In the multifaceted and often confusing world of Rolex calibers, not only does form always follow function, but sometimes, a less complicated version of a base movement is introduced long after its more complex brethren.
Such is the case with the Cal. 3130. Identical in practically every way to the series foundation caliber, the Cal. 3135, the only difference between the two is the lack of a date function in the former. Nevertheless, there is a 13-year age gap between the two mechanisms—the 3135 was released in 1988; the simpler 3130 didn’t appear until 2001.
Why it took Rolex well over a decade to remove such a modest complication is unclear, but what they left us with is a continuation of their most reliable, accurate and widely used family of movements ever and, in some people’s eyes, perhaps their toughest one yet.
If you believe the old adage of strength in simplicity, then the Cal. 3130 is a Hulk of a caliber. The whole of the 3100 range was designed to serve Rolex’s catalog of Oyster Professional timepieces; their highly-renowned tool watches, built to shrug off the harshest treatment and come up smiling. Their engines are big, basic and the end product of nearly a century of constant testing, developing and improving.
The Cal. 3130 is the most rudimentary example—a straightforward, three-hand, time only movement found in the sort of purely functional yet exquisitely designed watches on which Rolex built its legendary reputation.
Along with powering recent references of the Air-King and Explorer, the Cal. 3130 is still found today inside the ubiquitous Submariner and the mid-size versions of the Oyster Perpetual range, surely the most no-nonsense and utilitarian offering in the collection.
Under the Hood
Even without the extra components needed to run a date function, the 3130 holds the same dimensions as the Cal. 3135, with a diameter of 28mm and a height of 6mm. Its physical size gives it an inherent strength, ideally suited to the task of making sure watches subjected to life’s hardest knocks keep going.
It retains the 28,800bph frequency ushered in in the 1970s that gives all modern day Rolex’s their smoothly sweeping seconds hand. Additionally, it shares the 48-hour power reserve and 31-jewels of the Cal. 3135, along with the Parachrom hairspring with Breguet overcoil secured by a full balance bridge.
Although the 3130 still uses Kif shock absorbers, rather than Rolex’s own Paraflex system that has since found its way into the updated Cal. 3132 for the latest Explorer, it is still a COSC certified movement, accurate to within +2/-2 seconds a day. Rolex redefined the parameters of the Superlative Chronometer test in 2015, making themselves the only manufacturer to test each of their calibers both inside their cases and out.
Many of the components themselves are crafted from Rhodium-plated brass; the precious metal coating helping protect against moisture damage and corrosion, as well as giving a highly attractive finish to a part of the watch most of us will never see. Such is Rolex!
One of the exceptions is the free sprung balance wheel, which is made from a beryllium and copper alloy known as Glucydur, a favorite with many luxury watchmakers for its rigidity and resistance to temperature variations. The wheel is regulated with the brand’s patented Microstella system, an arrangement of four timing screws on the inside of the rim that allow for a more precise adjustment than traditional balance screws.
The Perpetual, automatic rotor allows the mainspring to be wound in either direction. The two gears that control it are coated in PTFE, more commonly known as Teflon, which increase the rotor’s efficiency and give the parts a distinctive deep red color. Unlike almost every other watchmaker, Rolex uses synthetic rubies to mount the rotor, as opposed to the more usual ball bearings. It is a system that reduces the number of moving parts, and thereby the amount of wear suffered by the movement.
The Cal. 3130 at Work
Although the latest Air-King and Explorer models have since gone on to receive updated calibers, the Cal. 3130 is still providing faultless service inside two of the brand’s most important pieces—one, often referred to as the entry-level Rolex; the other, the purest example of their most famous creation.
The Oyster Perpetual
The horological equivalent of a good suit, the Oyster Perpetual is the watch that can be dressed up or down as needed—a range that is a match for any occasion.
Loved by die-hard aficionados for its utility and timeless styling, the all steel construction and the aesthetic that has barely altered throughout its long life, mark it as the model that has stayed truest to Rolex’s overriding philosophy.
Available in five different sizes, the Cal. 3130 takes the middle ground and ticks away in the heart of the 34mm and 36mm versions.
While it may be the least expensive thoroughbred in the stable, Rolex didn’t build its peerless reputation by skimping on the important bits. The Oyster Perpetual benefits from all of the same advances that find their way into watches ten times the price. Forged from 904L steel, an ultra hard metal more commonly found in the aerospace industry, the OP’s monobloc middle case and screw down back form an impenetrable shell, waterproof to 100m.
The scratch resistant sapphire crystal protects a dial ringed by 18k gold hour markers and the whole watch is secured by a solid link Oyster bracelet, fastened with the vault-like Oysterclasp.
Very much aimed at those looking for the one fine watch that will last them a lifetime, it’s a model that sits squarely and comfortably in between the sportiness of the professional collection and the dressiness of the Day-Date or Cellini range. Stylish, discreet and engineered to perfection, the Oyster Perpetual is a modest masterpiece.
The Rolex Submariner ref. 114060
The Cal. 3130 was first used in anger in 1999, when it replaced the Cal. 3000 inside the Submariner ref. 14060, earning it the designation ref. 14060M.
Adored by collectors for both the symmetry of its no date, no Cyclops dial, and its status as the last of the non-Cerachrom bezel Subs, the ref. 14060M is the undiluted essence of the world’s favorite dive watch.
Its replacement arrived in 2012, fresh out of the gym and sporting a more menacing, beefed up profile. Although still the age old 40mm dimensions, the ref. 114060’s new broad shouldered lugs sees it wear much larger on the wrist, while the Maxi dial’s wider indexes and hands give it a more readable legibility.
Its ceramic surround is scratchproof and virtually unbreakable, as well as unaffected by UV rays, meaning it won’t fade over time. With care, a modern Sub, even one worn every day as they should be, will look the same in twenty or thirty years.
Elsewhere, its steel case and Triplock crown system keeps the water out down to 300m, and the Oyster bracelet comes with the ingenious Glidelock clasp, allowing it to be micro adjusted without the need for tools, to either slip easily over a wetsuit sleeve or just to give your wrist a little more room to breathe.
The Submariner is perhaps the most recognizable watch in the world, emulated by legitimate manufacturers, counterfeited by crooks. The no date versions have always occupied a special place in the hearts of true Rolex fans, and the two references powered by the Cal. 3130 remain contemporary classics.
The Cal. 3130 is what happens when the world’s leading watch manufacturer strips away every extraneous detail from their calibers, and perfects the bits left over. Designed from the ground up with reliability and precision their only concerns, it is a mechanism that will still be impressing with its accuracy in decades to come.
Strong, simple and modestly handsome, even by Rolex’s standards, it is a triumphant achievement.