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The Life of a Collector , Watch Videos Video: The Backbone of Rolex Part 1

We’re sitting down with Tim Mosso and Josh Srolovitz to discuss the principle Rolex models. For over a century, from 1905 when Hans Wildorf founded the company, to present day, Rolex has produced many different innovative models.

Early Rolex History

At just 24 years old, founder Hans Wilsdorf founded a company in London for the distribution of timepieces. His dream was a watch worn on the wrist, which at the time were extremely uncommon for men who used pocket watches. Rolex was the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision and also received the Class “A” precision certificate from the Kew Observatory in Great Britain.

Rolex moved from London to Geneva in 1919, from there Rolex boomed creating the first waterproof watch which swam across the English Channel and even scaling Mount Everest.

Explore the history of Rolex from the 1950’s with Tim and Josh or read the full transcription below. Can’t see the video? Watch it on the Govberg YouTube Channel!

Rolex 1950 – Present

Tim:
Today we’re going to take a little survey of the principle model lines of Rolex. Now Rolex has produced many model lines, over many decades. What we have here is not exhaustive, but it comprises what I think we both agree is the backbone of the Rolex sports watch lineup, which is to say, the backbone of Rolex.

Josh:
Absolutely. The story all begins late 1950’s with the introduction of Rolex’s most staple watch, in my opinion, the Submariner. Here we have a 5508. It really is the great-grandfather to the Submariner that we have today. Small crown, no crown guards, just a really legible tool watch in every sense of the word.

Moving down the line, we have the more preferred generation, 1680, with red Submariner designation. These are very highly sought after. Also with this watch, you have crown guards, the case still 40 millimeters like the other, but it does prove to be a little bit more muscular, and of course, the date indication.

rolex-submariner

Tim:
Then we get into the transition era where we start to see the move from watches designed expressly, perhaps, for specialists, divers, people involved in salvage and exploration to dive watches built for the amateur and perhaps the desk diver in an office.

This is a reference 16800 (in video). It’s known as a transitional Submariner. The 80’s were the era of transitional Rolex. What you probably gleaned though, from all of these watches, is that the look of Rolex, in its principle model lines, does not change that much. The 1950’s Submariner is still recognizable as a Submariner today in the case next to a contemporary reference. For the most part, I think you’d agree that when you go older with pre-owned Rolex, you start to get into the realm of vintage. They’re no longer pre-owned, they’re true vintage.

Josh:
Absolutely. If you want to buy a watch that’s either from 1980’s, 1970’s or even from the 50’s, you really are getting a very similar piece with a slight cosmetics nuances and little details that maybe will only be known to you when it’s on your wrist. It just makes you smile when you put it on. That’s what these are all about.

Tim:
Yeah. Really, the lesson of looking at those three generations of Submariner is to realize that the watches we’ve chosen are backbone models for Rolex. They have been around for decades. Rolex established originally as Wilsdorf and Davis in 1905. It’s been around for far over a century and the watches we’re looking at, for the most part, have been with Rolex for at least have of that story.

Josh:
Absolutely. When Rolex introduced the Oyster case in 1926, what you see here is the product of that invention. All these watches have Oyster cases, provide truly spectacular level of water resistance, which is a staple in their collection to this day.

Tim:
The other thing that we want to mention is that the Submariner may be Rolex’s best known dive watch, perhaps its iconic diver, but it’s not it’s only diver by any means. Now what I have here is what’s known as Triple Six Sea-Dweller. Just as I mentioned that there are transitional era Submariners, so are there transitional era Sea-Dwellers. The Sea-Dweller are different because it’s thicker. It’s rated to a deeper depth in all its versions and as you can see, there’s a helium escape valve on the side. Was originally built as a professional diving instrument, not so much for the pro-am, like the Sub, but for true hardcore gas exploration, oil drillers, wreckers, people who went down in diving bells.

Josh:
It’s very cool to see the newest iteration of this watch, the Sea-Dweller 4000. It’s an incredible homage to the 16660. What you’re going to see is an updated case with a little bit more muscular characteristics. Of course, that beautiful Cerachrom bezel and the maxi dial. It’s a winner.

Tim:
Yeah. On a watch like this, here’s the thing about Rolex, while the look of the watches doesn’t change, in lot of cases, the technical capabilities to change quite a bit. With the Sea dweller 4000, what we have is a much more robust watch with a deeper depth rating, but also things like a ceramic bezel. In the modern era, that’s something you see on most Rolex sports watches today.

Josh:
I realize a nice touch. Those aluminum bezels are beautiful. I love them. The beauty of the Cerachrom bezel is that it is nearly impossible to scratch or cause any blemish to it. It shines beautifully. They’re fantastic pieces.

rolex-daytona-black-ceramic-bezel

Tim:
Yeah. The other thing is that I think you and I will both be able to relate what can’t be felt through the camera but it’s the change in the bracelets that distinguishes older Rolex from current, perhaps more than anything else.

Josh:
Absolutely. These newer references with the solid link bracelets really do add a considerable weight to the watch. It’s in no way overbearing but it’s just a little added presence that you feel in the wrist and it just feels like such a well-made piece of machinery and artwork. They’re very well executed.

Tim:
Everything from sliders to dive foldouts and that’s really one of the primary benefits of going with a newer, pre-owned Rolex, you’re going to get more of the bells and whistles that are currently in the catalog. Just as a Sub was Rolex’s first dive watch, the Sea dweller remains its ultimate dive watch. To go a little bit closer to the wave tops and sports above the surface, we have the Yacht-Master II, which debuted in 1992.

Josh:
Absolutely. This watch catered towards the watch aficionado who was on a sail boat racing and in regatta. Seemed a little bit more luxurious, not quite as strenuous as deep sea diving. Of course, this watch is more than suitable for water wear. What you have, which is very unique, is a platinum bezel in addition to a platinum dial which has some lovely texture to it. It’s something really unique in the Rolex catalog.

Tim:
Also important to note, a couple changes to the Yacht-Master versus the Submariner. Of course, having the precious metal bezel insert rather than anodized aluminum, back at that time, was big deal. Also, the dials, featuring larger luminescent plots, what would eventually come to be known as the “maxi dial” in Rolex terms. Plus, not just that, but certain refinements that you don’t see on Submariners. Like in this case, the dial of the watch is actually granular platinum. The Yacht-Master, water resistant to 100 meters with a bi-directional rotating bezel, a little bit more luxurious than the Sub, doesn’t dive quite as deep but more indicative of Rolex’s move in the early 90’s into the luxury sphere.

Josh:
Absolutely. You can see that furthermore in the high-polished part of the watch. The center links are shiny, which has a little bit of class to it, in addition to the logs which, from the top, are high-polished as well. Just a little bit of more luxurious look and feel to the watch.

Tim:
Certainly, the Yacht-Master came into its own during the 90’s when Rolex was known for luxury and had became a household name that sort of, as we always say, transcends the industry. But the Daytona, although it had been around since the early 60’s, also came into its own toward the end of the 80’s and the early 90’s with the debut of the automatic, 40 millimeter watch.

Josh:
Absolutely. At the time, that was one of the few, if only, Rolex watches that was being manufactured and sold without housing a Rolex movement. What we had in those originally late-80’s through early 2000 Rolex’s, Daytonas were the Zenith El Primero movement. Those are still easy to find today. They’re very special to collectors and for reason. These newer versions with in-house Rolex movement, just truly a workhorse of a watch. Will not let you down.

Tim:
Yeah. With the Daytona, there’s basically the 1963-1987 watches which are manual wind, about 39 millimeters. They were not popular when they were new and then from 1988 to the present, all the sudden, the Daytona’s transformed. First with the 40 millimeter watch with the sapphire crystal, automatic winding with the El Primero movement. The metal tachometric-scale bezel. Then in 2000, there’s the second stage. The same look of the watch but now with an in-house caliber, a three-day power reserve and I think for 2016, while changing very little aesthetically, the small refinement of a ceramic bezel has given the watch yet another gear.

Josh:
Yeah. It’s a completely new piece. For 16 years or so, we had this all stainless steel Daytona with a beautiful stainless steel bezel. Obviously, another transcendent piece. The Cerachrom bezel on this watch kind of keeps in line with what they’re going for. These new bezels, different materials. All though it’s very similar to its predecessor, it’s a completely new watch and it’s been extraordinarily well received.

rolex-gmt-mstr-ii-batman

Tim:
Just as the Submariner was for all divers, pro and am, the Sea-Dweller was for professional divers. The Yacht-Master was for sportsmen of an aquatic bent, but not necessarily scuba divers. The Daytona, I think, even its early days, just go back to its namesake, the Daytona Motor Speedway. It is a Motorsports-themed watch for fans and racers alike.

Josh:
Absolutely. In keeping align with catering watches to professionals of demanding industries, we move on next to the GMT-Master which, of course, was designed to display dual timezone. Very helpful to pilots traveling across different timezones. These watches allowed the wearer to easily track. Two, and if you use bezel properly, maybe three, timezones in a really efficient manner.

Tim:
Yeah. The thing about the watch originally was that it was commissioned by Pan Am. It was released for pilots and the idea was that you would set the time to Greenwich Mean Time, so GMT, the predecessor to universal time. But the watch had only one timezone in its original version. The GMT-Master had 24-hour hand that gave you AM/PM distinction but you had to use the bezel to offset as per your local airfield and your local timezone to find out what the time was locally. The watch always showed GMT and then you offset your local time. In the early 80’s with the the Master II, that all changed.

Josh:
Correct. On the GMT-Master II, we gained another source of functionality wherein we could independently set the home time and travel time, if you will. You know where you are and you know where you’re from. You just do that with the second position in the crown really easily to any timezone that you see fit. That was just a next step in the GMT-Master history.

Be on the look out for Part 2 coming soon!

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