Precious metals, stainless steel, ceramic, mother of pearl and gemstones are the foundations of watchmaking. If you want to guarantee the highest quality, then it is essential to ensure the highest standards of used materials. Rolex is a prime example in the pursuit of excellence, and not just in terms of accurate movements. Since it is difficult to find suppliers who guarantee consistent standards over a longer period of time, the luxury watch manufacturer decided without hesitation to produce the materials they needed themselves, when viable. The specifics are, of course, kept secret, but the properties of the materials are known and produce the Rolex watches as we know them today: the premier class of timepieces.
Stainless steel – Oystersteel, the key element of Rolex watches
Oystersteel is probably the most commonly used material for Rolex watches. The stainless steel is an in-house superalloy and guarantees the robustness of a vast number of Swiss luxury watch components. It is the 904L stainless steel alloy that meets industry standards and is used primarily in the chemical and aerospace industries. This alloy is considered to be particularly resistant against corrosion and therefore also ideal for watches that have been specially developed for use in extreme conditions. Examples include diver’s watches such as the Rolex Submariner or the Rolex DeepSea, which have to withstand high pressure and salt water. Another attribute that should be known to Rolex wearers: The Rolex stainless steel Oystersteel can be polished to extraordinary shine!
Gold: yellow gold, white gold and rose gold Everose
For centuries, gold has been of stable value and a competitive commodity that, in its purest form, shines in a warm, yellow glow and is considered one of the softer precious metals. Pure gold would be too soft to work effectively in jewellery or watches and therefore has to be mixed with other materials to provide the desired robustness. Rolex uses 18 karat gold that consists of 75% pure gold blended with copper and silver to create the warm shine of the material.
White gold and rose gold are also created through adding copper and silver, albeit in a different ratio, to produce different colors and material characteristics. 18 carat white gold often contains rhodium, which guarantees a special hardness and robustness, while rose gold contains a higher ratio of copper. The special alloy used by Rolex is called Everose and has a warm, never reached orange undertone. Rolex uses one of these gold variants for one of their most exclusive models: The Rolex Day-Date. This is offered exclusively in gold and platinum.
Platinum, the royal class among the precious metals
Because of its scarcity, platinum is considered the most exclusive among precious metals. Unlike silver, it does not change colour over time and is particularly robust because of its density, a material that will last for generations. Rolex uses a Platinum 950 alloy for its watches, which means the material is 95% pure platinum. It is mixed with ruthenium, which makes the prestigious precious metal even harder and shinier. The combination of Oystersteel with platinum 950 creates Rolesium, which is reserved solely for the Rolex Yacht-Master series.
Rolesor, the perfect harmony of gold and stainless steel
For those who can not decide whether to wear a gold or silver watch, Rolex has found the perfect solution: in 1933, the luxury company patented a combination of gold and stainless steel, which it called Rolesor. The materials used stay in contrast but at the same time harmonise each other, the perfect combination for anyone who likes it a bit more conspicuous. Bezel, winding crown and center elements of the bracelet are made of 18 kt gold or Everose gold, the center part of the case and the outer elements of the bracelet are made of stainless steel Oystersteel. The Jubilee bracelet, found with the Rolex Datejust, is a good example of this material mix. The three rows in the middle of the bracelet stand out in gold, while the outer wider links remain in the classic Oystersteel. Some Rolex Rolesor watches are also available in white Rolesor, here, 18 carat white gold is used exclusively for the bezel.
Cerachrom, the basic element of professional Rolex bezels
The word ‚Cerachrom‘ is composed of the first syllable of the English word ceramic and the suffix chrom, which derives from the Greek and means colour. It is the extremely hard ceramic bezel specially developed by Rolex and patented in 2005, which is used on selected Professional models. Due to its material properties, it is predominantly used on watches that have been developed for professional use and may be exposed to strong environmental influences, such as the GMT-Master II, which was developed as a watch for pilots and hobby pilots. Even under particularly stressful conditions such as heavy pressure or environmental influences, it is reliable and robust. Even with strong UV radiation, the ceramic bezel remains colourfast. Such characteristics ensure that your watch will not let you down in decisive moments. Digits and graduations are engraved into the ceramic and PVD coated with gold and platinum for better readability.
Sapphire crystal, particularly robust and scratch-resistant
An important part of the watch, which is often overlooked and not given enough attention, is the glass, which protects the dial against dust and environmental influences. It rounds off the watch in the truest sense of the word. Although glass has a nice finish, it is unsuitable for watches because of its fragility. The early Rolex watches used acrylic lenses that were break-proof, but unfortunately prone to scratches. As early as 1970, Rolex tested sapphire crystal for the first time on the Rolex Oysterquartz. In 1981 it was used again, and the Rolex Submariner has since become an integral part of all Rolex watches. The synthetic glass is scratch resistant, durable and extremely solid. It can be polished to highest gloss and offers a brilliance that acrylic can’t match. The only drawback: If the glass breaks, it is very likely that splinters will damage the movement. In case of doubt, the replacement should always be carried out expertly by Rolex itself or an authorised shop.
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