Today we have with us four venerable Rolex watches from the preowned site: https://www.thewatchsource.co.uk/preowned/ . The GMT Master II 116713LN, Yacht-Master 116622, Sea-Dweller 16600 and a 1996 Explorer II 16570. Off face value alone, these four watches are immensely different, with the only lasting similarity being the famed Five-Pointed Coronet Insignia and stark ‘Rolex’ print on the dial. Some polished, some brushed, some with accents of colour others in a functional mono-tone and some made with precious metals compared to the cold stainless steel of its siblings. To me it begs one big question, are these watches tools, or jewels?
To answer this question, let’s start at the very beginning. In 1903, Hans Wilsdorf with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis started the watch company then know as ‘Wilsdorf & Davis’. Later changing name to the title we know today: ‘Rolex’ in 1908. Wilsdorf’s quest for precision and reliability lead to the Rolex name becoming more widespread, when in 1910 it was the first wristwatch awarded the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric precision. Rolex became inseparably linked precision when in 1914 they were awarded a class A accuracy certificate from the Kew Observatory. A rating previously, reserved exclusively for marine chronometers. The Rolex name continued to grow as it broke record after record, being issued to the most intrepid explorers and athletes of the time. If history is one thing to go by, then the answer is clear. The crew of the 1933 first flight over Mt Everest were equipped with Rolex watches, Sir Malcom Campbell wore a Rolex watch breaking the land speed record for the first of nine times and later, in 1953 the first summit of Mt Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary and his crew were armed with Oyster Perpetuals. The famed submariner first released in 1953 was a revolutionary watch for divers, being submersible to 100m and with a uni-directional rotating bezel for dive timing, the growth of the jet age lead to the birth of the GMT master in 1955, the European Organization for Nuclear Research were the first to confirm the Rolex Milgauss could resist a magnetic field of 1,000 gauss and perhaps most notably, a special relationship between Rolex and the Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises more commonly known as COMEX was established. Their divers were equipped with Rolex Sea-Dwellers when working at extreme depths. The list of accolades goes on, and on, and on. Continuing to this day. Rolex’s history is rich and if you were to stop reading here, you would have your answer. Even today, the build of modern Rolexes certainly points towards ‘tools’ too. The steel used by Rolex is fabricated in their in house foundry, known as ‘Oystersteel’ it is part of the 904L group of steel alloys. Originally, used in only their Sea-Dweller models Rolex changed to using 904L steel on all their pieces in 2003, when its superior corrosion resistance was fully realised. ‘Oystersteel’ comes from a blend of molybdenum, chromium, copper and nickel and is a lower carbon variant of stainless steel, giving it supreme corrosion resistance to traditional steel alloys used in the watch industry, such as the widely used steel variant: 316L steel. Similarly, due to the tougher composition of 904L steel, it holds a sharper polish than alternative steel alloys and is generally more scratch resistant. 904L Steels are commonly found in other highly advanced applications like the aerospace and chemical industries due to its hard wearing applications. Rolex also use other advanced and hard wearing materials to ensure the longevity of their pieces even in the harshest of environments. Rolex started using ceramic in 2013 with the black and blue bezel of the GMT-Master 116710BLNR AKA the ‘Batman’ in 2013 due to its extreme scratch resistant properties as opposed to other metallic alternatives. Rolex’s ceramic compound ‘Cheracrom’ is now used on a variety of models and is given it’s bright two-tone colouring in the 126710BLRO ‘Pepsi’ through Rolex’s patented technique. Like I said, if you were to stop reading here, you would have your answer.
Two of the most rugged tool Rolexes out there: the Explorer II was primarily created for arctic explorers, with the GMT hand to track day and night where the sun doesn’t set or rise at the poles or underground.
BUT, times change. And they have, and the name of Rolex in a modern light is that of status and quality. Is the average 2019 Rolex wearer aware of the century of milestones that lead the glimpse of perfection on their wrist? Were you? I’ll tell you one thing, the 20 year old rapper bragging about his white gold ‘Roley’ doesn’t. More and more, Rolex watches are becoming jewels with a function, instead of tools with a purpose. Each piece was conceived with a direct purpose, covering it in diamonds surely impedes its function!
The Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II can fall particular victims to increased bragging, with its polished case and centre links and steel bezel. Especially in its precious metal variants. Originally released in 1992, strengthening Rolex’s ties to the sailing world.
In the end it comes down to what kind of Rolex wearer you are. Make no mistake, 2019 Rolex prices are from the lowest they’ve ever been. But you don’t have to bashing around your precious investment like an oil rig worker’s Seiko beater! Or be an arctic explorer, Transatlantic airline pilot or deep-sea diver for it to be the tool watch it was designed to be. Simply, treating your watch with the respect it deserves, considering the decades of innovation housed beneath the dial is more than most do. Contrastingly, wearing a Rolex as a relative form of jewellery, potentially being blissfully unaware to the meticulous craftsmanship of the piece, is still no cardinal sin! Hans Wilsdorf would have wanted his creations to be enjoyed, by whoever is wearing them.
However you choose to wear your Rolex, enjoy it! In the Coming months we will have a hands on review of all four watches in today’s article so keep an eye out for that! for a sneak peak, checkout the extensive gallery below (we can’t help taking pictures of these stunning watches). Or, view all four pieces to buy, full box and papers in fantastic condition over at https://www.thewatchsource.co.uk/preowned/ !