The Rolex 1560 and 1570 Movements
In the early days of the company, Rolex sourced the intricate movements that powered their watches from the likes of Aegler, one of Switzerland’s finest watchmakers. It wasn’t until 1957 that they developed their own truly in-house movement, the 1500 series. They became a mainstay of the company, remaining in production for 20 years. Rolex proved themselves as thoroughly reliable engines inside a number of Rolex’s most iconic designs. Two of the most dependable and hardworking iterations were the Rolex 1560 and 1570. They base these movements on the same architecture as the first caliber in the series, the 1530. But where the 1530 wasn’t a chronometer grade movement, meaning it hasn’t passed the vigorous testing set down by the COSC (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute), both the 1560 and 1570 were.
To gain certified chronometer status, the calibers had to prove themselves accurate to within -4/+6 seconds a day over a 15-day period. They performed testing in a variety of temperatures and positions. Only the movements that passed were able to display the text ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified’ on their dials.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the Rolex 1560 and 1570 movements and the watches that housed them.
The Rolex Caliber 1560
The 1560 was the start of the second generation of the 1500 series calibers. They released this movement in 1959 and it remained in use until 1965. With a 26 jewel self-winding automatic movement, it had a Rolex p/n 7980 balance assembly with Microstella screws, a Bregeut free sprung hairspring. It also had a frequency of 18,000 bph. Furthermore, the KIF Flector shock absorbers protected the 1560. Also, it used a traditional stone lever escapement and had a power reserve of 42 hours.
Rolex released this series with a date function version, the 1565, and with the addition of a 24-hour hand in the 1565GMT. Although there was no Quickset mechanism, the 1500 calibers came with the cam and jewel system. This system was able to create an instantaneous date change at midnight, still used by Rolex today.
The unfussiness of the original, no-date movement made it the ideal caliber to sit inside the Oyster Perpetual series. This began with the ref. 1002 released at the end of the fifties. Its modest height of 5.75mm and diameter of 28.5mm, or 12.5 lignes, allowed it to fit comfortably in the 34mm to 36mm cases of the range.
Moreover, they also used this movement in two more of today’s most highly coveted vintage watches.
Rolex Sports Models
The Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 is considered by purists to be one of the brand’s most starkly beautiful designs. Also, it’s one that changed very little in its long production run from 1963 to 1989. Originally powered by the 1530, it was soon replaced by the more accurate and chronometer certified 1560.
As one of Rolex’s sports watches, it was always somewhat overshadowed by the likes of the Daytona and the GMT Master. These models were given significantly greater updates over the years. But, as a discreet and extremely simple three-hand timepiece with no complications, the Explorer 1016 is a timeless and elegant example.
The other model to house the 1560 was anything but overshadowed. The Submariner 5512 was launched in 1959, again with the quickly exchanged 1530. It remained in production for nearly 20 years. In fact, the Submariner became an icon of the Rolex brand and one of the most influential designs ever made. Today, the ref. 5512 Submariners are a huge favorite among collectors; a surprisingly attainable classic that represents an important milestone in Rolex history.
The Rolex Caliber 1570
The movement that superseded the 1560 shared the vast majority of its elements, with a few notable improvements. The 1570 marked the third generation of the 1500 series. It comes with the balance assembly Rolex p/n 8106, again with a Breguet hairspring. However, it’s with a higher frequency of 19,800 bph, or 2.75Hz.
The main difference between the two calibers came in 1972 when the 1570 gained a hacking feature. It was now possible to stop the sweeping seconds hand by pulling out the watch crown, activating a hacking lever that interrupted the balance wheel and simplifying the act of setting the watch accurately.
The 1570 became one of the most popular and highly regarded movements Rolex had so far produced. Used in the continuing series of Oyster Perpetuals, it was still powering the 5512 Submariner in 1978 and even the Explorer ref. 1016 until the end of its run in the late eighties.
Similarly to its predecessor, Rolex also manufactured it as a date and GMT version, the 1575, which proved the perfect companion to the Explorer II released in 1971, as well as the GMT-Master and Datejust series.
In 1967, it was the obvious choice for Rolex’s newest and toughest model, the 1665 Sea-Dweller. A dive watch made for the high pressures of professional saturation diving, it boasted a water resistance of 2000ft and was the first commercially available watch to be protected by a Helium Escape Valve.
The 1500 series of movements were the start of a long line of calibers. In fact, Rolex manufactured these entirely in-house. Also, the Rolex 1560 and 1570 were two of the most successful. In keeping with the ethos of the company as a whole, they were beautifully engineered and elegantly simple, and broke new ground in precision and reliability.