainly true. Choose the right model at the right price, and somewhere down the road you could realistically stand to make some money.

However, we would never recommend buying any piece purely with that in mind.

The watch you buy should be the one that appeals to you, either for its  aesthetics, because it has a particular meaning or a story that resonates.

If you go in with that approach, you are far more likely to enjoy the whole experience than if you were only interested in the financials.

Most of all, have fun looking for your first, or next, used Rolex and don’t forget to check out our wide range of certified genuine models in stock now.

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The History of Popular Rolex Watches Mon, 15 Jul 2019 15:18:00 +0000 Everyone, whether they are among the vast legions of horological fanatics, through to those with zero interest in watches of any kind, everyone knows the name Rolex. For well over 100 hundred years, the legendary manufacturer has innovated and constantly redefined the concept of the wristwatch, bringing us pieces that have entered the public consciousness as […]

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Everyone, whether they are among the vast legions of horological fanatics, through to those with zero interest in watches of any kind, everyone knows the name Rolex.

For well over 100 hundred years, the legendary manufacturer has innovated and constantly redefined the concept of the wristwatch, bringing us pieces that have entered the public consciousness as the very best of their kind.

From deep underwater, to the glamor of supersonic travel to the thrills of the race track, there is a Rolex watch to match, and exceed, the highest expectations.

Visually, many have remained practically unchanged for decades, testament to the company’s ethos of crafting ageless designs and their culture of ‘getting it right the first time’.

Consistently voted the most trustworthy and reliable company in the world, no other luxury marque enjoys the reputation Rolex has, and their catalog of timepieces remain the emblem of accomplishment and achievement.

Today, they are so far ahead of the competition they have gone beyond being mere makers of watches and are now the ultimate lifestyle brand.

As far as most people are concerned, there is Rolex and then there is everyone else.

Where it all Began

Like most great success stories, Rolex had humble beginnings. Founded in London in 1905 by Bavarian entrepreneur Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis, the company initially assembled timepieces from components sourced from various fine Swiss watchmakers. These completed models they supplied to a number of jewelers to sell on under their own name.

But from the outset, Wilsdorf & Davis had their eye on transforming the image of a watch worn on the arm, which at that time was a strictly female accouterment.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 1931

As early as 1910 they successfully built the first chronometer certified wristwatch, proving they could be engineered to be as accurate as pocket watches—the only acceptable timepiece for men of the era.

But it was the company’s twin groundbreaking innovations of the 1920s and 1930s that would prove the decisive turning point.

First came the Oyster case, a water and dust proof housing that shielded the delicate internal mechanisms from harm. Then, just a few years later, they perfected the automatically winding movement, dubbed the Perpetual, bringing a level of convenience not seen before. Together, the Oyster Perpetual watches would go on to form the backbone of the brand’s output, endlessly tweaked and improved on to this day.

The Birth of a Classic

While the company, which registered as Rolex in 1908, experienced significant growth early on, propped up by their unrivaled ingenuity, it wouldn’t be until the final year of the Second World War before they brought out a truly world-beating creation.

Vintage Rolex Ref. 4467

1945 saw the introduction of the Datejust, the first automatically winding, waterproof watch to display a date function. Its classic lines and revolutionary functionality made it Rolex’s immediate flagship and Wilsdorf, an unalloyed marketing genius, made sure it was seen on the wrists of the age’s greatest statesmen. British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was gifted his own example, the 100,000thofficially certified chronometer the brand had produced, in 1948. A few years later, Dwight D. Eisenhower was given the 150,000th—also a Datejust, complete with its specially created Jubilee bracelet.

It was the watch that set Rolex along the path to their world dominating status, and opened the floodgates to a period of extraordinary inventiveness for the Swiss giants.

The 1950s

Many of the watches that today you can look at and immediately think ‘Rolex’ started life during a seven or eight year span of the 1950s.

Vintage Rolex Explorer from 1953

First was the Explorer in 1953, an elegantly simple three-handed no date piece inspired by the heroics of Hillary and Norgay as they scaled the world’s highest mountain.

Next came what is possibly their most famous creation and still the last word in luxury dive watches—the Submariner. Embracing the new sport of recreational Scuba diving, the handsome model with its rotating bezel (actually a carryover from the far lesser known Turn-O-Graph from the previous year) proved an instant hit, its notoriety not at all hurt by its association with a certain fictional super spy in the movie Dr. No.

Rolex Day-Date President Ref. 6611

1954 brought us the first in the enduring GMT-Master series, a dual time zone watch made in collaboration with Pan-Am as a way to help the airlines’ crews fight off the effects of jetlag. Its novel two-tone bezel, half blue, half red, acted as a quick night and day reference, as well as giving the piece an unmistakable identity all its own.

The Datejust lost its flagship crown in 1956 to the Day-Date, which added a day of the week window at the 12 o’clock, the first watch ever made to have it spelled out in full. Cast only in precious metals from the outset, it is still the most aspirational name in Rolex’s extensive catalog.

That same year also saw the launch of the Milgauss, a piece created for scientists working in environments with high electromagnetic fields. As even a small charge was enough to warp the fragile components of a mechanical watch’s caliber, the Milgauss was given a second internal case, an iron Faraday cage that shielded the movement.

The 1960s

By the start of the 1960s, Rolex was already making what were regarded as some of the best tool watches in the industry. Their roster had achieved a unity in design unlike those from any other brand, and the decade saw them continually update and improve the majority of their timepieces to keep them at the forefront.

Rolex Daytona Stainless Steel Ref. 6239

In 1963 they fixed the one glaring omission in their lineup, a chronograph. The Cosmograph Daytona took its name from the fabled raceway in Florida, where Sir Malcolm Campbell, one of Rolex’s first ever testimonees, had set a number of land speed records. But its manually winding caliber doomed it to poor sales from the get-go, something that wouldn’t be remedied for nearly a quarter of a century.

In 1966, the Submariner was given its first date window with the reference 1680, a controversial move that both pleased and angered fans in equal measure. Detractors felt a date function on a dive watch was irrelevant and disliked that the window, and particularly the Cyclops magnifying lens over it (a Rolex invention from 1953) ruined the symmetry of the dial.

Rolex Sea-Dweller Comex

Soon after, an altogether more grown up model was issued, destined for the perilous and demanding world of the professional saturation diver. The Sea-Dweller was made at the request of leading commercial outfit COMEX and debuted another brand innovation, the Helium Escape Valve. The HEV was fitted to the case to allow the tiny helium bubbles that built up inside the watch during prolonged missions at great depth to seep back out before they expanded during ascent, dislodging the crystal and damaging the movement. The Sea-Dweller too had a date window at the three o’clock but, with the watch rated safe down to some 2,000ft, it was unable to be fitted with the Cyclops, which would have never survived the enormous pressures. As such, it proved a popular alternative to the Submariner Date.

The 1970s

The 1970s marked some of the darkest days for the mechanical watch industry as the world fell in love with the precision and value for money of quartz. Rolex found their hand forced into engaging with the new technology as the crisis caused the bankruptcy of nearly three quarters of the traditional Swiss watchmaking houses around them.

Rolex Explorer II 1655

After a prototype model, the ref. 5100 powered by an ensemble built caliber, sold out in pre-order in 1970, Rolex retreated to their Geneva compound to build their own movement from scratch.

In 1977, they unveiled two quartz driven versions of their Datejust and Day-Date, known as the Oysterquartz models. Although orders of magnitude more accurate than any other caliber the brand had ever produced with gears and springs, they had very little interest in electronics and produced the bare minimum.

The decade also saw the launch of the Explorer II in 1971, a watch similar in function to the GMT-Master but with a fixed rather than rotating bezel. It was aimed at the world of cave diving and polar expeditions; anywhere in fact where constant darkness or never-ending sunlight left wearers with no reference as to whether it was day or night. Although a fine watch in itself, and given a popularity boost by its association with Steve McQueen (albeit a completely erroneous one) the Explorer II lagged well behind the pilot’s watch in sales.

The 1980s

As the 1980s began, Rolex admitted defeat to quartz as far as timekeeping and cost were concerned and welcomed instead a new era for the company. Rather than try to compete on a coldly technical basis, they traded on the artistry, heritage and luxury of their watches. More and more precious metal versions of one-time tool models appeared, joining the gold Submariners that had emerged at the end of the sixties.

The Rolex Zenith Daytona

In 1983, the GMT-Master was given a movement upgrade that allowed for the two hour hands to be set independently of each other for the first time. It was such a significant step, meaning the watch could now actually track three time zones at once, that it was issued as a separate model, called the GMT-Master II. It also debuted a new color scheme on its bezel; the red and black livery garnered it the nickname the Coke, and it sat along with the original blue and red Pepsi and the yellow and gold Root Beer of previous generations.

But the biggest development of the eighties was the long-awaited self-winding movement that made its way into the Daytona. Procured from fellow Swiss manufacturers Zenith, the El Primero was heavily reworked by Rolex’s technicians, becoming the Cal. 4030 in the process. Overnight, the so-called Zenith Daytonas transformed the fortunes of the brand’s only chronograph, from the eternal underdog to the most sought after watch in the world.

The 1990s to the Present Day

Since the 1990s, Rolex’s output has reflected more their shift in focus to making aspirational status symbols rather than hard-working and necessary tools for everyday use.

Rolex Yacht-Master Ref. 16628

In 1992, a more opulently appointed version of the Submariner was unveiled, called the Yacht-Master. Originally only available in 18k yellow gold, it also became the first of the sports watch range to be released in three sizes; 29mm, 35mm and 40mm, showcasing Rolex’s efforts to become more all-encompassing across the sexes.

The new millennium saw the Daytona receive an in-house caliber, the Cal. 4130, making the brand one of the very few watchmakers to create every one of their movements themselves.

From the second decade of the 21stcentury onwards, Rolex has changed tack again and begun issuing far more complicated watches than ever before.

It started in 2007 with the Yacht-Master II, sharing a similar name but little else with the previous nautically-themed piece. Inside the 44mm case, again, far larger than usual from Rolex, a highly complex caliber powered the world’s first ever programmable countdown with mechanical memory for the watch’s regatta timer.

Rolex Sky-Dweller White Gold 326139 Ivory Dial

The following year, they added another name to their range of dive models. Joining the timeless Submariner and actually replacing the Sea-Dweller (for a short time) the incredible Deepsea is rated waterproof to an extraordinary 12,800ft, thanks to some revolutionary engineering and cutting-edge metal alloys.

And the latest addition to the family, 2012 brought us Rolex’s most complicated creation yet, the Sky-Dweller. Equipped with an altogether different take on the GMT function, it also houses the first annual calendar the brand has ever made.

Throughout it all, the marque has led from the front when it comes to applying new technology to make their watches the best they can possibly be. They have pioneered new metal alloys, both in building cases and in their calibers, and have developed their own tests for resilience and accuracy, far beyond the standard used across the rest of the industry.

Various models have been retired over the years, with some, including the Air-King and Milgauss, making successful comebacks. But the one constant has always been the outright dedication to excellence which has kept Rolex head and shoulders above their competition, and it is a gap which only seems to increase as time goes on.

Rolex Watches Milestones

1905 Wilsdorf & Davis is formed in London, assembling watches from components sourced from different suppliers in Switzerland.
1910 Rolex produces the first ever chronometer-certified wristwatch
1920s and 1930s Rolex transforms the image of the wristwatch with the invention of the waterproof Oyster case and the self-winding Perpetual movement
1945 Rolex celebrates its 40thanniversary with the release of the Datejust, the world’s first automatic, waterproof wristwatch with a date function
1953 Rolex introduces the Explorer, made to commemorate the maiden ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay. The same year, the Submariner makes its debut, going on to become the most popular and recognizable dive watch in the world
1954 The first of the GMT-Master series is launched. Featuring a second hour hand and an engraved rotating bezel in a distinctive blue and red coloring, it is made to keep track of two time zones and help stave off some of the negative effects of jetlag
1956 The Day-Date, quickly nicknamed the President for its association with some of the most powerful figures of the day, is released. It takes over from the Datejust as the Rolex flagship and is the first watch to feature the day of the week spelled out in full.

The Milgauss is unveiled the same year, aimed at technicians and scientists, with a movement shielded from magnetic interference.

1963 The Cosmograph Daytona arrives, but its hand wound caliber, the Valjoux 72, condemns it to poor sales
1967 Working with highly specialized saturation diving firm COMEX, Rolex develop the Helium Escape Valve and fit it first to a standard Submariner. With that prototype a success, they build an all-new dive watch around it called the Sea-Dweller. With a thicker case and the HEV in place, it is able to withstand a depth of up to 2,000ft
1971 A second dual time zone model, the Explorer II, arrives. With a fixed bezel, it has a more limited functionality than the GMT-Master and remains somewhat overshadowed
1977 With the traditional watchmaking industry in major crisis, Rolex release their first and only quartz powered models, based on the Datejust and Day-Date. Although popular and extremely accurate, it is clear the company has very little interest in the technology
1983 The GMT-Master is modernized with a new type of movement that delinks the two hour hands, becoming the GMT-Master II. However, the original GMT-Masters continue to be made for a further 15 years, with their popularity sustained by almost identical looks but a cheaper price point
1988 The Daytona receives its first automatic caliber, instantly making it the watch to be seen with. Waiting lists stretch on into years and generate interest in previous generations of the model
1992 The Yacht-Master lands, essentially a more luxurious version of the Submariner
2000 The Daytona, after five years of exhaustive research, gets its Rolex-built movement—the Cal. 4130
2007 Rolex’s most complicated watch to date, the Yacht-Master II, ushers in a new era for the brand. The regatta timer has a programmable countdown and mechanical memory with flyback, and introduces the concept of the Ring Command Bezel—an analogue switch that unlocks the watch’s various different functions
2008 The Sea-Dweller is briefly retired to make way for the Deepsea, an enormous watch capable of diving to nearly two-and-a-half miles underwater
2012 The Ring Command Bezel is enhanced even further on the newest release from Rolex, the Sky-Dweller. A novel approach to the GMT complication, coupled with the company’s first ever annual calendar, makes it the ultimate luxury traveler’s watch

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Top 10 Rolex Watches of All Time Wed, 10 Jul 2019 14:55:07 +0000 Rolex has been making watches for well over a century now, and have worked to make themselves the most efficient and self-reliant manufacturer in the industry. As a result, they have brought in-house every one of the many separate disciplines that go into building their components, until they have become the poster child for complete […]

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Rolex has been making watches for well over a century now, and have worked to make themselves the most efficient and self-reliant manufacturer in the industry.

As a result, they have brought in-house every one of the many separate disciplines that go into building their components, until they have become the poster child for complete vertical integration.

This streamlining of the whole process allows the modern company to produce a rumored one million watches every year, while still keeping the flawless quality on which the brand first built its name.

But of all those countless pieces created over the years, which are at the very top in terms of desirability, availability and sheer volume of sales?

Below, we have put together a list of the top 10 Rolex watches of all time.

Rolex Datejust ref. 1601

The initial Datejust reference, the ref. 4467, arrived in 1945 to commemorate the 40thanniversary year of Rolex itself, and changed the entire landscape of the wristwatch as it did so.

Rolex Datejust Ref. 1601

Waterproof, self-winding and displaying a date function (the first watch in the world to do all three), it immediately became the flagship offering from the still relatively young company.

By the time the ref. 1601 arrived in the late 50s however, that honor had been usurped by the Day-Date. Yet, it was the reference that enjoyed the longest production run in the Datejust’s history, finally being granted retirement more than 20 years later.

It was also the one to really nail down the look of the DJ, and start the tradition of being offered in innumerable different metal, dial color and bezel combinations.

Today, with such a vast number being made and sold over its two decade tenure, the ref. 1601 is certainly among the most affordable of the vintage Rolex watches. Excellent examples of this vital chapter in the brand’s story can be had for less than $3,000.

Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675

Another extremely long-running reference of an all-time classic, the GMT-Master ref. 1675 was unveiled in 1959 and just kept going until 1980.

Rolex GMT-Master 1675 Pepsi

It was the first of the series to be granted crown guards, giving a more modern profile and, while initially only available with the iconic red and blue Pepsi bezel, during the 60s and 70s Rolex also released an all black surround, as well as the brown and gold coloring known as Root Beer.

It was the reference that cemented the GMT-Master’s place in horology pop culture (Magnum P.I. wore one, for crying out loud!) and, like the ref. 1601 above, the incredible number of them available keeps prices reasonable. Entry point for a ref. 1675 hovers around the $10,000 mark.

Rolex Daytona ref. 16520

Rolex Mens Daytona Cosmograph 16520

The second generation of the world’s favorite chronograph, commonly referred to as the Zenith Daytonas (named after ébauche manufacturer Zenith, who provided the watch’s first ever automatic movement) lies at the turning point in the model’s life.

Before the Zenith El Primero was fitted, nobody wanted a Daytona. After it was transformed into a self-winding piece, it became increasingly impossible to buy one. Demand for the watch sky-rocketed from the ref. 16520’s debut in 1988 and hasn’t come down since.

Although they were only made for a relatively short time, replaced by the third generation in 2000 with their fully in-house calibers, the Zenith’s sold in enormous quantities. Supply was hampered by having to rely on an outside concern to build the engines, leading to the start of the gargantuan waiting lists which have plagued the model ever since.

Still highly desirable today, prices start at around $20,000 on the preowned market.

Rolex Day-Date ref. 1803

The Datejust and the Day-Date tend to get upgraded at or around the same time, the two being very similar in style bar the President’s second calendar complication.

Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803

Such is the case with the Day-Date ref. 1803, which was brought out the same year as the ref. 1601 from above; 1958. Only the third reference of the watch since it was introduced a couple of years previously, it too ended up being the longest serving in the model’s term.

And also like the DJ, it was the 1803 that really finalized the look and set the Day-Date along the road to its current position as the last word in aspirational watches for the successful and ambitious. That styling has continued almost unchanged to this day—the most obvious difference between the modern day iteration and the 1803 is the vintage watch’s use of a pie pan dial, featuring a face with a downturned outer edge, like an inverted dish.

Over its 20-year run, the 1803 was only available in precious metals, another tradition that still holds true. Yet, as a preowned buy, they remain extremely reasonable. A solid 18k gold piece, on its eponymous President bracelet, can be had for as little as $8,000 to $10,000.

Rolex Submariner ref. 5513

The Rolex Submariner had a particularly turbulent early life, going through 10 different references in its first decade of production.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513

By 1958, it had all settled down a bit with the release of the ref. 5512. It gave us the familiar silhouette of the Sub, with a newly increased 40mm case, complete with crown guards. Three years later in 1962, the ref. 5513 arrived; ostensibly the same watch but, unlike the 5512, it ran on a non-chronometer movement.

As such it was priced significantly lower, and with nothing to choose between them visually, the 5513 enjoyed greatly improved sales as a result. In fact, it was so popular that it was still being made in 1990, nearly 30 years later.

Today, it is one of the most beloved versions of possibly the most universally adored watch ever made, with enough tiny variations to its dial makeup during its run to make collectors drool.

Entry price to this world of effortless cool? About $9,000 or $10,000.

Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600

It’s not the most famous reference of the Sub’s bigger brother, as evidenced by it being the first Sea-Dweller without a nickname. But the watch that followed on from the ‘Double Red’, the ‘Great White’ and the ‘Triple Six’ experienced a two decade run, resulting in massive sales.

Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 16600

In truth, on the outside there wasn’t much to distinguish the model from the previous reference, the ref. 16660 (the aforesaid Triple Six) and the changes were all internal. The earlier Cal. 3035 was replaced with the Cal. 3135, bringing a longer power reserve and a balance bridge rather than a balance cock.

Beyond that, the water resistance stayed at the same staggering level of 4,000ft, and the date window remained un-Cycloped—a big plus in its favor amongst the purists who decried the magnifying lens muddying up the Submariner’s symmetry.

On the current preowned market, the prevalence of the ref. 16600 has kept prices down, with immaculate examples starting at around $7,000.

Rolex Explorer ref. 1016

If we are going to talk about enduring Rolex watches, we have to talk about the Explorer ref. 1016. Considered in some quarters as the most starkly beautiful model the brand has ever produced, it debuted in 1963 and was pretty much left well alone until it was replaced more than a quarter of a century later in 1989.

Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016

As simple as it is possible for a watch to be; a three-hand, no-date piece in a 36mm case, its understated nature worked against it in its day, going into battle against scene stealers like the Sub, GMT-Master and Daytona. But it has since become a huge fan favourite for exactly the same reason.

An out-and-out tool watch, it was studiedly unpretentious and remained so throughout its run, while all around it its contemporaries started appearing in precious metals and sprinkled in diamonds.

Currently you can buy one for about $12,000. And if you are on the fence about it, you should know that the Explorer ref. 1016 was the only watch worn by James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Rolex Submariner ref. 16610LV

While we have already featured the top vintage example of the Submariner, it was the ref. 16610 which brought the granddaddy of all dive watches into the modern era.

Although still a hardy and very capable model, it was the one that started to introduce just a little of the status symbol qualities we now associate with the Sub. White gold made its first appearance on the hour markers here, for instance.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610LV

And it was also the series in play when the 50thanniversary of the model rolled around, leading to one of the most distinctive variants in its long history. The ref. 16610LV (with LV standing for Lunette Verte) was a standard-issue piece, but with a bezel of bright emerald green.

It was the first time the color had been used on the Sub, although it had long been Rolex’s trademark shade. It caught many of the faithful off-guard to begin with, earning itself the moniker The Kermit, but would quickly become a highly sought after creation.

Only sticking around for seven years or so before it was replaced by the ref. 116610LV, which added a green dial as well (becoming known as the Hulk in the process), they now sell for a considerable premium over and above black versions of the same reference.

$10,000+ is today’s starting point, and will only go up in the future.

Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN

If the Zenith era revitalized the fortunes of the Daytona from also-ran to hottest ticket on the watch collecting scene, the third generation six-digit pieces were at an altogether different level.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500LN

Released in 2000, they benefitted from five years of exhaustive research and development behind the fortress doors of Rolex HQ, bringing us the revolutionary Cal. 4130, the Daytona’s first in-house self-winding movement.

In addition, they were also the first to receive Cerachrom bezels, the brand’s own ceramic alloy touted as fade proof, unbreakable, and completely scratch resistant.

But, even though they no longer have to rely on outside contractors to supply the engines, Rolex has still kept supply of their newest chronograph, in particular the steel models, incredibly low. It has led to extraordinary demand and even more astonishing waits for those desperate to wear the watch du jour.

If you can stomach the premium, expect to pay roughly twice the MSRP for a preowned example.

Explorer II ref. 16570

Although housing much more functionality, the Explorer II has traditionally been just as overlooked as its namesake, the original Explorer.

The third of just four references throughout the watch’s lifetime, the ref. 16570 arrived in 1989, originally as only a black dial option.

Mens Rolex Stainless Steel Explorer II White 16570

And, like its predecessor, while it was always fighting a losing battle against the established Rolex legends, it was the ref. 16570 that brought at least a little attention to the Explorer II.

The introduction of the watch’s first white, or Polar, dial shortly into its run helped immensely, creating two very distinct looks. It was also, and still is actually, fairly rare to see a Rolex sports model with a white face.

Dark horse or not, the ref. 16570 stayed in production for an impressive 22 years, taking the watch up to its 40thbirthday in 2011.

It is now the last of the 40mm versions, its successor growing to 42mm for a more contemporary aesthetic.

Just about as tough as they come, the Explorer II ref. 16570 is still a relative preowned bargain. Prices start at around $5,000.

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Top 10 Most Popular Contemporary Rolex Watches Mon, 08 Jul 2019 20:09:34 +0000 Boasting a portfolio stuffed to the gills with some of the most lusted after pieces in horology, it can be a tricky thing to pin down exactly which is the most popular Rolex in the modern collection. Fortunately, with the help of Mr. Google and his list of search data, I’ve put together what, I […]

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Boasting a portfolio stuffed to the gills with some of the most lusted after pieces in horology, it can be a tricky thing to pin down exactly which is the most popular Rolex in the modern collection.

Fortunately, with the help of Mr. Google and his list of search data, I’ve put together what, I hope, is an accurate list of the top 10 Rolex watches in the contemporary lineup.

However, one thing to bear in mind is the availability factor. I have tried to take a stab at finding a happy medium between the watches which have been searched for the most, versus how easy they are to actually buy in the real world.

If we were to make a list purely on the model the greatest number of people want, then the Cerachrom bezel steel Daytonas would probably still come out on top. But of course, trying to buy a brand new version from an AD is now an exercise in futility.

So below are the 10 watches that are in that sweet spot between massively desirable and with a borderline realistic chance of turning up for sale through official channels.

Rolex Submariner ref. 116610LV (The Hulk)

Rolex Mens Submariner Stainless Steel 116610LV

Not to be confused with the so-called Kermit, the 50thanniversary edition of the world’s favorite dive watch, the Hulk took the green motif of that piece and made it even greener and meaner.

Whereas the half century model surprised many with its emerald bezel insert, the ref. 116610LV upped it still further by including a green dial as well.

Released in 2010, it became an immediate crowd pleaser and even a slight premium on its price over the standard classic black version (and more on that later) hasn’t hurt sales.

Rolex Daytona ref. 116503

Everyone wants a Daytona. And the Daytona everyone wants is the aforementioned ceramic bezel steel one.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116503

But, unless you once saved an Authorized Dealer’s life and he now owes you big time, you ain’t getting one without a wait of several years. That’s if they are even still adding names to the list.

Yet, all is not lost. Bizarrely, the Rolesor (half steel/half gold Rolex blend) model is now one of the best buys in the range. A box fresh piece straight from a dealer can be had for significantly less than a preowned steel one and, with the two-tone look roaring right back into fashion (as evidenced by the brand’s release of a Rolesor Sea-Dweller this year) it is no wonder the ref. 116503 is being snapped up.

Definitely one to consider.

Datejust 41 ref. 126333

Rolex Datejust 41 Ref. 126333

No real surprise to see one of the industry’s greatest success stories so high up in the pecking order. The Datejust has been the archetypal Rolex for decades now, and the introduction of a larger 41mm version a few years ago opened it up to a fresh, young audience.

Like the Daytona, it is the Rolesor editions which continue to blitz the sales charts, the aesthetic looking more at home on the Datejust than perhaps anywhere else.

Is there a collection worth the name without at least one DJ?

Rolex Submariner ref. 116619LB (The Smurf)

Mens Rolex Submariner White Gold Ref. 116619LB

By all accounts it is a close run thing between this variant on the Sub theme and yet another two-tone piece, the ref. 116613LB.

But it is this white gold model that pips it, an unashamedly luxurious take on the tool watch concept, with a dial and bezel finished in an iridescent blue.

Around since 2008, it has been in the lineup even longer than the Hulk above, and with Rolex having the habit of simply discontinuing certain watches with no warning, regardless of how popular they are, if you are in the market for a Smurf, don’t drag your feet. Could well stand as a good investment if they stop production.

Rolex Day-Date 40 ref. 228235

Rolex Day-Date 40 Ref 228235

A model that has never tried to be anything other than highly exclusive, the Day-Date is another brand stalwart.

The grand old statesman has, like the Datejust, been brought right into the 21stcentury with the addition of a range of 40mm pieces, now proving even more popular than the time-honored 36mm.

Of those, the current penchant for rose gold, what Rolex call Everose, has made the ref. 228235 a huge seller.

The option list is formidable, but the traditional arrangement of solid 18k case with a complementary toned dial and fluted bezel is still the all-time classic.

Rolex Submariner ref. 116610LN

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 116610LN 40mm

Third and final entry for the Sub, and it is the obtainability issue that relegates the most iconic look to the middle of the pack.

After more than 60-years at the top, the black dial and bezel Submariner is still the most highly sought after model. Unfortunately Rolex can’t (or won’t) keep up with demand, leaving this absolute epitome of tool watch perfection severely short on supply.

If the brand was to ramp up production until everyone who wanted a black Sub was able to buy one, chances are we would be looking at the number 1 spot.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126711CHNR (Root Beer)

The GMT-Master series has always been one of Rolex’s greatest hits and recent years have seen it receive a host of new getups that have only raised its stock even higher.

Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 126711CHNR

One of the most well received is a piece which has harnessed the current wave of nostalgia running through the watch collecting fraternity—a welcome return of the so-called Root Beer livery that first emerged in the 60s and 70s.

Those yellow gold pieces from yesteryear, with a gold and brown bezel against a brown dial, alternatively known as the Tiger Eye or the Clint Eastwood (it was the big guy’s favorite watch apparently), have been reimagined for the latest showcase with two up-to-date but still pleasingly vintage references.

The ref.126715CHNR has a solid Everose case, while the lower priced and more popular ref. 126711CHNR has half and half steel and red gold Rolesor bodywork.

This time the bezel comes in brown and black (the CHNR reference letters stand for CHocolat and NoiR) lending the whole thing a more toned down aspect than the original examples.

One of Rolex’s all-time high flyers, jumping on the craze for everything retro, has made this homage to the past a massive success in recent years.

Rolex Sky-Dweller ref. 326935

Rolex Sky-Dweller Ref. 326935

Reinforcing the modern day love affair with red gold, the solid Everose version of the Sky-Dweller, the ref. 326935, is enjoying its moment in the sun.

Often described as a Day-Date with a GMT function and annual calendar, the Sky-Dweller has been something of a slow burn since it was unveiled in 2012. But the once unorthodox and opinion splitting looks seemed to have matured over the years, and with the release of a handful of stainless steel examples tempering the price a little, the luxury traveler’s watch has witnessed a turnaround in fortunes.

Even so, the solid yellow gold models remain a bit too much for many, and it is the Everose pieces that offer the most versatility.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLNR (The Batman)

When Rolex made the switch from aluminum bezel inserts to ceramic in 2005, they had yet to devise a way to add a two-tone color scheme to them. Which made the decision to debut the new material, dubbed Cerachrom, on the GMT-Master II an odd one. A model made iconic precisely because of its bicolor bezel was now stuck with an all black surround, rather missing the point of the watch entirely.

While it was still a big seller, when Rolex finally perfected the process in 2013 and introduced it onto the ref. 116710BLNR, appearing with a beautiful combination of blue and black, it sent demand for the model into the stratosphere.

Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 126710 BLNR

That reference was discontinued in 2019 to make way for an upgraded version, the ref. 126710BLNR. With a new engine, the Cal. 3285 complete with Chronergy escapement, as well as a Jubilee bracelet taking the place of the former Oyster, it lent just a touch more refinement overall.

Now among the most coveted watches on the planet, the Batman is a grail piece in the making.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO (Pepsi)

As if the Root Beer hadn’t been throwback to the glory days enough, 2018 saw most fans’ dream come true when Rolex released the mother of all vintage classics, a steel GMT-Master with a red and blue bezel.

In truth, there had been a modern Cerachrom Pepsi GMT since 2014, but fitted to a white gold case, the price of which had narrowed down the list of potential buyers significantly.

It is the color scheme which first launched the model onto an unsuspecting public way back in 1954, and became legendary in the process. Over the years there has always been a Pepsi, only disappearing when the new ceramic was introduced and staying missing until Rolex worked out the two-tone conundrum.

Its reintroduction into the portfolio has seen it become the current most wanted watch of them all, the perfect combination of old-school cool and cutting-edge mechanics.

However, in whatever getup it is issued, the GMT-Master II is still the ultimate travel companion.

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Rolex Watches Discontinued in the 1960s Mon, 01 Jul 2019 19:36:54 +0000 The 1950s had seen Rolex in an absolute frenzy of invention, giving us, in short succession, the Submariner, the GMT-Master, the Milgauss, the Explorer and the Day-Date. With a litany of iconic masterpieces like that, nobody would have blamed them for taking their foot off the gas for a while in order to catch their […]

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The 1950s had seen Rolex in an absolute frenzy of invention, giving us, in short succession, the Submariner, the GMT-Master, the Milgauss, the Explorer and the Day-Date. With a litany of iconic masterpieces like that, nobody would have blamed them for taking their foot off the gas for a while in order to catch their breath.

As the calendar ticked over into the 1960s, a period which also saw a couple of other enduring legends emerge from Geneva, it was more a case of nailing down the final designs of the pieces already in the stable.

Several models had had a fairly turbulent time of it in their early years as Rolex worked on perfecting their features—the Sub especially, which was into its ninth reference by the end of its first decade.

It was a time of clearing the decks of the old to make way for more modern styling, and to address the one glaring omission in the lineup; a chronograph that would dominate the market to the same extent the brand’s diving and dual time zone watches did.

To that end, a number of references were retired in the 1960s and replaced by others that will look much more familiar in the contemporary lineup.

Read on below to see which models didn’t make it to the end of the swinging 60s.

The Rolex Chronograph ref. 6234

Contrary to what some believe, the Daytona was not the first chronograph Rolex ever made. In fact, they had been trying to build a viable example for some time with little success before hitting on what would eventually become the most famous mechanical stopwatch of them all.

Rolex Ref. 6034

The forerunners were simply labeled ‘Rolex Chronograph’ and identified by their reference numbers, and today they are collectively referred to as the ‘Pre-Daytonas’.

Among them, the ref. 6034 was discontinued in 1955, but another, the ref. 6238 was actually still being produced right up to the end of the 60s and ran concurrently with the first of the actual Daytona models.

In between, we have the ref. 6234.

Taking over where the ref. 6034 left off, the 6234 started life in the mid-fifties and had run its race by 1961. Rolex built only around 500 pieces per year during that time, mainly in stainless steel with the odd smattering of 14k and 18k gold examples thrown in. And, in a pattern that would haunt the brand’s chronograph models until 1988, no one was buying.

The reputation Rolex had forged for themselves by then was as the manufacturer of tough but simple tool watches; models that were built to withstand hard knocks, either accompanying expeditions of some sort or else helping wearers as they went about their work. If you wanted something to time laps in the glamorous world of motorsport, you shopped elsewhere—usually at Breitling or Heuer.

Rolex Ref. 6234

As such, the 6234 went pretty much unnoticed throughout its short run, not helped by that biggest of drawbacks, its manually-winding caliber. Driven by the Valjoux 72 (the same engine which condemned the first generation of Daytonas to a quarter century of wretched sales) it seemed a significant step back technology-wise, especially for a watchmaker made famous by their development of the Perpetual movement.

Today, as literally no one will be shocked to hear, the ref. 6234 is in huge demand on the vintage market, with prices to reflect both its scarcity and its importance to the Rolex story as a whole.

There are a number of differences between it and the model it would evolve in to; the most immediately obvious being the location of the tachymeter. Where the Daytona utilized the bezel, engraving the scale around its edge, on the 6234 it is printed on the dial. In fact, there are two rings; the inner one a telemeter for measuring distance.

In addition, its trio of sub dials are significantly smaller and the hands and indexes are dagger-shaped rather than the current straight batons.

Those disparities aside, the ref. 6234 is a stunning watch, most certainly styled for its era and all the more handsome for it. It even came with a choice of dial color, either silver or the far less common black, and wrapped everything up in a 36mm case.

If you were interested in securing one for yourself, expect somewhere around $25,000 as the absolute bottom end price, rising to well into six figures for a unicorn-like gold piece.

With its Pre-Daytona siblings, the ref. 6234 is the grandfather of probably the most important sports watch of all time, an early testing ground for an undeniable legend.

The Rolex Submariner ref. 5508

The ref. 5508 Submariner released in 1958, the eighth reference of the world’s favorite dive watch in just five years, marks the point where Rolex started to introduce a bit of regularity to the proceedings, following the commotion of its early life.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5508

Previous iterations had been issued with various styles of hour markers; either the mix of dots and sticks we know today or the 3/6/9 indexes from the Explorer. The ref. 5508 cemented the former on the dial, making it the only option and bringing a bit of standardization.

There had also been both big and small crown Submariners up until that point, with the ref. 6538, otherwise known as the ‘Bond Sub’, the most famous and valuable of the larger versions. Again, the ref. 5508 stuck with the smaller 6mm winding crown, the more modern-looking type.

But it was also the final reference to include a number of features we now think of as belonging to vintage Subs.

It was the last to be issued without crown guards, with the next in the series, the legendary ref. 5512, introducing the protective shoulders and giving the watch its distinctive silhouette. And it was, as well, the last Submariner with a mere 100m depth rating; all subsequent models graduated first to 200m and, from 1983 onwards, 300m.

Rolex Mens Submariner 5512

The ref. 5508 then is an intriguing crossroads between the old and new, a bit of an inbetweener produced for just four years and, while certainly not cheap as a preowned buy, not as ruinously expensive as some either.

Inside, the Cal. 1530 replaced the Cal. 1030 of earlier Subs, both 18,000vph movements built entirely in-house, but the later mechanism a significant upgrade in terms of accuracy and reliability. Very few of the 1530s were sent off for COSC testing, so you won’t find a ref. 5508 with the ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified’ text on the dial.

In fact, the dial as a whole looks particularly stark, especially as these are from the days before Rolex introduced the date function to the range. Compared to the modern-day Sub, with its six lines of writing and Cyclops lens, there is just acres of space, making the whole thing beautifully legible. Incidentally, as we’re talking about dials, the extremely rare ‘Exclamation Point’ versions of the 5508 are perhaps the most valuable, named for the tiny dot of lume underneath the baton marker at six o’clock which makes it look like, that’s right, an exclamation point!

As for prices, you can actually find examples of this classic for far less than $20,000 without too much difficulty, topping out at around twice that for the earliest versions. In the world of vintage Subs, the ref. 55XX pieces at least, that puts them somewhere in the middle—big crown references are now becoming hugely pricey for instance.

With time, the value of all classic Rolex Submariners will only go north, and so the ref. 5508 could well make a smart investment. And they will always be among the outright coolest watches you can buy.

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Rolex Watches Discontinued in the 1970s Tue, 25 Jun 2019 13:19:52 +0000 Although Rolex withstood the quartz crisis of the 1970s better than any of its compatriots, the decade still stands as perhaps the darkest days the traditional watch industry has ever had to face. With André Heiniger at the helm, only the second CEO in the company’s history following the death of founder Hans Wilsdorf, they […]

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Although Rolex withstood the quartz crisis of the 1970s better than any of its compatriots, the decade still stands as perhaps the darkest days the traditional watch industry has ever had to face.

With André Heiniger at the helm, only the second CEO in the company’s history following the death of founder Hans Wilsdorf, they were able to weather the onslaught of cheap but incredibly accurate timepieces flooding in from the east, while all around them watchmakers with centuries of heritage dropped like flies.

Heiniger’s opinion was that the new technology was little more than a gimmick set to suffer the same fate as the transistor radio. Though not entirely correct, quartz watches are still going strong today after all, he was right in his gamble that the public would quickly tire of electronics and seek a return to the luxury of a painstakingly crafted mechanical caliber that only Switzerland could provide.

While he waited for that to happen, Rolex made a show of engaging with the fad, producing two quartz models of their own based around the Day-Date and Datejust. They actually proved extremely popular, despite the manufacture’s decidedly lackluster promotion efforts—with all the unassailable quality for which the company’s name had become a byword but far less expensive and around ten times more precise than even their industry-leading conventional movements.

Yet it couldn’t have been more obvious that their heart belonged to the world of gears and springs and the 1970s also saw the comings and goings of some iconic mechanical references.

In addition, it was the time when Rolex introduced the first of an entirely new family of calibers, replacing the revered Cal.1500 series with the Cal. 3000 range. These brought the high beat 28,800vph frequency which is still the mainstay of their movements today, bringing the company into the modern era.

Below, we explore the watches Rolex discontinued in the 1970s.

The Double Red Sea-Dweller ref. 1665

This might seem like a bit of a cheat, seeing as how the ref. 1665, the first Sea-Dweller put into full-scale production, continued on until 1983. However, the earliest pieces are so well known by their nickname of Double Red, for the two lines of red text on the dial, that when they were replaced by the so-called Great White in 1977 (identical save for all the writing now in white), they are considered separately.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665

The DRSDs started life in 1967, a collaboration between Rolex and French saturation diving specialists COMEX. They were looking for a watch that could go far beyond the abilities of anything available at the time, one able to withstand a descent to crushing depths and, crucially, the ascent back to the surface.

COMEX’s crews were required to live for extended periods in deep underwater habitats, breathing a carefully controlled mixture of gases, including a proportion of helium to offset the detrimental effects of nitrogen when put under great pressure. With helium having one of the smallest molecules of any gas, it could easily seep inside the divers’ watches. As the pressure was reduced on the rise back to sea level, the helium bubbles would expand, blowing out the crystals on the watches and destroying them.

Rolex’s solution was to simply fit a small one way valve into the case, allowing the gas to seep back out safely and preserving the integrity of the piece.

Trialed on a retrofit Submariner, it proved perfectly effective and the HEV, or Helium Escape Valve, became a constant feature of the Sea-Dweller, starting with the Double Red ref. 1665.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665

Those initial models have become legend in both the dive watch and vintage Rolex communities, with collectors fighting over the increasingly rare specimens. With seven different ‘Marks’ issued over its 10-year run, each with the usual small but significant distinctions, there is too much detail and information to go into here. But as you would expect, the very first examples remain the most highly prized.

These were launched after Rolex had applied for the copyright on the HEV but before it had been approved, leading to the manufacture engraving ‘Patent Pending’ on the case back. Now incredibly scarce, these models (actually known as the Patent Pending DRSDs) can change hands for upwards of $100,000.

The Sea-Dweller as an entity has gone onto become one of the most well-loved in the whole of the Rolex canon. Up until very recently it has retained its no-nonsense workmanlike aura, gradually getting tougher and more resilient, while sticking to that timeless design.

The two-tone Rolesor release at Baselworld 2019 was a massive departure for the brand and is likely to send purists back to scouring the archives for the practical, down-to-earth original. The Double Reds are many collectors’ grail piece, and their value is only going to go north from here.

The Rolex Submariner ref. 5512

Rolex Mens Submariner 5512

The 1970s, 1978 to be exact, also saw the end of the line for one of the all time great references of the Sea-Dweller’s forerunner; the archetypal dive watch, the Submariner ref. 5512.

Launched in 1959, it was the model which cemented the true final look of the Sub, introducing the last of the elements that have remained with it until today.

Previous references had become standard issue to the British Royal Navy, and it was that military influence which prompted Rolex to include crown guards for the first time, protecting the most notoriously weak spot of any watch subject to hard usage. In addition, the bezel was given the now familiar coin-style edging to make it easier to grip, and the dimensions increased a hair, up to just under 40mm from the original 38mm.

Still a simple three-hander with no date function, it went through three different movements during its 20-year run.

Rolex Caliber 1530

The first, the Cal. 1530, is still recognized as one of the best movements Rolex ever produced. But it was never granted, or more likely, never submitted for, COSC certification. That means the earliest ref. 5512s were not eligible to include the ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified’ text on their dial. Those particularly rare examples only feature the Rolex signature along with ‘Oyster Perpetual’ and the watch’s depth rating, at that time ‘200m-660ft’, and are known in collectors’ vernacular as the 2-line models. When the caliber was upgraded to the Cal. 1560 a few years into its run, and later the Cal. 1570, both COSC rated, the rest of the wording was incorporated and gave us the more common 4-line pieces.

‘More common’ is all relative of course. In 1962, the ref. 5513 was released to run alongside the 5512, ostensibly the same watch but one that was only ever fitted with non-chronometer movements (the Cal. 1520 and Cal. 1530). As such, it was significantly cheaper than its counterpart and was therefore produced and sold in far greater numbers. The difference in price between the two on the vintage market today is fairly extreme.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512

As well as the movements, the crown guards also evolved over the years. Most valuable of all are the 100 units or so of the initial models fitted with square guards, quickly discarded when it was found they made it too difficult to unscrew the crown, especially wearing diving gloves. (Bonus fact: those cases Rolex had already made were shipped across to sister company Tudor for their own Submariner model, the ref. 7928—which is the rarest reference of that watch now too).

Those crown guards changed to a pointed style after that, generally known as ‘El Cornino’ today for their resemblance to a pair of horns. Finally, in the mid-sixties, they settled on the rounded shape we have become accustomed to.

Whatever configuration it appeared in, the ref. 5512 can legitimately lay claim to being perhaps the coolest vintage Rolex (a lot of) money can buy. A bold statement certainly, but backed up by the fact it was Steve McQueen’s watch of choice for the last 20 years of his life—rather than the ref. 1655 Explorer II nicknamed after him.

Certainly not a cheap addition to the collection, but one well worth hunting down.

The Four-Digit Day-Date

1977 saw the introduction of the Cal. 3035, replacing the Cal. 1575 and ushering in a raft of new and improved, and faster, automatic movements.

Rolex Caliber 5035

Its basic architecture established a foundation which could be built on with extra complications as required; even Rolex’s two quartz calibers, the Cal. 5035 and Cal. 5055, shared most of the same underpinnings—the entire drive mechanism, bridge, gear train and pallet assembly stayed in place—powered by electronics rather than springs.

The new Cal. 3035 found its first home in that perennial Rolex test bed, the Datejust and, with an extra calendar module bolted on (to become the Cal. 3055), the Day-Date. Both watches entered a new five-digit generation with the ref. 160XX and ref. 180XX ranges.

However, while the older version of the Datejust ran simultaneously with the new for a few years until the start of the 80s, The President made the switch over completely in 1978. That meant the previous iterations were no more, models which had been around since the end of the 50s.

Styling-wise there was little to choose between the two series. The outgoing four digit pieces were equipped with so-called ‘pie pan’ dials, where the outer circumference of the face was slightly recessed all the way round, while the newer models all had flat dials. Other than that, the two had the same 36mm dimensions, the same acrylic crystals, and there was the usual exhaustive selection of different types of metal, color, bracelet and bezel arrangements.

Rolex Caliber 3035

Internally, the Cal. 3055 brought the first Quickset function to Rolex, allowing the date to be forwarded directly via the crown. The older models required the wearer to wind the main hands through 24-hours to achieve the same thing. Known as a single Quickset, in that it could only advance the day of the month, wearers would have to wait until the upgraded Cal. 3155 arrived in 1988 before the double Quickset arrived, allowing them to alter the weekday too.

Beyond those minor differences, the post-1977 Day-Date remained as familiar and indomitable as the pre-1977 models—one of the most ubiquitous and ageless timepieces from any manufacturer ever.

Once at the absolute cutting-edge, now the grand old statesmen, it is an essential in any watch lover’s collection.

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History of Rolex Pocket Watches Fri, 21 Jun 2019 23:13:27 +0000 Every great company has to start somewhere. For Rolex, that somewhere was London in 1905. What would go on to evolve, many years later, into the most successful and recognizable watch brand in the world began not as a manufacturer, but as a strictly commercial enterprise. Originally named Wilsdorf & Davis, it was founded by […]

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Every great company has to start somewhere. For Rolex, that somewhere was London in 1905.

What would go on to evolve, many years later, into the most successful and recognizable watch brand in the world began not as a manufacturer, but as a strictly commercial enterprise.

Wilsdorf & Davis Logo

Originally named Wilsdorf & Davis, it was founded by Bavarian-born entrepreneur Hans Wilsdorf and his English brother-in-law Alfred Davis. Setting up shop in Hatton Garden, the city’s jewelry district, the two men didn’t actually produce a single component themselves in their formative years. Instead, they assembled watches with parts imported from some of the finest Swiss makers. These completed timepieces were then sold onto other jewelers, sometimes as a co-branded effort, with the W&D logo next to the retailer’s, or else with their trademark nowhere to be seen.

Although Wilsdorf was a visionary who saw, sooner than most, the appeal and utility of the wristwatch, many of these early pieces created by the two were pocket watches. By far the most prevalent at the time, pocket watches had been around since the 16thcentury, invented by a fellow countryman of the Rolex founder, Peter Henlein.

When Wilsdorf first formed his company, wristwatches were still very much the preserve of women, and usually aristocratic women at that.

Before the pair of groundbreaking innovations Rolex themselves brought to the fore decades later; the waterproof Oyster case and the Perpetual automatic movement, these timepieces, known as wristlets, were particularly fragile, delicate items. In addition, with high-born ladies seldom required to be punctual to any great degree, the movements inside were serviceable but not especially accurate.

While the very first inklings of a transition between the two were being felt, a man wearing a wristwatch at the time would have been at best unusual, and at worst laughable.

It would take several more years and, crucially, the horrors of WWI, before a watch worn on the arm became more popular than one hidden away in a vest pocket.

A Question of Timing

The wristwatch had several challenges to overcome before it would outstrip the pocket watch, other than its image problem among men. The main hurdle was its vulnerability to the elements.

Sheltered by the wearer’s clothing, pocket watches were largely spared the worst of the exposure to dust and moisture that could seep inside their cases and render their internal movements useless. Also, the Hunter style examples, as opposed to the open-face type, featured a hinged metal lid to cover the dial and crystal, offering an extra level of protection.

Rolex Pocket from 1940

They were, as well, significantly larger than the wristwatches of the day, giving them a number of advantages. Firstly, they were far more legible, having greater space for the numerals and hands. And it also meant the calibers could be bigger, leading to an inherent stability and durability, as well as superior accuracy.

Yet, even with all these points in their favor, Wilsdorf was willing to bet on the wristwatch taking over as the preferred way to tell the time. As such, he poured the majority of his efforts into the new trend, meaning Rolex pocket watches are few and far between.

By 1910, they had created the first ever chronometer certified wristwatch, issued by the Observatoire de Montres Suisse, which would later go on to become the COSC, matching the precision of the era’s pocket watches. Four years later, the Kew Observatory in the U.K. awarded them a Class ‘A’ precision certificate, something reserved only for the incredibly exact marine chronometers before then. Both those calibers had been made in conjunction with longtime associates Aegler, a manufacturer that specialized in making small movements for ladies watches. It was a relationship which endured all the way up until 2004 when Rolex finally bought out the company.

Yet in all that time, the two only made one pocket watch movement together, an unorthodox design with a sub dial for the running seconds. For the rest, they outsourced their mechanisms from elsewhere and added their own finishing touches, from companies such as Cortebert, for example, who also supplied the likes of Hamilton.

Much like with their dalliance with quartz technology more than half a century later, Rolex maintained only the bare minimum interest in pocket watches, and kept their main focus on developing the best automatic wristwatches in the world.

Later Pocket Watches

Rolex Pocket Watch from 1940

By the 1940s, there had been a complete reversal of fortunes between the watch types. Following the Second World War, wearing a pocket watch had become highly unusual and wristwatches were the obvious victors, their reputation cemented mainly by Rolex’s inventiveness.

But the company continued to make a tiny number of pocket watches as late as the 1970s, more as a novelty than anything else. Issued as part of the Cellini line, Rolex’s range of non-Oyster and mainly hand wound dress pieces, you can still find these available today, and prices are not wholly unreasonable. Expect to pay somewhere in the region of $5,000 for one, while models from the 30s in good condition can go for nearly twice that. Of course, the rarest examples from Wilsdorf & Davis’s earliest days will cost a small fortune if you ever manage to find one for sale in the first place.

Rolex Pocket Watches Milestones

1905 Hans Wilsdorf forms a new watch company in London, England with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis.

Wilsdorf & Davis starts life in business by assembling well-respected timepieces from components sourced from some of the finest Swiss manufacturers and selling them to other vendors to retail under their own names. As was the trend at the time, many of these first pieces are pocket watches.

1910 Rolex achieves a notable distinction of creating the first ever chronometer certified wristwatch, issued by the Observatoire de Montres Suisse. It proves they can be as accurate as the ubiquitous pocket watch, and ushers in some of the earliest signs of a change in public image.

Wilsdorf himself is confident the wristwatch can succeed as they are more suited to being fashionable items made to reflect a wearer’s personality, and as such people might conceivably want to own several different models to pair with different outfits. Pocket watches, by comparison, tended to become heirlooms, handed down through the generations and more rarely replaced.

Ironically, another reason Wilsdorf thought men might buy more than one wristwatch was the higher likelihood of them becoming damaged in day to day life, requiring the purchase of a new model. Pocket watches were more hefty by design and better protected by clothing.

1920s and 1930s Rolex continues development of the wristwatch, perfecting, in quick succession, the Oyster case and the self-winding Perpetual movement. More than anything else, these two breakthroughs start to sound the death knell of the pocket watch. However, the company continues to produce them, buying in movements from the best of the industry’s watchmakers and fitting them in beautifully made cases from the likes of A. L. Dennison.

They also build just one pocket watch caliber themselves, partnering with Aegler, with whom they will go on to work for decades.

1940s By the end of WWII, Rolex’s pioneering technology had more or less sealed the fate of the pocket watch. The automatic waterproof wristwatch was now the preferred accessory for men, and the pocket watch seemed like a relic of a bygone era.
1970s Rolex produces the last of their pocket watches, small 18k gold models attached to their Cellini line of ultra dressy timepieces.

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The Top 10 Rolex Dials Wed, 19 Jun 2019 17:02:59 +0000 Of all the numerous elements that go into making a watch, the dial is by far the most immediately striking. For it to be a success, every feature, from the color to the indexes to the material, has to be able to work together to form an harmonious whole. Much like our own faces, there […]

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Of all the numerous elements that go into making a watch, the dial is by far the most immediately striking. For it to be a success, every feature, from the color to the indexes to the material, has to be able to work together to form an harmonious whole.

Much like our own faces, there is an almost infinite variety out there, and Rolex are responsible for some of the most remarkable examples—and it is something they continue to pioneer in their contemporary collection.

Below, we have raided the archives as well as looked at the modern portfolio to bring you our Top 10 Rolex Dials.

The Rolex Submariner ref. 1680/8

Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680

For a brand which has done more than any other to perfect the wristwatch, it is something of an irony just how excited Rolex collectors get over imperfections.

Many of the most desired and sought after vintage pieces become so valuable precisely because they are flawed in some way.

Released in 1978, the first Submariner to be offered in solid gold (and the first series to include a date function), the ref. 1680/8, came in two variants. One with black dial and bezel, and this, the same watch but in blue.

However, while that was distinctive enough, through the years those blue faces have changed to a rich purple—a form of ‘tropical’ dial coloring caused by exposure to sunlight and a certain amount of moisture.

The defect is one that continues over time, making each watch ever changing and unique, and to a collector, unique equals prestigious. Complete with their retro nipple style hour markers, these regal-looking Subs command significant premiums on the preowned market.

Rolex Daytona ref. 16520 Patrizzi

Rolex Mens Daytona Cosmograph 16520

Another mistake from Rolex which causes fans to go weak at the knees (and bank accounts), the so-called Patrizzi dials also feature a color change, although of a less noticeable kind.

When the second generation of the world’s favorite chronograph received a self-winding movement for the first time in 1988, the so-called Zenith Daytona range kicked off with a steel model, the ref. 16520, available with either a black or white dial.

For a very short time between 1994 and 1995, Rolex used an organic varnish called Zapon on the black dialed versions which, it was discovered later, did not provide the necessary coverage to the whole face. In another form of tropical fading, the silver outer rings on the iconic trio of sub dials on these examples have oxidized as they react with UV rays, turning a golden brown color.

Named after Antiquorum founder Osvaldo Patrizzi, who was the first to discover the fault, these increasingly rare models regularly trade for more than twice the price of unaffected models from the same generation.

GMT-Master ref. 6542 Albino

Rolex Ref. 6542 GMT Albino Dial
Credit: Hodinkee

In the world of Rolex collecting, there’s rare, ultra rare and mythical. This is the latter.

The ref. 6542 is the original GMT-Master, first released in 1954. It was a collaboration project between Rolex and leading airline Pan-Am, the carrier in need of a watch capable of showing two time zones simultaneously in order to help their crews fight off jetlag.

The result was a massive success from the start, and quickly became the ultimate travel companion. While Pan-Am’s pilots were given black dialed versions, the company, as the story goes, ordered around 100 white dialed pieces for their executives.

However, it is so long ago and the watch is so rare, its existence has now crossed over into folklore. If one does occasionally crop up at auction, it is usually followed by cries of fake!

One of those that even the hardest of hardcore devotees might go their whole lives without seeing, the Albino GMT-Master is about as enigmatic as Rolex gets.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126719BLRO

Rolex Ref. 126719BLRO Dial
Credit: Rolex

Coming right up to date with that dual time zone legend, the last few years have seen Rolex introduce a host of exciting developments. The reinstatement of the Pepsi color scheme on a steel model has set new levels for desirability, and something as simple as putting the blue and black Batman variant on a Jubilee bracelet has done the same.

But for those wanting something truly one-of-a-kind, 2019 brought us the ref. 126719BLRO, a white gold case topped with a dial crafted from meteorite.

It is not the first time the brand has used the material. The Daytona, Day-Date and Datejust have all been issued with dials made from slivers of the Gibeon meteorite which was discovered in Namibia in 1838.

The famous Widmanstätten pattern that forms on its surface, caused by the cooling of its crystallized iron and nickel composites, makes each slice unique—perfect for use in a highly exclusive watch.

With the Namibian government now imposing a ban on any more of the meteorite being used for any purpose, these new additions to the stellar GMT series are assured of grail watch status in the future.

Rolex Day-Date ref. 1803 Stella Dial

Rolex Ref. 1803 Stella Dial
Credit: rlx36mm

Speaking of stellar (see what I did there?!) the 1970s gave rise to a brief run of anti-establishment rebellion among that most conservative of icons, the Day-Date.

The watch of world leaders and business moguls got the full-on John Lennon Rolls Royce treatment when Rolex fitted the ref. 1803 with a range of blindingly psychedelic dials in bright pink, orange, lime green, turquoise and a host of others.

The lacquered, multi-layered enamel faces transformed the poster-child for traditionalism into a flamboyant showman. Named after American artist Frank Stella, renowned for his peacockish color palette, the Stella dial Day-Dates were aimed at a Middle Eastern market. But they were slow sellers, leading to a short production run, and it would take until 2013 before a new series of colorful faces would grace the grand old statesman of dress watches.

Rolex Air-King Dominoes Pizza

If you tried to think of a brand lesslikely to be associated with Rolex, then Dominoes Pizza would likely be near the top of the list.

Rolex Air-King Dominos Pizza Dial

Yet, the world’s leading manufacturer of luxury watches and the fast food chain have had a collaboration for decades. Somehow, Dominoes were granted permission to co-brand with Rolex on their Air-King model, slapping their logo on the face at the six o’clock. The resulting piece was gifted to managers whose stores hit $30,000 in weekly sales for four weeks in a row.

Rolex used to have a tradition of adding various company insignia to their dials on a number of pieces for similar reasons, with the watches usually acting as retirement presents for departing workers with many years service.

However, it doesn’t happen anymore, and while the Dominoes partnership is still ongoing, the company’s trademark has now shifted to a more inconspicuous location on the bracelet.

The double logo dial models are fairly rare, although no one seems to have any idea just how many there are in circulation. But they are definitely unusual, and as such command something in the region of 10-20% over the price of standard models.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman

There just cannot be a list of this type without mentioning the daddy of all desirable dials, the Paul Newmans.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman

Officially called the ‘exotic’ dials, these colorful and extremely rare Art Deco variations on the customary face were fitted to some of the first six references of the Rolex Daytona.

Made not by Rolex themselves but by auxiliary brand Singer, and usually by special order, they came out of total obscurity in the 1970s when one found its way onto the wrist of Hollywood royalty. A gift from wife Joanne Woodward as he embarked on his motor racing career, one photo on the cover of an Italian magazine of Paul Newman wearing his ref. 6239 was all it took to catapult the watch into the firmament.

Today, a first generation Daytona with an exotic dial will dwarf the price of a standard piece, and you would be very lucky to find one for less than $200,000. Yet that’s peanuts compared to what was paid for the actual model worn by the man himself. In 2017, Paul Newman’s Paul Newman became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction when the hammer dropped at $17.7m.

Rolex ref. 6085 ‘The Dragon’

The 1950s were an extraordinary time for Rolex, a period of inventiveness unrivalled by any other even in their own storied saga.

As well as giving rise to a range of watches which have since gone onto superstardom, it was also a period where the brand experimented widely.

Rolex Ref. 6085 The Dragon Dial
Credit: Bexsonn

One such venture brought us this, a ref. 6085 Oyster Perpetual with a stunning Cloisonné enamel dial.

Created for Rolex by famous dial makers Stern Frères, they are almost unbelievably low in number. It is thought only five were ever produced depicting a dragon, each fitted to a different reference, making this watch absolutely unique.

It is an incredibly tricky and costly technique, involving laying out the framework for the design in gold wire, before filling each part in with different color enamel powder and firing at 1,000 degrees.

Everything is done by hand, including the final polishing to ensure the delicate surface doesn’t crack.

As you would expect, seeing these for sales is something of an event, and this particular example, a 33mm watch in a 14k yellow gold case, went for CHF 670,000 in 2016.

Rolex Date ref. 6694 Mickey Mouse

If there is some doubt over whether or not Pan-Am’s Albino GMT-Masters actually ever existed, it is nothing compared to this.

Rolex Ref. 6694 Mickey Mouse Dial
Credit: A Blog To Watch

There’s no shortage of Rolex watches with aftermarket Mickey Mouse dials stuck on, but there is also a rumor (and nothing more) that during the 60s, 70s and into the 80s, there was an official relationship between the watchmaker and Disney Corp. It allegedly resulted in a model being created for Disney’s board of directors, a Rolex Date with the rodent himself front and center, reminiscent of the original Ingersoll pieces.

As a co-brand goes, it makes slightly more sense than the Dominoes Pizza Air-Kings, with Rolex and Disney both sharing about the same level of global recognition. But you will go a long time before you find anyone who has so much as seen one of the genuine articles, let alone owned one.

Are they real or are they merely an anecdote? We may never know.

Rolex Submariner Explorer Dial

We started with the genesis of all future dive watches, so let’s finish with it.

In truth, there were so many miniscule variations across the dial range during the Submariner’s formative years they could easily fill a list on their own. You will hear phrases like Single Red, Exclamation Point, 2-Line, 4-Line, Underline and a thousand others bandied about if you do any digging into the model’s long history, each with varying degrees of scarcity and value.

Rolex Ref. 6200

But among the absolute rarest, with just a literal handful being made, were the 3/6/9 Explorer dial examples.

In all, they were fitted, sparingly, to five different references; 6200, 6538, 5510, 5512 and 5513.

Today, practically none of the first three survive, while the 5512 and 5513 do appear occasionally at auction. One of the most interesting turned up in 2016 at Christie’s, a ref. 5512 once belonging to a member of a British Police specialist firearms unit who had taken part in the London Iranian Embassy siege in 1980. Between the watch’s extreme rarity and its fascinating backstory, it sailed past its estimate and was sold for CHF 197,000.

As time goes on, and these already incredibly scarce Submariner anomalies get even lower in number, you can expect the price to rise even further.

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Rolex Developments, Introductions, and Innovations in the 1990s Mon, 17 Jun 2019 16:44:20 +0000 Following the flurry of new Rolex references introduced in the late-1980s, the brand did not present nearly as many in the following decade. However, there were still a few fresh references to take note of, in addition to a pair of entirely new models. It’s also worth noting that this is the decade that Rolex […]

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Following the flurry of new Rolex references introduced in the late-1980s, the brand did not present nearly as many in the following decade. However, there were still a few fresh references to take note of, in addition to a pair of entirely new models. It’s also worth noting that this is the decade that Rolex jumpstarted its strategy to aggressively acquire suppliers, eventually becoming the vertically integrated watchmaking behemoth we know today. Read on for details about the Rolex developments, introductions, and innovations in the 1990s.

New Rolex Models Introduced in the 1990s

Two brand new Rolex models—one sporty and one dressy—were added to the company’s catalog in the 1990s.

Rolex Launched the Yacht-Master in 1992

Rolex Yacht-Master Ref. 16628

Rolex had the Yacht-Master name stashed in its back pocket for decades. The company even made three Yacht-Master prototypes in the 1960s (which look nothing like the final product)—one of which was once owned by music legend Eric Clapton.

Finally, in 1992, Rolex introduced the Yacht-Master model and with its debut, laid the foundation for what would become the brand’s nautical themed luxury sports watch collection. The Yacht-Master shared many traits with other Rolex sports watches of the time, such as a 40 mm Oyster case size, an Oyster bracelet, a rotating timing bezel, Mercedes-style hands, and a mix of round, rectangular, and triangular indexes.

Yet, to emphasize the luxuriousness of the new model, the first version was the Yacht-Master ref. 16628, in full 18k yellow gold. Rolex even made the Yacht-Master’s bezel in full gold with raised numerals rather than fitting it with an aluminum bezel insert typical of many of its other sports watch collections. It’s interesting to note that the indexes on the dial are not lume-filled but black hour markers accompanied by small luminous accents next to them. As a time and date model, the Yacht-Master 16628 runs on Caliber 3135—the pillar automatic movement Rolex released just a few years earlier.

Rolex Yacht-Master Ref. 69623

In 1994, Rolex added two other sizes to the Yacht-Master collection: the midsize 35 mm Yacht-Master ref. 68628 and the ladies’ 29 mm Yacht-Master ref. 69628. Both editions were also crafted in 18k yellow gold. One year later in 1995, the two-tone steel and yellow gold 35 mm Yacht-Master ref. 68623 and the two-tone steel and yellow gold 29 mm Yacht-Master ref. 69623 joined the collection.

Right at the end of the decade, in 1999, Rolex unveiled the Yacht-Master models in Rolesium, which is the company’s term for combining stainless steel and platinum elements on one watch. There was the 40 mm Yacht-Master 16622, the 35 mm Yacht-Master 68622, and the 29 mm Yacht-Master 69622. Each version paired stainless steel cases and bracelets with sandblasted platinum bezels and dials.

Rolex Launched the Pearlmaster in 1992

Rolex Ladies Datejust Pearlmaster Ref. 69318

Another completely new Rolex model introduced in the 1990s was the ladies’ Pearlmaster watch. Although the dials of these watches actually say “Datejust,” Rolex named them after the new Pearlmaster bracelets that accompanied them. The Pearlmaster bracelet features a five-piece link construction and is fashioned very much like a piece of fine jewelry.

Since Rolex positions this collection as the ultra-luxurious ladies’ jewelry watch lineup, all Pearlmaster watches are exclusively made in precious metals and all include diamonds in varying degrees. The Pearlmaster references from the 1990s with 29 mm cases include the yellow gold Pearlmaster ref. 69298 with a full diamond-set bezel, the yellow gold Pearlmaster ref. 69318 with a dozen diamonds on the bezel, the white gold Pearlmaster ref. 69299 with a full diamond-set bezel, and the white gold Pearlmaster ref. 69319 with a dozen diamonds on the bezel. Rolex also made some Pearlmaster models in the nineties with Tridor bracelets, which combines three shades of gold.

New Rolex Metal Option Introduced in the 1990s

In the 1990s, Rolex revealed a new precious metal version of the Daytona chronograph watch.

Rolex Launched the White Gold Daytona in 1997

Mens Rolex Daytona White Gold Ref. 16519

When Rolex introduced its first automatic Daytona in 1988, there were three metal options to choose from: stainless steel, yellow gold, and two-tone steel and gold. In 1997, a new metal option joined the lineup in the form of the 18k white gold Daytona ref. 16519. However, rather than fitting the Daytona 16519 with a matching metal bracelet, Rolex paired it with a leather strap. While we can’t say for sure since Rolex never comments on why they make certain decisions, we assume this was done to clearly distinguish the precious white gold Daytona from the less expensive stainless steel Daytona.

Like the all the other automatic Daytona models that came before it, the white gold Daytona ref. 16519 sports a 40 mm Oyster case with a tachymeter engraved metal bezel. Furthermore, inside the case is Caliber 4030, which is based on the El-Primero chronograph movement and explains why these five-digit references are often nicknamed the “Rolex Zenith Daytona” models. Dial choices included classic black or white (with the option of diamonds indexes), along with a special blue sodalite hardstone dial dotted with diamond hour markers.

New Rolex Design Details Introduced in the 1990s

In the 1990s, Rolex took a couple of major design and material shifts across different models including luminescence materials and diamond-setting techniques.

Rolex Adopted Luminova Luminescence in the 1990s

From about the mid-1960s until the mid-1990s, Rolex used tritium for luminescence on the dials of its watches. While nowhere near as dangerous as radium, tritium is still a radioactive material, which is (without going into all the scientific details) a reason why it emits a visible glow. Tritium Rolex dials are labeled “Swiss-T <25,” “T Swiss Made T,” or “T SWISS T” right below 6 o’clock.

In the mid-1990s, Rolex switched from tritium to non-radioactive Luminova (invented in 1993 in Japan) as its go-to luminous material. Unlike self-luminous radium and tritium, Luminova first needs a “charge” under a light source before it can glow brightly in the dark. The brightness of the Luminova lume plots fade after a few hours but all it needs is another re-charge and they will shine bright yet again.

Rolex Adopted Diamond Bezel Setting For Hour Markers in the 1990s

If you look at vintage Rolex dress watches, such as Day-Date and Datejust models, with diamond hour markers, you will note that the diamonds are placed on the dial via a four-prong setting. In the 1990s, Rolex switched to bezel-setting using gold surrounds for their diamond hours markers on its dress watches. This is still the same gem-setting technique the company uses today for diamond indexes.

New Rolex References Introduced in the 1990s

In the 1980s it was Rolex’s date, day/date, and dual-time collections that all received new references because of newly minted calibers. In the 1990s, Rolex mainly focused on adding new references to its no-date collections—many of which had housed the same references for three decades.

New Rolex Submariner Reference Launched in the 1990s

As a new decade was approaching, it was clear that Rolex needed to update its no-date Submariner model. After all, the then-current production Submariner ref. 5513 made its debut in 1962. So, in 1990, Rolex introduced the new Submariner ref. 14060 with a whole host of enhancements.

Mens Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner Black 14060

First, there was the unidirectional rotating bezel on top of the 40 mm case instead of a bi-directional one for a safer way to track dive times. Plus, the addition of the larger Triplock screw-down winding crown meant that the Sub 14060 was water resistant to 300 meters (compared to the 200 m rating of the previous reference). Then there was the new black gloss dial that replaced the matte black one, complete with white gold surrounds framing the hour makers.

Early models of the Submariner 14060 used tritium for lume but Rolex switched to Luminova in the mid-1990s. Although very few late models of the Submariner ref. 5513 came with sapphire crystals, sapphire crystals became standard across all Submariner 14060 models. Finally, inside the Submariner ref. 14060 was a new Caliber 3000. Interestingly, the Caliber 3000 powering the Submariner ref. 14060 was not chronometer-certified, therefore the typical “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” text was absent from its dial. As a result, the Submariner ref. 14060 is often referred to as the “two-liner Submariner” due to its minimalist dial.

New Rolex Oyster Perpetual References Launched in the 1990s

One of Rolex’s simplest models, the Oyster Perpetual, also welcomed new references. In fact, the preceding references, the Oyster Perpetual ref. 100X series, were in production since the 1950s!

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Two-Tone Ref. 14233

The new 1990’s men’s Oyster Perpetual references included the two-tone Oyster Perpetual ref. 14203 with a smooth bezel, the Oyster Perpetual ref. 14233 with a fluted bezel, the yellow gold ref. 14208 with a smooth bezel, and the yellow gold Oyster Perpetual ref. 14238 with a fluted bezel. As before, the cases measured 34 mm in diameter and the dials only housed three center hands without a date window. New to this generation of Oyster Perpetual watches was Caliber 3000. However, unlike the no-date Submariner, the Caliber 3000 inside the Oyster Perpetual 142xx references were chronometer-certified.

Rolex also updated the midsize and ladies’ Oyster Perpetual watches in the 1990s. For the midsize options with 31 mm cases, there’s the full stainless steel midsize Oyster Perpetual ref. 77080 and the stainless steel midsize Oyster Perpetual ref. 77014 with white gold fluted bezel.

For the ladies’ Oyster Perpetual options with 26 mm cases there were quite a few new-to-the-nineties to choose from. These included the full steel ladies’ Oyster Perpetual ref. 76080 with a smooth bezel, the full steel ladies’ Oyster Perpetual ref. 76030 with an engine-turned bezel, the steel ladies’ Oyster Perpetual ref. 76094 with a white gold fluted bezel, the two-tone ladies’ Oyster Perpetual ref. 76183 with a smooth bezel, the two-tone ladies’ Oyster Perpetual ref. 76193 with a fluted bezel, and the full yellow gold ladies’ Oyster Perpetual ref. 76198.

New Air-King References Launched in the 1990s

Rolex Air-King 14000

Along with the no-date Submariner and the no-date Oyster Perpetual, Rolex also refreshed the no-date Air-King collection with some new references. Again, similar to the other two models we noted above, Rolex produced the Air-King 5500 for well over three decades and it was time for new versions.

The new references launched in the 1990s were the Air-King 14000 with a smooth bezel and the Air-King 14010 with an engine-turned bezel. Just like earlier models, the 1990’s Air-Kings had 34 mm cases and Oyster bracelets, all in stainless steel. New to the Air-King collection were the sapphire crystals and the Caliber 3000 inside—the same non-chronometer version as in the Submariner 14060. The updated chronometer-certified Air-King 14000M only arrived in the following decade.

New Rolex Date & Datejust References Launched in the 1990s

In the 1990s, Rolex introduced a new series of midsize Date and Datejust watches with the ref. 782xx family of models. Like previous models, inside the 31 mm Oyster case of these watches were Caliber 2135 movements. Material choices include the full stainless steel midsize ref. 78240, the steel midsize ref. 78274 with a white gold fluted bezel, two-tone midsize ref. 78273 with a fluted bezel, and two-tone midsize ref. 78243 with a smooth bezel.


Rolex also introduced a new generation of the Lady-Datejust in the late 1990s with the reference numbers ref. 791xx. All fitted with 26 mm cases, some option include the two-tone Lady-Datejust ref. 79173, the full yellow gold Lady-Datejust ref. 79178, and the full steel Lady-Datejust ref. 79160.


New Rolex Cosmograph Daytona References Launched in the 1990s

In 1992, Rolex introduced the first automatic Daytona fitted with a leather strap, the 18k yellow gold Daytona ref. 16518. The newest member of the “Rolex Zenith Daytona” family was a lighter and a less expensive alternative to the full yellow gold Daytona ref. 16528 thanks to the leather strap standing in for the precious metal bracelet. However, the Daytona leather band does include an 18k yellow gold deployant clasp for added security (and heft).

Rolex Daytona Ref. 16528

Aside from the band, all the other details remained the same. That is to say, a 40 mm Oyster case water resistant to 100 meters, screw down chronograph pushers, a tachymeter scale engraved on the metal bezel, and the El-Primero-based Caliber 4030 inside the watch.

This brings us to the end of the nineties and also, to the end of the 20th century. Don’t miss the next chapter of this series where we’ll be investigating the Rolex developments, introductions, and innovations in the 2000s. It’s an action-packed decade for the Crown!

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