Wearing a Rolex wristwatch is already a special, but some people like to make their watches more personal by having something personal engraved on the caseback. Military pilots are known for having special caseback engravings commissioned by flying groups from the manufacturer, and many companies comply. Companies such as Bremont and Brietling who have roots into the aeronautical industry are known for making limited edition casebacks for pilots. Jaeger-LeCourtre Reverso wristwatches are designed for customized engraving. Rolex, on the other hand, rarely engraves their casebacks. If they do, it is for longtime Rolex employees, dignitaries, or winters of Rolex sponsored events such as Carmel’s Concourse d’Elegance.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to engraving a Rolex casebacks. Rolex casebacks are flat, smooth, with a slightly brushed finish making it a perfect canvas for engraving. Some say a Rolex caseback being a blank slate is intended for engraving. Others, on the other hand, believe that engravings weaken the caseback, and making vulnerable to collapsing when under pressure, especially when underwater like in this old Rolex ad. Rolex casebacks that do have engraving such as the DeepSea, SeaDweller 4000, and the Milgauss, it is around the bezel part of the caseback rather than across the back lending credibility to the argument that a caseback shouldn’t have anything stamped across the back.
If you decide to have your Rolex engraved, there are a couple of things to consider:
- Find someone experienced: Find and engraver who knows what they are doing and who has experience. There are no second chances, or ways to fix a damaged caseback because of engraver incompetence.
- Utilize a design that the engraver knows they can complete easily. Look at the engravers other work to see how well their designs have rendered on other pieces.
- Ask the engraver to do a test piece. When I had my caseback laser engraved with my new Minus4Plus6 website logo, the engraver tested the design on a couple of test casebacks before committing to the actual Rolex caseback.
- Have a Rolex watchmaker remove the caseback before engraving. If an engraver indicates that they can complete the engraving without removing the caseback is your cue to run.
- Do not have the engraving done by stamping. A stamped caseback (eg. initials) will bend the caseback and the edges in the engraving create stress risers compromising the caseback’s integrity.
- Hand engraving or carving only works well with gold as it is soft enough for the engraver to be very precise with the design such as with Jaeger-LeCourtre Reverso wrist watches.
- Only use laser engraving: Laser engraving is a very precise method for etching metal. Precise measuring instruments have their indicators laser engraved because of the precision laser engraving provides. Although more expensive, a laser engraver has control of the depth of the engraving, can incorporate designs such as rounded corners that are hard to do by traditional means. Laser engraving is consistent across the caseback, leaving very little hard corners that could act as stress risers when under pressure. If a laser engraving is done light enough, it can be easily removed if the watch were to be sold.
Making a Rolex wristwatch even more special by engraving is a nice touch. Just be sure to have it done the right way, and by experienced people.
– Sheldon Smith