Oysterquartz: a Rolex that ticks

Written by:IWS Team|

If the Texan has a smooth seconds hand movement, similar to an automatic, there’s also a Rolex that truly ticks: the Rolex Oysterquartz..

Credits: A Collected Man

One of the first signs you learn to distinguish a fake Rolex from a genuine one is that there is no quartz Rolex… But we have already seen that this is not always true, as in the case of the aforementioned Texan Rolex..

Another of the hallmarks of a true Rolex is the case.
The famous Oyster case has been featured in the maison’s sports models for almost a century, bringing water resistance without sacrificing a luxurious and refined aesthetic, exactly like an actual oyster that encloses a pearl.
Yet, in the history of Rolex we find models that untrained eyes might immediately label as fake, as they don’t follow these “basic” Rolex guidelines.

A little history…

Back in the 1970s, Rolex offered its wealthiest customers the pinnacle of modern watchmaking, the Beta-21 quartz caliber, within its most expensive watch: the Texan ref. 5100. Doesn’t sound familiar? Click here!

Produced only in a very limited edition and already sold-out in pre-sale, the Texan has never completely convinced Rolex. The need to use a caliber developed together with other companies led to the decision not to continue production of this model and to focus efforts on the development of a quartz in-house caliber.

At the same time as the development of a new mechanism, a Rolex in full technological momentum wanted to test the appeal of a new design, more in line with the masculine fashion of the 70s.

Just as classic white shirts and formal jackets were revised in bright and imaginative colors, the classic Rolex design is also revised to the will of fashion. The sweet curves of the case become sharp edges, the soft bracelets are integrated with the case and follow its masculine line. The classic and beloved Rolex is now ready to withstand a night at the disco, standing out even under the sleeves of the most colorful shirts.

This introduces two new models, the Rolex Date ref. 1530 and Datejust ref. 1630, both in 36 mm (unlike the traditional line that sees the “Date” in 34 mm).
Movements remain automatic (… for the moment!), but given the equal size, these two models are mainly distinguished by the bracelet and materials.

The Date 1530 offers us an Oyster-like bracelet in satin steel, while the Datejust 1630 features a jubilee-like with three yellow gold center links, as well as the fluted bezel.
These two watches are very similar and Rolex’s experiment is successful among those who wanted a slightly more modernist twist from the brand.

The Rolex Oysterquartz revolution

The real revolution came in 1977, when the result of the maison’s technological dream was finally presented to the public: the Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz ref. 17000, powered by the 5035 quartz caliber.

Initially not certified as “Superlative Chronometer” (as we can see on the first dials), the 5035 caliber has nothing to share with a generic quartz.

Let’s start by saying that more than an actual quartz, it’s a hybrid on a 3035 basis. The quartz crystal, vibrating at 32.768 hz (almost four times the frequency of The Beta-21), acts as a regulator to power a mechanical movement with  11 rubies, just like that of a classic watch.

The natural aging of quartz can be compensated through an adjustment screw, while the temperature is constantly detected and processed by a chip that automatically adjusts the oscillations of the quartz crystal.

In less than a year, in 1978, the caliber receives the prestigious COSC certification: the annual error is under one minute.
With an average error of less than 0.1 seconds per day, the requirement of up to +6 sec/day is largely met. (If you want to know more about COSC and other certifications, you’ll find everything in our dedicated article.)

The print “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” begins to appear on the dial, which initially featured only the Rolex logo and “Oysterquartz” print.
Rolex Oysterquartz - Recensioniorologi.it

But Rolex Oysterquartz is not just a model, it’s an entire line.

As for the Datejusts featuring the 5035 caliber, in addition to the ref. 17000 in steel with Oyster-like bracelet, we find the ref. 17013 in two tones with jubilee-like bracelet and ref. 17014 with steel jubilee-like bracelet and white gold bezel.

Be careful if you decide to buy a 17013 or a 1630. The bracelet from 1630 features all three central links in yellow gold and is often switched for bracelets from 17013 with only two gold links.

For the demanding, within the Oysterquartz line we can also find Day-Date versions

Equipped with the 5055 caliber and strictly made in gold only, as per tradition: we can find the ref. 19018 in yellow gold and the ref. 19019 in white gold.
To continue the tradition, the bracelet is the “Oysterquartz” reinterpretation of the classic President.
Alongside these two versions, numerous limited edition variants with precious stones and special finishes will be made over the years.

Rolex Oysterquartz DayDate 18ct Yellow Gold, Black Dial, Reference ...


The particular design of the integrated bracelets didn’t allow Rolex to engrave the serial number and model number between the lugs. To observe these incisions it is therefore not necessary to remove the bracelet as in other models, just look at the back of the case.

To present these models, top of the technological avant-garde, Rolex decided to make special boxes with a quartz crystal-inspired badge, which depending on the model we can find outside or inside. In the Rolex boxes market (… yes, you got it right), these rare models are quite sought-after and valuable.

As periodic maintenance of the mechanism is not required, Rolex offers all its customers the free replacement of the battery.

Rolex Oysterquartz Market

Available for 25 years, from 1977 to 2001, the production of Oysterquartz models stood at around 1,000 units per year, for a total of around 25,000 pieces. Due to their lack of success, they were mistakenly regarded as low-end and not interesting models by European collectors, while they were quite successful in the American and Asian markets.

If you decide to anticipate the trend and put on your wrist a non-ordinary Rolex with automatic movement like the 1530 or 1630, talking about decidedly rare references, prices currently fluctuate between  8,000-10,000€ and the offer is scarce.  

If you want to give an opportunity to a Rolex that ticks, the choice is much wider: for a Datejust ref. 17000, 17013 or 17014 the average price is around 4,000€, with variations depending on set, conditions or particular dials.

For a Day-Date ref. 19018 in classic yellow gold, the demand of the market is around 9,000€, for a 19019 in white gold we are instead in the orbit of 11,000€. The offer is generally valid and you can find a good number of specimens for both versions.

For particular references with precious stones, prices are generally depending to the will of the seller, given their exceptional rarity and therefore the difficulty of establishing a standard price. We usually can expect a request that can range from 14,000€ for a model with an exotic wooden dial, up to 25,000€ and even over 100,000€  for very rare specimens covered with precious stones, only if strictly factory-set.

What about you? Do you think these models have suffered unfair misfortune and can represent good hidden gems? Would you buy a Rolex that ticks?
Let us know in the comments.


Team Italian Watch Spotter
Italian Watch Spotter's Team
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