One of the many aspects that make Rolex all the more inspiring is that during a 24 hour period, a Rolex runs 86,400 seconds with only a +/- 3 second deviation. +/- 3 seconds in a 24 hour period results in 99.99% accuracy. A Rolex balance oscillates at 28,800 times per hour, which is equivalent of an automobile traveling 87 MPH and at a distance of 3,600 miles a year. Producing this accuracy are technologies we discussed last week such as the Breguet overcoil, but also other Rolex technologies such as Parallax, Parachrom, and Kif.
Paraflex, Parachrom, and Kif are Rolex technologies that make the balance wheel oscillate consistently and accurately. The balance wheel is the regulating mechanism and the mechanical heart of the watch that determines how fast, slow, and consistent it runs. The balance wheel oscillates around a pin, or “staff” in watch terms, that is as thin as seven-hundredths of a millimeter in diameter -about as thick as a human hair. The balance staff is thin to keep friction to a minimum. The challenge for any watchmaker is keeping the balance staff protected, oiled, and resistant to simple shocks from day-to-day knocking around.
To help protect the balance staff, Rolex developed their own shock mechanism KIF. KIF utilizes specially designed jewels that the ends of the balance staff pivots. Held in place with Rolex’s Parallax shock absorbing spring, the shock mechanism increases the shock absorbing resistance by 50% while preserving the chronometric properties of the balance wheel. Rolex started utilizing Parallax shock absorbing system since 2005 and is available on the Day-Date II, DateJust II, Explorer and Explorer II models, and the SkyDweller. Like many Rolex innovations, Paraflex will be introduced into Rolex updated movements moving forward.
In addition to developing technologies to better protect the balance staff, Rolex also developed a hairspring that is more resistant to shock and magnetism that previous Rolex hairsprings as well as hairsprings used in the watch industry. Hairsprings by their very nature are delicate and prone to damage by shock, magnetism, and at 28,800 beats per hour hairsprings are damaged by just plain use. Introduced in 2000, Rolex developed and patented Parachrom, a hairspring made of niobium, zirconium and oxygen. Rolex later refined the process in 2005 by modifying the surface such that it produced its characteristic blue color. At 45 microns thick, 150 microns wide, and 20 cm long, Parachrom is finer than human hair yet is 10 times more accurate when subjected to shocks and insensitive to magnetic fields. Parachrom hairsprings are used in all modern Rolex movements with the exception of one specific DateJust model for women; that movement uses a silicon hairspring. The use of silicon in hairsprings, we’ll save for another installment.
Kif, Paraflex and Parachrom are important Rolex technologies that keep Rolex movements running accurately for many years to come.
– Sheldon Smith