11/30/2020
 6 minutes

Chrono24’s ABCs of Rolex: Part 1

By René Herold
CAM-1479-Magazin-2-1-ABC

Chrono24’s ABCs of Rolex: Part 1

So, you’ve decided to purchase a Rolex but can’t make sense of all the jargon? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Our ABCs of Rolex guide explains everything you need to know about terms like Rolesor, Paraflex, and Cerachrom.

Rolex and the Oyster

No matter which Rolex model you’re looking at, you’ll probably come across the word Oyster at some point. The term refers to a special case design developed by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf. Wilsdorf once described the case’s watertight construction as “like an oyster” since it could stay underwater without moisture entering the watch and damaging its inner workings. The principle underlying the Oyster case is that the case back, bezel, and crown are hermetically screwed to the body of the case, preventing dust and liquid from penetrating it. The brand patented the design all the way back in 1926.

Wilsdorf’s marketing strategy was just as clever as the design itself. When he heard that Briton Mercedes Gleitze had set her sights on becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel, he asked her to do so with a Rolex Oyster on a chain around her neck. While poor weather conditions kept Gleitze from fully achieving her goal, the Rolex Oyster made still headlines when it emerged from the icy waters unscathed.

Nearly every timepiece made by the Genevan manufacturer – with a few exceptions – is constructed using this same Oyster principle, meaning each is water-resistant to at least 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft).

Twinlock and Triplock Crown

Of course, a lot has changed since 1926. For one, Rolex has continuously improved the construction of its crowns. In 1953, Rolex presented its first diving watch with the so-called Twinlock crown. Similar to the one on the original Oyster case, this was also a screw-down crown; however, it boasts two ring seals, one in the crown and one in the tube. When the crown is screwed down, seals keep the case watertight, similar to the way a submarine hatch functions. In 1970, Rolex took things one step further with the Triplock crown. As the name suggests, it has three sealing mechanisms, making it even more impervious to moisture.

Rolex equips all of its modern diving watches with Triplock crowns, including the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, and Deepsea, as well as other models like the GMT-Master II, Yacht-Master, and Daytona. On the other hand, Rolex outfits its dress watches, such as the Datejust and Day-Date, with the Twinlock crown.

Rolex Sea-Dweller with a Triplock crown
Rolex Sea-Dweller with a Triplock crown

You can easily tell the Twinlock and Triplock systems apart by looking at the Rolex logo on the crown. If there is one dot, two dots, or a line, it’s a Twinlock crown, but if there are three dots, it’s a Triplock.

What are Oystersteel and Rolesor?

If you’re considering buying a Rolex, you’ll likely come across the term Oystersteel when reading about materials. Rolex began using this term in 2018 to describe 904L stainless steel. The manufacturer was one of the first in the industry to use this material in 1985. The metal alloy has a higher proportion of molybdenum and copper than conventional 316L stainless steel, making it more corrosion-resistant and easier to polish. That being said, it is much more difficult to manipulate and process.

Rolesor: Rolex and Gold

Oystersteel is also used alongside yellow, rose, or white gold in the brand’s two-tone watches. These timepieces typically feature a case, case back, and outer bracelet links made of stainless steel, while the bezel, crown, and central links are made of gold. This combination of materials is referred to as Rolesor in Rolex jargon.

Two-tone Rolex Datejust 41 mm, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Two-tone Rolex Datejust 41 mm, Image: Bert Buijsrogge

Rolex has also given a special name to its proprietary rose gold alloy: Everose gold. The material debuted in 2005 and contains a blend of gold, copper, and platinum. While the copper gives the material its characteristic pink hue, the platinum ensures it is hard, scratch-resistant, and won’t fade over time. Rolex isn’t the only manufacturer to make its own rose gold alloy. Hublot has its own blend of the same three metals called King Gold, while Omega replaces platinum with palladium in its signature Sedna gold. Palladium enhances the material’s hardness even further.

Cerachrom: Rolex and Ceramic

Rolex isn’t just an expert in metalworking; it has also made a name for itself in ceramics. Ceramic is a particularly hard, scratch and corrosion-resistant material. Moreover, it maintains its color for decades on end. Rolex introduced its own ceramic mixture called Cerachrom in 2005. This material first appeared in the bezel insert of the GMT-Master II, ref. 116718, replacing the aluminum bezels that were used up to that point. Aluminum had the disadvantages of scratching easily and fading relatively quickly, but Cerachrom put both those issues to rest. The numbers and markings on the new insert are likewise impervious to fading, as they are engraved and filled with a gold or platinum PVD coating.

Rolex GMT-Master II, ref. 116710BLNR, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Rolex GMT-Master II, ref. 116710BLNR, Image: Bert Buijsrogge

At first, the bezels were a single color because it was too difficult to manufacture a two-tone piece of ceramic. However, after eight years of research, Rolex finally found a solution. In 2013, the watchmaker presented its first two-tone Cerchrom bezel in the GMT-Master II, ref. 116710BLNR. Cerachrom bezels have been mainstays in the whole Professional line ever since and can be found in models as diverse as the Submariner, Daytona, and Yacht-Master.

Mercedes Hand, Cyclops Lens, and Chromalight

A hallmark of many Rolex watches is the so-called Mercedes hand, an hour hand that appears to feature a Mercedes symbol at its end. Of course, it isn’t the automaker’s famous logo. In fact, it serves a very practical purpose: It’s used on Rolex’s sports watches – such as the Submariner, Explorer, and Air-King – so that the wearer can tell the hour and minute hands apart at a glance. Thus, the hour hand has a flat circle at its end. It proved difficult to fill the entire circle with luminous material so it was split into three equal parts and, thus, the Mercedes hand was born.

Rolex Submariner dial detail, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Rolex Submariner dial detail, Image: Bert Buijsrogge

Chromalight: Lumious Material With a Blue Hue

Speaking of luminous material, Rolex equips almost all of its Professional line, and most of its Classic line, with luminous hands and indices. For this, the Swiss watchmaker has relied on a material called Chromalight since 2008. The material’s blue afterglow is unique among luminous materials; most other brands use Super-LumiNova, which glows green. Rolex has also made use of this material since 2000. In fact, it is still used on the Milgauss to this day.

Super-LumiNova is manufactured and distributed by LumiNova AG Switzerland. The company is part of the Japanese group Nemoto & Co., which first developed the material. Super-LumiNova is available in a range of hues, including blue, leading some to suspect that Chromalight is actually a variant of Super-LumiNova that was given an alternate name for marketing purposes. It wouldn’t be unheard of in the watch world. Seiko’s Lumibrite, for example, is a variation of Nemoto’s luminous material. Rolex has never commented publicly on the matter. However, considering it has always been and continues to be a very secretive company, we may never find out.

Rolex Sea-Dweller, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Rolex Sea-Dweller, Image: Bert Buijsrogge

The Cyclops Lens

The Cyclops lens is another typical Rolex feature. It exclusively appears on watches with a date display. The magnifying lens enhances the date by 2.5 times. It sits directly on the crystal and immediately catches the eye with its curvature. Like many Rolex innovations, the Cyclops lens also traces its history back to founder Hans Wilsdorf. The lens first debuted in 1953 on a Datejust model. It earned its name from its similarity to the eponymous one-eyed giants from Greek mythology.

So, that’s it for part one of Chrono24’s ABCs of Rolex. We hope it has shed some light on the abundance of Rolex-specific terms. In our next installment, we’ll be turning our attention to bracelets. See you then!

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About the Author

René Herold

My name is René Herold, and I first discovered Chrono24 in a job listing. Admittedly, I didn't really care about watches before coming to Chrono24. However, after a few …

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