The Rolex 5100 Texan

Written by:IWS Team|

Let’s find out together the history of the ref. 5100 “Texan”, one of the rarest Rolex watches ever produced, and how it has earned this nickname!
Imagine the most modern and expensive Rolex there is: yellow gold (a lot), very limited edition, synthetic sapphire anti-scratch crystal and… a quartz movement?

The technology

There is a word that triggers purists of watchmaking more than any other, generally associated with poor quality, as well as mass production and therefore cautiously avoided or hidden as much as possible: Quartz.
Without bothering the experts, any newbies have heard “If a Rolex is quartz, it’s fake”… And yet, the “Quartz” inscription stands proud on the dial of the Rolex ref.5100 “Texan”.

When invented, cell phones costed several salaries, not to mention computers. Technology that you can buy today for a few hundred euros.

No one today would boast having a cell phone in his pocket or a Casio on the wrist, but having a quartz watch in the 70s meant owning the top of technological research…as well as a sweet bank account.

In the era of the space conquest, the public also asked the traditional watchmaker to carry out a revolution. And so, while in Japan Seiko was working on the launch of the Astron (the world’s first marketed quartz watch), Swiss watchmakers came together in a consortium to create an entirely Swiss quartz movement: the Centre Electronique Horologer.

21 of the most important Maisons put the best engineers and technicians in every canton of Switzerland at work. The result? In 1966, the first prototype of the movement, called “Beta-1“, was ready.

Despite the state-of-the-art technology, it will take another three years of refinement to get the final version of the movement. The legendary Beta-21 movement was born in 1969, ready to send Swiss watchmaking into the 20th century.

Risultato immagini per rolex 5100 beta 21

The watch

In 1970, Rolex released at the Basel Fair the wildest incarnation of futuristic luxury: the reference 5100.

Quartz movement, hyper precise  (+/-0.003 sec/day) and without the need for adjustments or maintenance, insensitive to gravity and with that hand that, a microscopical tick after the other (it may be mistaken for an automatic), sends everyone immediately into space.

This luxury certainly had to be combined with the exterior appearance, and Rolex decided to equip the most expensive watch on the list with an imposing 40 mm solid gold case, a sophisticated – for the time, first ever for Rolex – synthetic sapphire glass and a quick-set date.

The bracelet line recalls a President reinterpreted according to the edgy canons of the 70s, while the design and thickness of the case are actually due to the internal movement, designed for different brands and therefore not adaptable to the famous Oyster case.

Produced in a very limited edition, to ensure the exclusivity of this masterpiece: only 1000 pieces, of which unofficial rumors estimate 900 in yellow gold and 100 in white gold.

These characteristics led the public to give it a nickname that represented its opulence and brazenness. To afford such a watch and show off its traconcy, you certainly have to be a Texan oil billionaire! must have thought who first nicknamed this Rolex “The Texan“.

Exaggerated, futuristic, excessive… The Rolex 5100 Texan conquered the public immediately. All 1000 models were sold in pre-order, before production even began.
Yet, pieces with a serial number over one thousand have been identified, giving rise to theories that assume the release of a second series of 1000 pieces.

As is customary, Rolex neither confirms nor disproves the estimates.

The “Rolex Quartz Club

When buying a Rolex 5100 “Texan” you weren’t just buying a watch. It was a symbol: well-being, sophistication and above all, a lot of wealth. And this, Rolex knew it well.

The maison decided to offer buyers of the world’s most luxurious watch, a membership for the most exclusive of clubs: the “Rolex Quartz Club“.

Created especially for the occasion, the registration was automatic when purchasing a Quartz ref. 5100 Rolex. For the lucky few, the Club guaranteed unlimited entry to the Geneva headquarter with a private tour and signature in Rolex’s Golden Register.  

Risultato immagini per rolex 5100 beta 21

The market

Despite the initial enthusiasm of the public towards the first pieces, the Texan later did not achieve the expected success. This led the Genevan maison to quit production after only two years, in 1972, thus pausing the quartz experience.

The need to use a movement not directly designed by Rolex is another of the reasons that led to the end of the reference 5100. As mentioned above, quartz will not disappear entirely from Rolex’s plans. The company’s engineers developed their own independent movement, which over five years was realized in the launch of the Oysterquartz line.

A piece of exceptional rarity, over the years it will never be in the spotlight of collectors. This factor, still valid today, has allowed prices to remain relatively low given the watch in question and its importance.

Picture credits: C. Beccan

Seeing six-zero figures for “common” Daytonas or other Rolex chronos, we would expect the same for a unique piece of Rolex history and watchmaking in general, available among other things in very few examples in the world.
It takes about 16.000€ to buy a Texan in yellow gold with box, up to 80.000€  for a more unique than rare model in white gold.

We don’t know if showing in Geneva with a Rolex Quartz ref 5100 “Texan” still gives you unlimited access to Rolex’s headquarters, but we can guarantee that you will always be the center of attention at every watch meeting, far outclassing infinitely more expensive pieces.


Team Italian Watch Spotter
Italian Watch Spotter's Team
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