The Rolex Oysterquartz is a watch that marches to the beat of its own drum. It is unlike any other timepiece in the Swiss watchmaker’s lineup. And because it’s so unique, it certainly deserves some attention. So let’s dig in and take a look at the four Rolex Oysterquartz facts that set it apart from other Rolex watches.
Contrary to popular opinion, if a Rolex watch ticks loudly, it does not necessarily mean it’s a fake. The Oysterquartz, for example, does have a loud ticking sound. Furthermore, the seconds hand moves to the next position every second rather than moving in a smoother sweeping motion. This is because, as its name suggests, the Oysterquartz runs on a quartz caliber rather than a mechanical movement.
In 1977, Rolex debuted a pair of in-house quartz movements—the Caliber 5035 for the Datejust Oysterquartz and the Caliber 5055 for the Day-Date Oysterquartz collections. The Oysterquartz collections were in production for about 25 years until they were discontinued for good in the early 2000s. In terms of production numbers, Rolex only made about 25,000 Oysterquartz watches, making this a pretty low-volume collection.
An icon of Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches is the Oyster case water resistant to a minimum of 100 meters. The Oysterquartz Datejust and Day-Date models also sport an Oyster case, yet they are slightly different in shape.
Perfectly encapsulating the watch trends of the late 1970s and 1980s, the case of the Oysterquartz is more angular than the cases of their mechanical counterparts. The sharp edges of the Oysterquarz give the watch its distinct look. Take particular note the beautiful beveled edges too.
Along with the angular case, another major design trait of the Oysterquartz is an integrated bracelet. Yet another display of a style that was all the rage in the seventies and eighties, the bracelet style of the Oysterquartz is similar to other iconic luxury watches of the era.
While all Oysterquartz watches come with an integrated bracelet, Rolex did makes some different styles. There’s the Oyster style integrated bracelet and the Jubilee style integrated bracelet for the Oysterquartz Datejust watches. On the other hand, outfitting the Oysterquartz Day-Date is a President style integrated bracelet. There are even some very interesting President integrated bracelets with pyramid patterns or diamonds.
The company truly did a fantastic job translating these iconic Rolex bracelet styles into an integrated bracelet for the Oysterquartz models.
Rolex keeps the reference numbers and serial numbers somewhat hidden on their mechanical watches. For instance, engraved in between the lugs on the 6 o’clock side is the serial number. Conversely, the reference number is on the opposite side in between the lugs at 12 o’clock. Therefore, removing the bracelet is the only way to see these numbers on the watch.
However, on the Oysterquartz, both the reference and serial numbers are completely visible on the back of the watch. Just flip the watch over and you’ll spot them in the corners of the case. On the Oysterquartz, the reference number is in between 1 and 2 o’clock and the serial number is in between 11 and 12 o’clock.
Our Rolex Oysterquartz facts point to these four hallmarks so you can now easily spot an iconic Rolex Oysterquartz timepiece. If you’re seeking a Rolex watch that’s a little different than the norm, then you should try the Oysterquartz on for size to see if it’s right for you.
Rolex began their own research into electronic timekeeping in the early 1950s well before the ‘Quarts crisis’ of the 1970s, and was awarded their first patent for an electro-mechanical watch design in 1952. According to The Best of Time, by James Dowling, of the 50 patents issued to Rolex between 1960 and 1990, 21 of them were for electronic watches.
Rolex’s first commercially available quartz watch was the Quartz Date 5100. Introduced in 1970, this watch shared the Beta 21 movement, developed by Rolex and 20 other Swiss brands. It was also used by other Swiss companies like Omega and Enicar. A total of 16 different Swiss watch companies sold their own branded watches with the Beta 21 quartz unit inside. Rolex only produced 1000 of these watches before beginning development of their own quartz movement and the watch that would eventually become the Oysterquartz. In 1977, after five years of design, development, and testing, Rolex introduced their first completely in-house quartz movements (the 5035 and 5055) and the Datejust (5035) and Day-Date (5055) Oysterquartz models that would house them.
When they were introduced, the 5035 and 5055 quartz modules were marvels of technology as well as fit and finish. These 11 jewel movements utilized the latest CMOS circuitry, a 32khz oscillator, and analog thermo-compensation. In addition, they were finished to even higher standards than Rolex’s mechanical movements, this is especially true when you see one. The stand out feature of both the 5035 and 5055 quartz movements is the inclusion of Geneva stripes, normally only found on top end mechanical movements. No other quartz movement is comparable in terms of finishing and beauty.
For 25 years Rolex produced the Oysterquartz in Datejust models (17000 stainless steel, 17013 steel and yellow gold, 17014 steel and white gold), and Day-Date models in all gold (19018yellow gold, 19019 white gold). Special models of the Oysterquartz were also produced with jewelled dials, bezels, and bracelets.
It has been estimated that there were less than 25,000 Oysterquartz watches ever produced. The last year the Reference 17000 appeared in the Rolex catalogue was 2001, and this was also the last year Rolex received any chronometer certificates for quartz movements from the COSC. This means 2001 was likely the last year any Oysterquartz watches were actually produced. The steel and gold dual tone and all gold models continued in the Rolex catalogue until 2003 when the stock of these models was finally depleted.
There is clear and convincing evidence that by the time production of the 5035 and 5055 movements ceased in 2001 Rolex had two completely new quartz movements ready for use in a new generation of Oysterquartz Datejust and Day-Date watches. These movements (the 5335 and 5355) had 23 jewels and featured a perpetual calendar. This came to a fore because a mystery Rolex Oysterquartz with no reference designation appeared at auction by Antiquorum featuring one of the new 5335 quartz movements inside. For reasons known only to Rolex the decision was made not to put these new movements into production and the Oysterquartz line was finally dropped when the last watches had been shipped from Rolex in Geneva in 2003.
|1950s||Rolex begins research into electronic timepieces.|
|1952||Rolex is awarded their first patent for electro-mechanical watch design.|
|1970||Reference 5100 is released with the Beta 21 calibre powering it. Designed in conjunction with 20 other Swiss watch brands, the Beta 21 ended up inside numerous other watches.|
|1977||After 5 years of development and design, Rolex release their first in-house quartz movements, the 5035 and 5055.|
|2001||Oysterquartz movements no longer awarded COSC certificates, more than likely this was the year that no more were being submitted for certification.|
|2003||The last of the Oysterquartz models is sold and shipped.|
|2004||An unmarked Rolex Oysterquartz appears at auction by Antiquorum, powered by a 5335 movement. It employs a perpetual calendar mechanism. The future of the oysterquartz?|