Considering Rolex has produced millions of watches over the past century, purchasing your first Rolex timepiece can be daunting. Finding the perfect Rolex requires an understanding of the watch’s specifications, mechanics, and abilities. This buyer’s guide will break down everything you need to know about a Rolex timepiece so you can make an informed purchasing decision.
To understand a Rolex watch, you must first understand the terminology used by the company (especially considering some is unique only to Rolex).
BEZEL: the metal ring outside the crystal.
CYCLOPS: this is the magnifying device that makes the date appear larger. It is an added piece of glass adhered onto the main crystal of sapphire crystal-equipped models.
HELIUM ESCAPE VALVE (HEV): this is a small, spring-loaded oneway valve integrated into a watch case that allows helium and other gasses to escape the timepiece as a diver ascends to the water’s surface. This technology was originally developed for commercial divers.
OYSTER: Hans Wildorf gave this name to the earliest waterproof watches of the 1920’s and is a name still used today.
THE ROLEX MATERIALS
Many of the materials Rolex uses is produced in-house. Almost every Rolex watch is built from these 9 basic materials:
CERACHROM: this is Rolex’s proprietary ceramic. It is scratch-proof, UV ray resistant, and is the standard for the bezel inserts used in the company’s sport watches.
CHROMALIGHT: Blue at night and white during the day, this is the Rolex lume.
EVEROSE GOLD 18K: the signature warm rose gold used by Rolex is achieved by adding copper and silver to the formula.
OYSTERSTEEL: a corrosion-resistant steel with he high polish of a precious metal.
PLATINUM: Rolex only uses 950 platinum. The exclusive 950 is a high-concentration alloy that includes ruthenium for shine and strength.
PRECIOUS STONES: although diamonds are the most common, no gem is off limits to Rolex.
ROLESOR: Rolex’s patented method of combining gold and Oystersteel in its two-tone timepieces.
YELLOW GOLD 18K: a gold alloy that is proprietary and gives Rolex its iconic hue.
WHITE GOLD 18K: the brilliant white gold Rolex uses to craft many of its timepieces.
THE ROLEX CLASPS AND EXPANDERS
CROWNCLASP/CROWNLOCK: this is Rolex’s bracelet-locking mechanism. Once it is secured, the clasp seems to disappear into the bracelet.
OSTERCLASP/OYSTERLOCK: this locking mechanism is the most popular. It’s an incredibly secure clasp due to a secondary locking mechanism that folds over the main clasp.
EASYLINK: Easylink is an expander that allows the wearer to expand the watch’s bracelet by 5mm.
GLIDELOCK: this is a patented extension mechanism that will allow the wearer to adjust the bracelet up to 20mm in 2mm increments (designed to be used over wet suits).
THE ROLEX BRACELETS
JUBILEE BRACELET: the Jubilee can be fitted with either the Rolex Oysterlock or Crownlock clasp. This bracelet is crafted out of 5-piece links, offered in various metals and combinations.
OYSTER BRACELET: the Oyster bracelet only comes with Oysterlock clasps. It is made from 3-piece links that give the timepiece a simpler look, perfect for sport watches.
OYSTERFLEX RUBBER BRACELET: Oysterflex bracelets include Oysterlock clasps. This is the most simple bracelet look that is both comfortable and stylish.
PEARLMASTER BRACELET: with a Crownlock clasp only, the Pearlmaster is the most refined Rolex bracelet made with 5-piece links.
PRESIDENT BRACELET: crafted from 3-piece links that are rounded, giving the watch a sophisticated look. This is a less common bracelet that only comes with a Crownlock clasp.
ROLEX LEATHER BRACELET: in-house leather straps that can be fitted with Oysterlock clasps or a buckle. The leather bracelet is offered in many colors and hides.
THE ROLEX BEZELS
The bezel is the metal ring on the outside of the crystal. Rolex offers 6 bezel looks.
BEJEWELED: a bezel encrusted with precious gems.
ENGRAVED FIXED: the demarcations on this bezel are engraved into either Ceracrom or Oystersteel. This bezel can only be found on Daytona Cosmograph and Explorer II models.
FLUTED PRECIOUS METAL: bezels offered in precious metals.
PLAIN: although this bezel may be steel or precious metal, it is the most basic bezel type (basic for a Rolex).
ROTATING WITH INSERTS: this bezel is made with scratch-proof Ceracrom inserts.
ROTATING PRECIOUS METAL: exclusive only to the Yachtmaster model, this bezel is deeply engraved precious metal.
THE ROLEX MOVEMENTS
Although there are endless movements you could get to know, these 5 modern movements are the essentials and a great place to begin.
3135: this is the current basis for most of Rolex’s movements, including an instantaneous change at midnight. The variations on this movement include:
3155 — da-date complication
3130 — no date
3131 — no date with an anti-magnetic shield
3132 — no date with a Paraflex anti-shock system
2235 — smaller with date
2230 — smaller without date
3255: the 3255 doubles the accuracy of +6/-4 seconds per day set out by Switzerland’s official accuracy testing program, COSC. This technology, introduced in 2015, will be the basis for most of Rolex’s movements.
3186: Rolex’s 24-hour GMT movement
4130: no-date chronograph movement. This movement is only found with the Daytona model.
9001: the company’s most complicated movement. This movement includes two time zones and an annual calendar. It can only be found as a feature on the Sky-Dweller.
THE ROLEX WATCH CATEGORIES
Rolex has 3 watch categories for their modern watches.
CELLINI (4 models): these watches are more traditional, sometimes complicated, and only moderately waterproof.
OYSTER PERPETUAL CLASSIC (6 models): these classic Rolex models are all waterproof. They are dressy watches that can also be a bit sporty.
OYSTER PERPETUAL PROFESSIONAL (7 models): these models are Rolex’s sport watches. They tend to be larger and more robust in design.
Understanding these basics of Rolex can greatly help you navigate the many options and nuances of the world’s most famous watch company. Although most first-time watch buyers may rely on aesthetic, knowing what your timepiece is capable of and what features will best fit your lifestyle if key to finding the perfect watch.