As the Internet becomes more pervasive and commonplace in our lives, many watch retailers turn to the Internet to connect with current and potential clients. The Internet has transformed how people get their information and news, but sometimes venturing out via the Internet takes people to places where accuracy and integrity are suspect. Fortunately, watch retailers like Fourtané post up-to-date watch information about Rolex and the watch industry and what they post is as reputable as the people who work in the store. To that end, Fourtané has asked me to help in keeping the Fourtané blog up-to-date with Rolex news and tips about wearing Rolex watches.  Needless to say, I am very excited to help.

To that end, Fourtané has asked me to help in keeping the Fourtané blog up-to-date with Rolex news and tips about wearing Rolex watches.  Needless to say, I am very excited to help.

A little about myself. I have been a watch enthusiast since high school in the early 1980’s. Growing up in Silicon Valley allowed me to see plenty of fine Swiss watches on people who powered the companies in the Valley. I purchased my first Rolex after completing an undergraduate degree in the late 1980’s. Since then, I have earned two more degrees and have owned 10 different Rolex watches. Currently, I wear a DeepSea SeaDweller and a 42mm Explorer II, both purchased from Fourtané.

I have followed and contributed to various watch forums since the late 1990’s and have experienced the growth of the Internet and its effect on the watch industry. I started writing in watch print publications in the mid-2000’s after a contribution of a watch-find that my son and I discovered. I contributed to an article in International Watch Magazine on re-discovering the first Swiss watch in space that the company, Heuer, did not know they had done. Since that time I have contributed to various print articles, blogs, and websites. A bulk of my contributions are based on first-person experiences with watches, and my contributions on the Fourtané blog will be no different. I am an educator by training, a former USCF Category 1 cyclist, so there will be threads along these lines interwoven in future articles.

Let’s talk Basel
With respects to Rolex, perhaps the two biggest things to come out of the yearly Basel watch trade-show is Rolex’s foray into multi-colored ceramic bezels, and the use of silicon in balance springs. Overshadowed by Rolex’s introduction of updated Cellinis, SkyDwellers, Milgauss, SeaDweller GMTs, and Lady DateJusts, these two technical innovations will work their way into Rolexes for years to come. Every year Rolex updates its models and unveils them at the Basel tradeshow in Switzerland. Despite the new Rolex model introductions, technical introductions are few and far between.

Last year, Rolex introduced a two-tone ceramic bezel for its venerable GMT watch designed for multi-timezone travel. 

The difficulty with ceramic is that it is not dyed like plastic but baked. Rolex discovered a method of adding a color to the ceramic’s base color, which in last year’s release, was the ability to add blue to an initially black bezel. This year, Rolex released a bezel that is colored red and blue, -two different colors from the original base color. This innovation is one that no other manufacturer in or out of the watch world has discovered. Since the introduction of the GMT at Basel in 1954, red-blue has been part of the GMT provenance -the colors indicating AM or PM when alongside the 24 hour hand. Rolex would have a hard time staying true to its heritage without a red-blue bezel option for their patented ceramic bezel. Adding color to ceramic bezel inserts will manifest new bezel functionalities in many Rolexes to come.

 

 

The other groundbreaking Rolex technical innovation is the use of silicon/selicium balance springs. Rolex dove into the silicon foray with the introduction of the Lady Pearlmaster 34 with a patented Syloxi balance spring. Silicon balance springs are not new to the industry, but they are new to Rolex. Rolex has been in a partnership with Patek Phillipe and Ulysse Nardin for the manufacture and utilization of silicon in watches, and they jointly hold the patent for growing a layer of silicon dioxide on the hairspring. Like ceramic, silicon parts are extremely difficult to mass-produce and the partnership was formed to battle this challenge.

Silicon balance springs are groundbreaking as the fine hairspring inside a balance wheel is the most delicate spring critical for regulating the watch’s accuracy. The hairspring is susceptible to magnetism and shock. Rolex neutralized some of vulnerabilities with its Parachrom balance springs, but silicon has greater antimagnetic and time keeping functionality and can be shaped in ways Parachrom cannot. Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring spaces between the coils get larger moving out of the center allowing the spring to breath. Gone is the Breguet overcoil found in Paracrhom hair springs. Like the two-colored ceramic bezels, silicon balance springs will most likely work their way into the Rolex line over the next few decades.

Unlike design changes to automobiles where an innovation is incorporated many times to all vehicles within a particular brand, Rolex introduces innovations one watch model at a time. Rolex is known for evolutionary change, -not revolutionary change. Slow and planned upgrades that are tried and true is the foundation of Rolex’s reputation for being accurate and reliable.

-Sheldon Smith