5 Things You Didn't Know About Rolex
Everything that can be said about Rolex has been said—or at least, that’s how it seems. It’s the most famous luxury watchmaker in the world. There are undiscovered cultures isolated from the rest of us that have heard of Rolex. It’s been done to death. You’ve heard it all before. But maybe … maybe you haven’t. See how many of these five things you didn’t already know about Rolex.
You Can’t Swap A Strap With A Bracelet
Rolex Daytona 116518LN
It’s that little trick we all play when we get to the half-life of watch ownership. It’s way too soon to be thinking about buying another watch, but you just can’t help but think you’d like something new. So, what do we do? We get a new strap. It’s like moving the sofa to a different corner of the room or repainting the walls. It’s the same, but it feels different. Fresh. Keeps you going a bit longer before you can justify selling up and starting again.
So, imagine you’re reaching that halfway point with your Rolex Daytona 116518LN and you think to yourself, “Hey, do you know what would be neat? Sticking a bracelet on this thing.” And you know what? Good idea. It’ll be a completely new look, nice and clean, get those embers glowing once more. Except … you can’t. Not because you can’t buy a bracelet—you can, and it’ll cost you a king’s ransom—but because it doesn’t fit.
I know what you’re thinking. “I’ll make it fit.” No, you won’t, because these end links—they’re not part of the strap, they’re part of the watch. They’re not going anywhere. Unless you fancy getting yourself acquainted with a hacksaw and a drill, there’s no bracelet you’re going to get fitted in there. Why do Rolex do it like that? Well, come this way and have a look at some watches that are already fitted with a bracelet and we’ll talk
There’s Ceramic In The Bracelet
Rolex Day-Date 40 228206
Go on, what’s this bracelet made of? Well, it’s a Day-Date, so it’s going to be precious metal, in this case platinum. But it’s not just made from platinum—there’s something else in there as well. It’s exclusive to the so-called President bracelet, you won’t find it anywhere else. Give up? Alright, I’ll give you a clue.
In 2007, Rolex did something dramatic. Something dramatic for Rolex, that is. The Oyster case that had carried it for generations—literally—was out, and a new, chunkier, sportier, more exciting one was in. Bigger markers, bigger hands, solid bracelet and—ceramic. This new watch had a new bezel fashioned from new-to-Rolex and kind-of-new-to-watchmaking ceramic. Glossy, scratch-resistant, fade resistant—it was everything the old aluminium bezel wasn’t.
But it’s not just the bezel that got new lease of life in ceramic. For the release of the Day-Date 40, this wonder material was added to the bracelet—but not for the aesthetics, because you can’t even see it. Deep within each link is a sleeve of the stuff, a collar that acts as a bearing for the join between each link, taking advantage of the superior wear resistance to make sure the bracelet remains as free and comfortable every time as it is the first.
The Dial Markers Are Made Of Solid Gold
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 114300
There was a time when Rolex printed its markers straight onto the dial. Or at least, the company it paid to make its dials printed the markers straight on. It was cheaper, easier, and back then, Rolex was all about being cheaper and easier.
But that’s changed over the years. It’s hard to imagine Rolex being the affordable choice these days, and that’s reflected in the way they’re made. The company makes its own dials now—technically it purchased the company that made its dials, along with all the other companies that made everything else—and with it comes a few choice improvements to make the dial feel less Friday afternoon and more Saturday evening.
One of those upgrades was to give the markers the respect they deserved, to raise them up and make them self-contained. This was no new feat to watchmaking, but it was new to Rolex, and so it was decided to over-engineer the solution and do something drastic. So, for that extra pop, and for increased corrosion resistance, Rolex didn’t choose steel like you would think, but white gold—and for not just the markers, but the hands as well.
Rolex Uses A Weird Kind Of Steel
Rolex Submariner 116610LN
Talking of steel, it wouldn’t be Rolex without doing something different with the material it makes its cases with. There is of course Rolesium, which is just the combination of steel and platinum in a watch, and Rolesor, which is just the combination of steel and gold in a watch, so you would think that the company’s extra special Oystersteel was just some nonsense branding exercise to sell you a watch that’s a combination of steel and more steel.
Turns out, it’s not, and to understand why not, we need to understand a bit more about steel itself. Steel doesn’t just come out of the ground as steel, it’s manufactured by combining iron with just a pinch of carbon, usually a few percent. It’s like adding salt to a meal; you don’t need much, but the difference is great. Steel, over iron, gains rust resistance, durability, strength—it’s just all round better.
But not all steel is born equal. Stainless steel gains a dose of chromium, nickel, nitrogen and molybdenum to form a protective layer and increase corrosion resistance. The most common arrangement for this is known as 316L, which has a good balance of ingredients for strength, ductility and corrosion resistance.
For Rolex, that wasn’t enough, so like all good chefs, it put a load more of all the tastiest ingredients into the mix to improve the flavour even further. What you get is increased hardness, which does two things: first, it makes the watch a teensy tiny bit more corrosion resistant, but secondly—and most importantly—it means the case can be polished to an even higher shine.
There’s a Reason The Bezels Are Fluted
Rolex Datejust 41 126334
Ever wondered what all those jagged edges are on a Rolex Datejust bezel? No, it’s not something they made up to keep the intern busy, it’s an actual real thing that means something. Known as “fluting”, this serrated edge has become a hallmark of the Datejust look, but I can assure you, it has a purpose beyond just looking pretty—or at least, it did.
We find a clue on, of all places, the underside of the watch, on the case back. There’s a similar profile there, a jagged pattern around the edge that loves to nibble on all that dead skin and store it away ready to gross someone out when they ask to have a look at your watch. It seems familiar because it’s the same pattern as the fluting, only much less evolved.
Back in the 1920s, when Rolex was developing its Oyster water resistant case, it was to screw threads that the company placed its trust. By screwing down the case back like a jam jar lid, compressing a rubber seal, no water could enter and damage the precious movement inside. To get the required tightness on the seal, the case back would need to be screwed down, and a tool was used to do it, as it is today, to bite into the case back and get a good grip. That’s what the jagged pattern is for.
The same was true of the bezel back then. To get a seal, it was screwed on, and the same tool and teeth were needed to reach the desired tightness. Only since then, techniques have changed, and the now-familiar fluting pattern isn’t needed to screw down the bezel anymore. But it had come to be a bit of a Rolex trademark, so they kept it, smoothed it out a bit—even if it is completely useless now.
Did you learn something new? I hope you did. Even the most popular and well-known brands hide little secrets, have untold stories, and it’s those details that bubble to the surface every now and then that seem to be the most interesting.
Looking for a Rolex? Click here to shop now