The Life and Times of the Rolex Oysterquartz

Quartz? In a Rolex? Unfathomable! Blasphemy! Yes, we are sure most people thought the same when the famed Geneva manufacture released a quartz watch. It was the 1970s, during the quartz crisis, that Rolex introduced the Ref. 5100 with a Beta 21 movement, which was used by everyone from Patek Phillipe to Omega, IWC and everyone in between. Rolex wanted to distinguish itself from the other brands and beginning in 1972, started researching and developing its own in-house quartz movement. In 1977, the brand introduced the caliber 5035 and 5055 which would power the oysterquartz and the present Oysterquartz Day-Date respectively. 

The Oysterquartz is a legendary part of Rolex history as it served an important role for the manufacture. Rolex made the Oysterquartz for nearly 25 years, until about 2004. It was their staple quartz model and one of their first “integrated bracelet” references. Legend says that less than 30,000 oysterquartz models had ever been produced. Some notable figures have donned this peculiar model on their wrist including, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner. Some may find it difficult to get behind quartz watches, but you cannot deny their accuracy and convenience, in addition to the comfort of the integrated bracelet. 


In 1905, at age 24, German businessman Hans Wilsdorf founded a company with Alfred Davis called Wilsdorf & Davis in London with the goal of selling high-quality, affordable timepieces. Three years later, he and Davis registered the brand name Rolex in Switzerland with a singular vision: quality, good-looking watches. Wilsdorf created the first watch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision in 1910. In 1914, he changed the name of the company to The Rolex Watch Company and several years later he moved their headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland, where the company remains to this day.

Rolex is likely the most recognizable watch in the world, and for good reason. The “Crown” (as it is affectionately called by collectors) it is in many ways the brand to which all other brands are compared. Rolex’s “firsts” are myriad and include the first waterproof watch in 1926 and the first self-winding mechanism in 1931. They are not the oldest watchmaker, nor are they the most exclusive, and certainly not the most expensive. However, when one thinks watches the first name that often comes to mind is Rolex, in large part due to it having been the timepiece of choice for athletes and adventurers.

In 1927, a Rolex Oyster made it across the English Channel on the wrist of swimmer, and in 1953, a Rolex survived Sir Edmund Hillary’s Mount Everest conquest. The dive into the Mariana Trench and the James Cameron Deepsea Expedition are two more examples of where a Rolex came out unscathed. The company also designed watches specifically for pilots, navigators, and world travelers.

It can be argued that every single model in the Rolex lineup is iconic, from the Submariner to the Daytona. For as long as Rolex has existed, the company has been synonymous with sport, adventure, luxury, and royalty. Some of the most famous names in history have donned a Rolex including Sir Winston Churchill, Paul Newman, and Roger Federer.