For first time Rolex buyers, getting the first watch that costs well into four digits is a scary experience.  In a world where digital time is everywhere detractors question why one wears a watch in the first place.  With thinking like this swirling around, diving into owning a fine Swiss timepiece is a place for a lot of second guessing.  Once understanding and appreciating the beauty of wearing a mechanical timepiece, taking the dive makes sense. All Rolex wearers have stories of purchasing their first Rolex and many of them have stories of going against conventional thought for wearing wrist watches.  Below are a few aspects and clarifications of urban myths that one ought to know with their first Rolex.

 

Without question, Rolex watches are know for being one of the most durable mechanical timepieces made. Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf created Rolex in order to make wristwatches practical including making them durable. Rolex’s one-piece machined Oyster case, screw-in caseback, and sapphire crystal are the most durable in the business, but one has to realize that mechanical watches are not Casio’s that can be dropped from 500 feet and survive.

 

Rolex utilizes 904L stainless steel that is highly polishable and scratch resistant, but scratches do happen.  I consider every scratch on my Rolex as daily war wounds that with each scratch telling its own story.  Sapphire crystal covering the watch face is the second hardest material next to diamond that makes it very scratch resistant, but sapphire does chip and crack if hit correctly.  The Rolex movement inside the Oyster case comprises of at least 100 precisely manufactured pieces all held in place by screws and synthetic jeweled bearings. Being mechanical, the parts inside the movement are subject to the laws of physics and gravity.  A well-placed shock at the correct angle can displace balance staffs and pinions. Fortunately, Rolex tests their movements for durability in every imaginable.  See the videos in last week’s post to see what Rolex does with their watches.

 

The Winding Crown The winding crown one of the main functions that makes wearing a mechanical watch very tactile. The winding crown controls the setting of hands, adjusts the date, winds the mechanism, and keeps the watch water resistant.  The Rolex winding crown screws onto a tube that is permanently screwed into the case. Inside both the crown and the tube are O-rings that keep the watch water resistant.  When unscrewing the crown, remember to let it unscrew on its own. Once the crown pops up, gently grab both sides of the crown and gently pull to set the date or the time.  The winding crown in not a nut at the end of a bolt, but rather a mechanism that when pulled, engages gears inside the movement. If the gears don’t immediately engage, don’t pull harder. Turn the crown ¼ turn or so to let the gears engage, then gently pull again. Once the gears are engaged, turn the crown gently to set the time or the date.

 

Setting the time requires turning the crown such that the hour hand is on the correct 12 hour AM/PM rotation.  A common newbie question posted on Internet message boards is one asking why the date changes at Noon rather than at Midnight.  Once you have determined AM and PM by letting the hour hand go through one date change, gently rotate the minute hand to the correct position.  Sometime it takes a slight rolling ahead and rolling back of the minute hand to get it precisely on the minute marker.  Setting the time on a mechanical watch is a very personal experience. One feels the gears, the slight wobble in the stem, and requires energy to set the hands and date, very different than watching little blinking numbers and hitting pushers.

 

Accuracy
One distinguishing aspect of mechanical watches is that the watch’s accuracy is very individual to the watch.  Rolex watches are certified chronometers that vary between -4 to +6 seconds a day. Although a mechanical watch will gain or lose time because of the effects of gravity and centrifugal force on the regulating balance wheel, Rolex watches are consistent with their deviation.  If a Rolex is +1 second a day, it is a consistent +1 second a day. Accuracy on less quality watches swing wildly because of changes in activity and temperature.  My Rolex is a consistent -2 seconds a day.  To compensate, I set my watch +2 minutes ahead and let it drift back to real time over the course of two months. When it is time to change the date from 31 days to 30 days every other month, I just reset the time another +2 minutes.

 

Accuracy, the feel of the winding crown, and long term reliability are what distinguish a mechanical watch from the rest.  There is a feeling of comfort knowing that wearing a micromechanical machine on your wrist will outlast any battery or grand obsolescence as Rolex technology builds upon centuries of watchmaking evolution yet Rolex takes those breakthroughs makes them perfect.

– Sheldon Smith