Important Parts of a Rolex Watch: The Movements

Welcome to our new Important Parts of a Rolex Watch series where we’ll be diving deep into what makes a Rolex a Rolex. While that Aristotle adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” still rings true, when the parts are as fantastic as Rolex ones, they are worth a closer look! We’ll kick things off with what can arguably be called the most important part of a Rolex watch despite that fact that most Rolex owners will never actually get to see it: the movement.

Different Types of Rolex Watch Movements

Over the course of its history, Rolex has used automatic movements, hand-wound movements, and quartz movements to power their watches.

While today, Rolex exclusively makes self-winding movements for their contemporary watches, it wasn’t too long ago that the watchmaker offered quartz watches (such as Cellini quartz watches and Oysterquartz watches) and manual-wound mechanical watches (such as the Oysterdate Precision and vintage Daytona chronographs).

Yet, Rolex watches are most associated with automatic mechanical movements. In fact, in 1931 the brand invented and patented the world’s first self-winding mechanism powered by a “perpetual” rotor and since then, perfecting the self-winding movement has been at the core of the company.

Rolex Caliber 4130

Sourced Movements vs. In-House Rolex Movements

Although there’s an expectation today for high-end luxury watch brands to make the majority of all their watch parts in-house, in the earlier days of horology it was not only normal but also expected that different companies specialized in different parts of the watch. Some companies focused on dials, some on cases, others on bracelets, and some handled movements.

So prior to the 1950s, Rolex also largely depended on external suppliers for movement components and bases (called ébauche in watchmaking). It was only in 1950 that Rolex introduced their first entirely in-house built movement—Caliber 1030, part of the Cal. 1000 Series of Rolex movements.

However, even if Rolex did make the Caliber 1030 entirely in-house, the brand continued to source other movement bases for particular watches. For instance, the manual-wound Daytona watches ran on Valjoux-based movements and the first generation of automatic Daytona watches ran on (Rolex modified) Zenith El Primero-based movements. It wasn’t until 2000 that Rolex debuted the in-house Caliber 4130 chronograph movement to power the Daytona collection.

Rolex Caliber Quick Guide

Rolex Caliber 10xx Series
Frequency 18,000 beats per hour

Caliber  Debut Functions Rolex Model
1030 1950 Hour, Minute, Seconds Explorer, Oyster Perpetual, Submariner
1036 1954 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, GMT GMT-Master, Oyster Perpetual Date
1040 1954 Hour, Minute, Deadbeat Seconds Tru-Beat
1080 1955 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Antimagnetic Milgauss
1055 1956 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date
1035 1957 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Oyster Perpetual Date, Oysterdate
1065 1965 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Datejust, Datejust Turn-O-Graph

Rolex Caliber 11xx Series
Frequency 19,800 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
1120 1953 Hour, Minute, Seconds Oyster Perpetual
1130 1955 Hour, Minute, Seconds Oyster Perpetual
1135 1955 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Oyster Perpetual Date, Datejust, Datejust Turn-O-Graph

Rolex Caliber 116x Series
Frequency 19,800 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
1160/1161 1964 Hour, Minute, Seconds Oyster Perpetual
1165/1166 1965/1967 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Oyster Perpetual Date, Datejust

Rolex Caliber 15xx Series
Frequency 18,000 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
1530 1957 Hour, Minute, Seconds Air-King, Submariner
1535 1957 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Air-King Date
1555 1959 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date
1560 1959 Hour, Minute, Seconds Air-King, Oyster Perpetual, Submariner
1565 1959 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Datejust, Datejust Turn-O-Graph, Oyster Perpetual Date
1565GMT 1959 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, GMT GMT-Master
1556 1965 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date

Rolex Caliber 157x Series
Frequency 19,800 beats per hour
Hacking seconds introduced

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
1570 1965 Hour, Minute, Seconds Explorer, Oyster Perpetual, Submariner
1575 1965 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Datejust, Explorer II, Oyster Perpetual Date, Sea-Dweller, Submariner
1575GMT 1965 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, GMT GMT-Master
1580 1965 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Antimagnetic Milgauss

Rolex Caliber 30xx Series
Frequency 28,800 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
3035 1977 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Datejust, Oyster Perpetual Date, Sea-Dweller, Submariner Date
3055 1977 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date
3075 1980 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, GMT GMT-Master
3085 1983 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Independent GMT GMT-Master II, Explorer II
3000 1990 Hour, Minute, Seconds Air-King, Explorer, Oyster Perpetual, Submariner

Rolex Caliber 31xx Series
Frequency 28,800 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Date Functions Rolex Model
3135 1988 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Datejust, Oyster Perpetual Date, Sea-Dweller, Submariner Date, Yacht-Master
3155 1988 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date
3175 1988 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, GMT GMT-Master
3185 1988 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Independent GMT Explorer II , GMT-Master II
3130 2001 Hour, Minute, Seconds Air-King, Explorer, Oyster Perpetual, Submariner
3186 2005 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Independent GMT Explorer II , GMT-Master II
3131 2007 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Antimagnetic Air-King, Milgauss
3136 2008 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date II
3132 2010 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Oyster Perpetual 39, Explorer 39
3187 2011 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Independent GMT Explorer II
3255 2015 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Day Day-Date 40
3235 2015 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date Datejust, Pearlmaster 39, Sea-Dweller
3285 2018 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Date, Independent GMT GMT-Master II

Rolex Caliber 4000 Series
Frequency 28,800 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
4030 (Zenith Primero) 1988 Hour, Minute, Small Seconds, Chronograph Cosmograph Daytona
4130 2000 Hour, Minute, Small Seconds, Chronograph Cosmograph Daytona
4160 2007 Hour, Minute, Small Seconds, Chronograph, Countdown with mechanical memory Yacht-Master II
4161 2013 Hour, Minute, Small Seconds, Chronograph, Countdown with mechanical memory Yacht-Master II

Rolex Caliber 9000 Series
Frequency 28,800 beats per hour

Caliber Debut Functions Rolex Model
9001 2012 Hour, Minute, Seconds, Second Time Zone, Annual Calendar Date, Month Display Sky-Dweller

Important Components of Rolex Movements

Aside from the perpetual rotor, there are a host of components that Rolex invented to improve the performance of their calibers.

Rolex Caliber 2236

Parachrom hairspring: Introduced in 2000, the Parachrom hairspring—part of the mechanical movement’s oscillator—is made from an alloy of niobium, zirconium and oxygen. Not only is this Rolex invention resistant to magnetic fields and temperature swings, but it also remains up to 10 times more accurate than regular hairsprings when subjected to shocks. These features improve the reliability and performance of the movement. In 2005, Rolex introduced a new process to enhance the surface of the Parachrom hairspring to improve stability—which also happens to turn the component blue.

Paraflex shock absorbers: Introduced in 2005, Rolex invented the Paraflex shock absorbers to increase the resistance of its movements to shock by at least 50% while still maintaining chronometric performance.

Rolex Caliber 3235

Syloxi hairspring: Introduced in 2014 on Caliber 2236, the Syloxi hairspring—part of the mechanical movement’s oscillator—improves the caliber’s reliability and precision thanks to its silicon makeup.

Chronergy escapement: Introduced in 2015 on Caliber 3235 (and later in Caliber 3255), the Rolex patented Chronergy escapement—the component that receives the energy from the mainspring to transmit it to the oscillator in even impulses—is 15% more efficient than traditional Swiss lever escapements due to its unique geometry.