For those who are admitted fans of Rolex watches, it may come as a surprise that the renowned Swiss watch brand does, in fact, have some quartz watches tucked away in their archives. Dubbed the Oysterquartz, these Rolex timepieces are a clear illustration of Rolex experimenting with what was hailed as a breakthrough in watchmaking back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
While quartz watches are typically looked down upon by watch aficionados, Oysterquartz timepieces are not your standard run-of-the-mill quartz watches, but rather distinctively designed Rolex watches equipped with in-house built quartz calibers built to exacting standards we’ve come to expect from the most famous luxury watch brand in the world.
Brief History: Why did Rolex make Quartz Watches?
In the 1960s, the Japanese watch market threatened the stability of the Swiss watch market with quartz powered watches—an innovative technology that allowed watches to run on batteries and offer precision levels never before seen in watches. Plus, quartz calibers were vastly cheaper and quicker to make than mechanical movements.
In a retaliatory move, a group of top Swiss watch brands, including Rolex, banded together to create the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) consortium. The mission of the CEH was to develop a quartz caliber that all these Swiss watch brands could use and the outcome was the Swiss made Beta 21 quartz movement. While Rolex did use the Beta 21 for a short time, they eventually focused on making their own in-house quartz movements and in 1977, the Rolex Oysterquartz watches were born.
Rolex produced the Oysterquartz watches until the early 2000s, when they were permanently discontinued.
What are the Different Types of Oysterquartz Watches?
To make their Oysterquartz watches, Rolex took two of their most famous dress watch designs, the Datejust and the Day-Date, and revamped them to house their in-house quartz calibers. The Oysterquartz Datejust and the Oysterquartz Day-Date share many of the details of their mechanical equivalents but also boast their very own unique traits.
For instance, while on paper the Oysterquartz watches also come with 36mm Oyster cases, they actually wear larger thanks to the angular design of the case. Moreover, just like the mechanical models, the Oysterquartz Datejust watches come with the option of an Oyster bracelet or a Jubilee bracelet. However, the bracelets on the Oysterquartz versions are integrated, lending a distinctive look to these battery-operated Rolex watches. Similarly, the Oysterquartz Day-Date is also fitted with a Presidential style bracelet like the mechanical Day-Date watches, but again in the Oysterquartz integrated bracelet style.
In terms of materials, the Oysterquartz Datejust watches are available in either full stainless steel or two tone stainless steel and yellow gold. For instance this stainless steel Oysterquartz Datejust ref. 17000 with an Oyster bracelet or this two tone Oysterquartz Datejust ref. 17013 with a yellow gold fluted bezel and yellow gold links in the Jubilee bracelet.
On the other hand, Oysterquartz Day-Date watches are exclusively available in yellow or white gold. A handsome example is this Oysterquartz Day-Date ref. 19018 in full 18k yellow gold with polished center links on the President bracelet and a classic champagne dial.
A big appeal of the Rolex Oysterquartz watches is its limited production numbers. It’s estimated that during its 25-year production run, less than 25,000 Oysterquartz watches were ever made, which makes this an uncommon Rolex watch to own.