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The forgotten Rolex

  1. omegary

    omegary Apr 3, 2012

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    I have a small confession to make, I have a rather irrational disregard for Rolex, there I've said it. Mainly due to the fact that they're the default choice for most, mention watches and the first name that comes to mind is Rolex. Whilst this is a fantastic coup for Rolex and, you could argue, their just rewards for their consistent marketing and advertising campaigns over the decades, I'm not entirely convinced it's justified.

    Obviously it's brilliant news for their pricing strategy and in turn second hand values and that means they become even more of a default choice, even amongst collectors. You'd be extremely unlucky to lose money on a Rolex if you keep it for long enough, even buying new. So it's become a self perpetuating catch 22, which kinda rankles when they're so many more interesting and much rarer watches out there that get overlooked.

    However there are some models of Rolex that I personally think rightly deserve more attention, are genuinely rare, incorporated groundbreaking technologies and have a rich sporting history behind them. And no I'm not thinking of some military Sub worth the price of small house either. I'm thinking of the Rolex Oysterquartz.

    Here's a bullet pointed overview of what's unique about this watch. I'll expand on some of these later.

    • It contains Rolexs first and only completely in-house quartz movements. Datejust (cal.5035) and Day-Date (cal.5055)

    • These movements took 5 years of painstaking research, development and testing before they were manufactured and eventually allowed to grace a Rolex

    • They're an analogue thermocompensation 11 jewel movement (one of the worlds first) that utilised the latest CMOS circuitry and a 32khz oscillator

    • Resulting in it being the most accurate movement ever made by Rolex

    • Rolex spending a considerable amount of time and money 2 decades earlier designing their famous Milguass to withstand magnetic fields to 1000 oersted. It almost came about by accident that the OQ is antimagnetic to 1000 oersted to, so it could justifiable be called the Rolex Oysterquartz Milguass.


    • They're arguably the most highly finished and over engineered movements Rolex ever created

    • In Rolex terms it's genuinely rare. The Oysterquartz was produced between 1977 and 2001 and the total output over the whole of those 24 years is less than 25,000 watches. Yes a mere 1,000 pieces per annum, give or take. In comparison Rolex produce around a million mechanical watches per annum and have done for at least 40 years. That's an awful lot of Submariners etc over the decades.

    • All this technology is housed in a unique case with a very distinctive bracelet on the early models. Thought of by many as the best bracelet Rolex ever produced, certainly up to the wonderfully engineered DSSD bracelet and clasp anyway.


    As you might have guessed by now I've got one of these watches (on my wrist as I type). So here's a few pics to give you a flavour. The movement pic is courtesy of Jocke as I don't have a Rolex case back tool.

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    Some dial and handset pics (got a bit carried away here, sorry :eek:)

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    Lovely crisp edges to the case and a highly polished bezel

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    And that great bracelet

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    Wonderful movement detailing

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    Dimensions

    It's not a particularly large watch but it wears a lot bigger than its modest dimensions would suggest. Probably due to the case shape and bracelet.

    Width sans crown - 35mm
    With crown - 38mm
    lug to lug - 42mm
    Height - 14mm

    Sporting heritage

    Going back to its sporting heritage and hopefully dispelling most peoples conviction that quartz watches are somehow fragile. The Oysterquartz was worn by Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler on the world's first accent of Everest without oxygen in 1978. Here's a picture of Reinhold Messner at 24,000 feet wearing his.

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    And Peter Habeler looking a little chilly.

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    The subsequent Rolex ad.

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    I found this American ad from 1979 (the same year as my Oysterquartz). What struck me is the price, they were roughly twice as much as the Submariner at the time.

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    Best of all, given its rarity they're available for a modest amount, certainly in comparison to the vast majority of Rolex watches anyway. I genuinely believe that they're an unfairly overlooked watch.

    Thanks for reading. I hope this was informative and dispelled some prejudices towards quartz technology, it certainly dispelled some of my prejudices towards Rolex. If you're inspired to find out more may I recommend the fantastic http://www.oysterquartz.net site. Loads more information and pics.

    Cheers,
    Gary

    P.S. If any owners want to add their pics and/or more information to this post, please feel free.
     
    Trev likes this.
  2. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus What're u lookin' at? Apr 3, 2012

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    Not many of them around. ;) I agree with you about the silliness of the over-inflated reputation and prices of Rolexes. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a listing for a Sub on ANY website that offers some kind of way to sell watches yet people think they're special. It keeps me away from the brand.

    Hey, have you ever been told your watch is fake because "no Rolex ticks!".
     
  3. omegary

    omegary Apr 3, 2012

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    Nope, no one really notices the watch if I'm honest, although I'm always expecting someone to say it.

    Couldn't agree more on the over-inflated prices of Rolex. I really can't understand it, they're not particularly rare especially Subs and SeaDwellers, in fact I'd go so far as to say they're pretty damn common. I keep thinking that people will come to their senses and the market for them will one day collapse, however as there's so much money invested in them by collectors and retailers I doubt that'll ever be allowed to happen.

    Here in the UK Rolex announced a new pricing structure for servicing last year, the up shot is a vintage sports model will now cost £460 ($732) to get serviced :eek:. Because only Rolex authorised repairers are issued genuine parts they have to tow the line and charge the set amount, the penalty for not doing so and getting caught is you're stripped of your authorised Rolex repairer certification and denied access to any parts.

    Cheers,
    Gary
     
  4. kyle L

    kyle L Grasshopper Staff Member Apr 3, 2012

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    That's a cool one! One of the other oddities is the Beta, even rarer in white gold. :)

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    Really like the 1530 too, it's kind of like a hybrid between the OQ and the regular Datejust. Thanks for sharing!
     
  5. Trev

    Trev The Architect Staff Member Apr 3, 2012

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    Awesome photos (as usual).

    I've always thought the Oysterquartz bracelets looked quite nice. They have a very solid/strong appearance.
    I was also completely unaware that they had Quartz movements with such high quality finishing. Interesting.

    The rarity of a piece isn't really something that interests me, and a model like the Sub being so common doesn't deter me at all. Despite how frustrating some groups of Rolex owners can be, and how common the watches are, I still love many of the designs from vintage through to modern. My favourite modern design is the Milgauss. Out of all of their current offerings, I think it's the most underrated. I'd love to see a Milgauss without polished center links... maybe lose the lightning bolt too :D

    I did own a modern Datejust, but eventually ended up selling it.
    rolex02rr1.jpeg
     
  6. omegary

    omegary Apr 4, 2012

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    Thanks for posting the 5100 Kyle, that's a very rare watch and they command series money these days, think $20,000 and up. An interesting little fact is that the cal 5035 (as used in the OysterQuartz) was developed because Rolex couldn't house a Beta 21 in their fabled Oyster case as it's an odd shaped and fairly bulky movement. So Rolex quickly dropped out of the Swiss cartel of 21 manufacturers that bankrolled the massive cost of research and development of the Beta 21.

    Going back to prices you can get an Omega Electroquartz which houses exactly the same Beta 21 movement for around $850, sometime cheaper if you look around. Design wise both the Electroquartz models are far more interesting than the Rolex and the MKI is just as rare too. In fact I know a few Rolex collectors who snap up cheap Electroquartz's to use as spares for their 5100's. It's a strange old world we live in sometimes.

    My two Omega Electroquartz's (now sold)

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    Cheers,
    Gary
     
  7. JonW

    JonW Plongeur Professionnel de Bureaux Apr 5, 2012

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    Good to see you here Gary :) Ive had little time for my own watches and projects the past year or so hence im quiet on the forums, but have kept up with your collection changes when i can :)
     
  8. omegary

    omegary Apr 5, 2012

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    Hello mate, long time no hear :). How's the house coming along, you must be nearly finished by now I'd imagine? Not a lot left in my collection I'm afraid, I sold the majority of it to pay off the mortgage after being made redundant, just need to find another job now so I can pick up the odd interesting piece from time to time. Hope you're keeping well and Oz is being kind to you.

    Cheers,
    Gary
     
  9. seamonster

    seamonster Respectable Member Apr 9, 2012

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    Respectable Member kyle L

    The picture of your Rolex Beta 21, model reference 5100, brings back memory of the good old days. I had two of this, one with a gold color dial and another with a black one. Both have the number, etched on the back of the watch-case. Yours, too.

    In 2002, I sent the black one to be refurbished by Rolex Geneva, through the local RSC. It came back and the watch, looking like new. Disappointingly, I was advised that parts in Geneva were running low. Despite this, I still refused to part with both these gems, I had. I think, it is the most beautiful and heaviest Rolex, ever produced. The bracelet is honestly solid, unlike the Oyster, Jubilee or even the President - beauty on the outside and hollow on the inside. The movement of the seconds hand reminds me of the Bulova Accutron.

    Sad to say, when a Sydney real estate tried to rob me of my home, I lost both of these watches and also, others in my collection. God willing, one day I should be able to own another, once again.

    Apart from this fabulous Rolex, I had also the Omega with the Beta 21 movement, as well as, a Zodiac. They are just indestructible master-pieces in quartz, from Switzerland.

    Thank-you, for bringing to me, the memory of the good old days.
     
  10. seamonster

    seamonster Respectable Member Apr 9, 2012

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    Respectable Member omegary

    Thanks for bringing to our attention, the lovely Oysterquartz of yours.

    Anything to do with Rolex, it is difficult to deny they are the most successful watch-house, taking age into account. Apart from, quality goes in before the name comes out, Rolex marketing strategy is second to none. As a result of which, they dare to increase their prices, whether or not the price of gold goes up or down, or whether or not, the next GFC is just next door away.

    As far as I know, the only time, Rolex faltered was when they introduced the Rolex Day-Date, model reference 6510/6511. Without going further, I am sure collectors know, what happened in 1956. Despite this, such a watch, in its original and untouched condition, will fetch a price, beyond one's imagination. Very likely, Rolex was born, under a lucky star.

    Thank-you.
     
  11. apropos

    apropos Apr 10, 2012

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    I like the oysterquartz, have one myself, but what still prevents me from really loving it is that the whole watch just looks too much like the royal oak to me. or a modern constellation with its integrated bracelet.

    they missed the chance to somehow incorporate the distinctive twin horn appearance of the lugs when seen from the side.
     
  12. a1watch

    a1watch Apr 10, 2012

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    Love to have one, I am one of those guys that happen to like quartz
     
  13. ulackfocus

    ulackfocus What're u lookin' at? Apr 10, 2012

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    I can ban you easily. :whistling: You know that, right? :D

    Kidding! Really! :p