Rolex has registered more than 400 patents in the course of its history, and unceasingly innovates in order to continue to enhance the performance of its watches.
The eight emblematic Oyster innovations described in the following pages have been developed and patented by Rolex over the last 90 years.
THE OYSTER CASE
The Oyster was characterized first and foremost by its hermetic case, thanks to an ingenious patented system combining a screw-down bezel, case back and winding crown.
Today, the Oyster case, entirely manufactured by Rolex, is waterproof to a minimum depth of 100 metres (330 feet) – 300 metres (1,000 feet) for the Submariner, and 3,900 (12,800 feet) for the Rolex Deepsea. Its middle case is crafted from a solid block of 904L steel, 18 gold or 950 platinum. The fluted case back is hermetically screwed down with a special tool that allows only Rolex watchmakers to access the movement. (Today the bezel is no longer screwed down.) The winding crown screws down securely against the case offering watertight security akin to a submarine’s hatch.
The robust waterproof Oyster case provides the high-precision movement with optimal protection from water, dust, pressure and shocks.
THE PERPETUAL ROTOR
In 1931, Rolex invented and patented a self-winding mechanism with a free rotor, called the Perpetual rotor, based on a principle that would later inspire the whole watchmaking industry. The Oyster became an Oyster Perpetual. The Perpetual rotor consists of a half-moon-shaped oscillating weight rotating freely on its axle in both directions under the impetus of the wearer’s wrist movements. The rotor transmits energy to the mainspring, the motor of the watch.
Apart from increasing comfort for the wearer, who is freed from winding the watch every day, the Perpetual rotor helps to reinforce the Oyster’s waterproofness. It eliminates the need to regularly unscrew the crown, an operation which exposes the movement to dust and humidity. By continuously winding the mainspring, the rotor maintains a stable high-level supply of energy to the movement, ensuring greater regularity and enhancing the precision of the watch. Self-winding via the Rolex Perpetual rotor provides excellent winding power in both rotation directions of the weight.
THE TWIN LOCK WINDING CROWN
The crown allows the wearer to adjust the essential functions of the watch, or wind it, by interacting directly with the movement. It is therefore, crucial that the crown be dustproof and waterproof to complete the hermetic sealing of the case. The Twinlock system, introduced and patented in 1953, guarantees that the screw-down winding crown is perfectly water-resistant thanks to two sealed zones, one inside the tube, the other inside the crown.
The Twinlock winding crown was used on the Submariner at its launch in 1953, the first watch at the time waterproof to a depth of 100 metres (330 feet). It maintained the waterproofness of the Oyster case even if the crown was not perfectly screwed down.
It is now used on a number of models, to provide waterproofness down to a depth of 100 metres. The Twinlock crown is identified by two dots below the Rolex emblem on gold models, and on steel models by a bar.
THE PARACHROM HAIRSPRING
In a mechanical watch, the oscillator is the guardian of time. Comprising a hairspring and a balance wheel, this organ determines the precision of the watch by the regularity of its oscillations. To ensure excellent precision, in 2000 Rolex introduced a patented hairspring in an exclusive alloy of niobium, zirconium and oxygen: the Parachrom hairspring.
Entirely manufactured in-house by Rolex, this strategic component, half a centimetre in diameter, offers major advantages for precision timekeeping: it is insensitive to magnetic fields, offers great stability in the face of tem – perature variations and remains up to 10 times more accurate than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks.
In 2005, Rolex introduced a new patented process to modify the surface of the Parachrom hairspring and thereby further reinforce its long-term stability. This same treatment produces its characteristic blue colour.
THE PARAFLEX SHOCK ABSORBER
In order to increase the resistance of its movements to shocks – particularly if dropped – Rolex developed and patented an exclusive and highly efficient shock absorber: Paraflex. The balance wheel, the mechanical heart of the watch, is a moving component with
The balance wheel, the mechanical heart of the watch, is a moving component with great inertia that helps guarantee optimal chronometric performance of the watch. The pivots of the balance staff are one of the parts of the movement most susceptible to damage from shocks. They must be as fine as possible – around seven-hundredths of a millimetre in diameter, the thickness of a human hair – so as to minimize friction. This makes them extremely vulnerable.
Rolex engineers developed a system that would increase the shock absorber’s resistance by 50 per cent while preserving the chronometric properties of the balance wheel. Special attention was paid to the spring, a key element that was completely redesigned. Its innovative geometry, de – veloped using computer simulation, allows the shock absorber to withstand extremely demanding conditions.
The new geometry of the shock absorber spring is an exclusive signature of Rolex movements.
THE CERACHROM BEZEL INSERT
The bezel is one of the parts of a watch most exposed to shocks, scratches, corrosion and other environmental factors. Rolex developed and patented the Cerachrom bezel for particular Professional models in the Oyster collection. These bezels retain all of their beauty and functionality even in the most extreme conditions. Manufactured by Rolex from a particularly hard, corrosion-resistant ceramic, this exclusive component is virtually impervious to scratches, and its colour is unaffected by ultraviolet rays. It also offers excellent polishability ensuring an exceptional, long-lasting lustre. For optimum legibility, the numerals and graduations are moulded in the ceramic and then coated with a very thin layer of either gold or platinum via a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) process.
Manufactured by Rolex from a particularly hard, corrosion-resistant ceramic, this exclusive component is virtually impervious to scratches, and its colour is unaffected by ultraviolet rays. It also offers excellent polishability ensuring an exceptional, long-lasting lustre. For optimum legibility, the numerals and graduations are moulded in the ceramic and then coated with a very thin layer of either gold or platinum via a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) process.
For optimum legibility, the numerals and graduations are moulded in the ceramic and then coated with a very thin layer of either gold or platinum via a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) process.
The Syloxi hairspring is the optimal silicon hairspring according to Rolex. The fruit of several years of research and carrying five patents, this new and particularly innovative hairspring makes full use of the potential of silicon technology to bring an exceptional level of precision and reliability to the brand’s women’s watches. Adding to its range of high-performance hairsprings, it stands alongside the blue Parachrom hair – spring that equips men’s models.
The Rolex Syloxi hairspring significantly improves the regularity of the oscillator and the precision of the watch. It is insensitive to magnetic fields, while offering great stability in the face of temperature variations. It also remains up to 10 times more accurate than a traditional hairspring in the face of the thousands of knocks a wristwatch receives on a daily basis. The Rolex Syloxi hairspring further improves the performance offered by silicon technology by using new patented solutions, including the optimized geometry of the hairspring and an efficient design of its attachment systems.
THE CHRONERGY ESCAPEMENT
Positioned between the gear train and the oscillator, the escapement is the “key to time”, playing a crucial role in how the movement functions. It supplies energy to the oscillator – the component that determines the division of time – and, in turn, transmits those impulses to the hands via the gear train. Rolex engineers devised and patented a new escapement that optimizes the efficiency of the Swiss lever escapement, the standard in Swiss watchmaking, but which had seen only limited technical evolution in the last 50 years. While favoured by watchmakers for its great reliability, the Swiss lever escapement has always suffered from low efficiency, relaying to the oscillator barely more than a third of the energy it receives from the mainspring via the gear train.
The result of extensive research, the geometry of the new Rolex Chronergy escapement improves the efficiency of this key component by 15 per cent. It accounts for almost half of the increased autonomy of the new 3235 and 3255 movements. Made of nickel-phosphorus, the Chronergy escapement is, furthermore, resistant to magnetic interference.
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