For something the majority of Rolex wearers will never see, the announcement of a completely new movement to power one of the brand’s impeccable lines of watches. The Rolex Caliber 3235 causes fans a huge amount of excitement.
In keeping with their reputation as the epitome of Swiss discretion, nothing in the Rolex catalog features a see-through case back to let you observe these miniature works of art in action.
However, just the hint of a new date-only caliber in 2015 set Rolex forums blazing. Many speculated the diameter of the movement would have to be widened if it was to accommodate a mainspring barrel capable of delivering the rumored 70-hour power reserve. That in turn would increase the size of the watch as a whole. Devoted followers prepared themselves for the likes of a 42mm Submariner.
In the end, thanks to Rolex’s typically innovative engineering processes, that didn’t happen. Instead, what emerged from the highly secretive plant in Bienne was the Rolex Caliber 3235. This is a next generation movement protected with a total of 14 patents. They designed it to run longer with even greater accuracy.
Let’s take a more detailed look.
The Rolex Caliber 3235
The 39mm Pearlmaster was the first watch to debut the caliber at Baselworld 2015. It has since gone on to be the engine inside two more of Rolex’s especially iconic designs; the 50th anniversary edition of the ultra tough dive watch The Sea Dweller ref. 126600, and possibly the brand’s most famous and enduring design, the 41mm version of the Datejust.
The new Rolex Caliber 3235 is based on the architecture of the movement inside Rolex’s flagship, the Day Date 40. We typically know this as the Rolex President watch, released a year before. The two mechanisms share similar features although, obviously, the 3255 of the President’s watch has an additional day complication.
The caliber itself has replaced more than 90% of the parts of its predecessor, Rolex’s longest running and most successful movement, the Cal. 3135. This mechanism has found its way inside more of the brand’s offerings than any other. The Yacht Master, the Submariner and the Deep Sea still use the 3135.
True to the Rolex design philosophy of relentless improvement, of evolution rather than revolution, virtually every component in the Rolex Caliber 3235 was ruthlessly tweaked and modified to offer greater efficiency over the previous model. Learn more about what Rolex can teach us about quality.
The New Chronergy
Most significantly, there’s a new type of escapement known as the Chronergy. The escapement is the part of a watch that helps regulate the power delivered from the mainspring via the oscillator. It consists of two main components, a pallet fork and an escape wheel. That ticking sound you hear in mechanical watches is the teeth of the pallet fork engaging and disengaging with the escape wheel. This slowly releases the energy, one tooth at a time.
The new Chronergy is an improved version of the most common type of the mechanism called the Swiss lever escapement. The escape wheel was skeletonized, using a cutout design that greatly reduces its overall weight, and therefore, its inertia. The pallet fork’s teeth are only half as thick as before. However, the contact surfaces on the escape wheel have doubled. The modifications, along with shifting the components to be geometrically offset, have increased its efficiency by 15%. And, by constructing the pieces from nickel-phosphorous, they become highly resistant to magnetic fields.
As well as the new escapement, another major innovation with the Rolex Caliber 3235 concerns the mainspring barrel. This caused so much discussion on internet forums when the first whispers of a three-day power reserve surfaced. However, Rolex was able to maintain the barrel’s original size by halving the thickness of its walls.
Also, the new monobloc-shaped rotor on the self-winding module rotates on ball bearings to enhance its speed. This allows for more rapid winding of the longer, high-capacity mainspring inside.
These breakthroughs are only possible through ongoing research and development into production techniques. Rolex is fanatical about controlling every aspect of the watchmaking process. As a result, they develop everything that goes into their movements in-house.
They are also able to create the miniscule components that make up their calibers using cutting-edge technology processes such as LiGA. This is an electroplating system used to manufacture microstructures.
But, while Rolex may have the most advanced watchmaking machinery in the world, their calibers and all of the separate elements that go into a completed watch, are assembled by hand. When you think about the micron-sized parts these highly trained technicians work with, it’s extremely impressive.
Along with the hardware contained inside one of their pieces, Rolex also develops and synthesizes its own lubricants to keep everything running smoothly. For the newly optimized gear train in the Caliber 3235—the series of wheels that transmit the energy from the mainspring to the escapement—a new high-performance oil is created to give more stability and a longer useful life. By reducing the friction between parts that could slow the movement, they ensure a higher level of reliability. Uniquely among watchmakers, modern Rolex’s only need servicing every ten years.
The Future of Rolex Calibers
As well as the uprated power reserve of 70 hours, Rolex’s newest caliber consumes 30% less energy than previous movements. By maintaining the same physical dimensions as its predecessor, many experts are predicting it’s only a matter of time before it replaces the Caliber 3135 that has been the brand’s mainstay for nearly 30 years. Rolex themselves are being predictably tightlipped about it.
Along with all the new features, the Rolex Caliber 3235 contains the Parachrom bleu hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers that have become standard issue across the range and that have put Rolex’s movements at the top of the watchmaking tree for consistency and precision.
They redefined that level of accuracy in 2015 when the 3235 became the first movement to receive Rolex’s own certification as a Superlative Chronometer. Not content with the industry recognized classification set down by the COSC, the Official Swiss Chronometer Institute, Rolex laid out their own criteria for their movements that are twice as exacting. That means a tolerance of just -2/+2 seconds a day. And to make it even tougher on themselves, they test each movement a second time after they fit it into the case. No other watchmaker is quite so demanding. Discover the rich Rolex history that has led to its name becoming synonymous with quality and distinction.
Rolex have long been the benchmark in the world of fine watches. While the outside appearance of their creations is easy to appreciate, they carry over that same ethos of uncompromising quality onto the inside, as well.
Incredibly, for the new Rolex Caliber 3235, Rolex has even gone to the trouble of improving the caliber cosmetically, with beautiful beveled edging and circular graining on a number of the components.
It’s a typically understated level of grandstanding for the world’s most famous watchmaker.