Rolex Oysterquartz 1987

Rolex is by far the most imitated watch. Imitations ranging from obvious cheap copies to difficult to pick fakes that feature every minute detail.  It is widely thought that if a watch DSCN9750that looks like a Rolex, has Rolex signed in all the right places and has a quartz movement (easily picked by the second hand jumping every second rather than sweeping) then, it’s a definite fake.  This is because of the common perception that Rolex never made quartz watches. WRONG.

Rolex did make an in-house quartz that is considered by some to be the finest ever made.

It started in the early 70’s when Rolex, along with several other quality watchmakers, used a generic Swiss movement, the Beta 21, and produced only, and precisely 1,000 watches.

In 1977, Rolex released the Oysterquatz featuring their own in-house movement, caliber 5035 and 5055 .

The example I have here is a 1987 example but it could be any age during this model’s amazing 24 year production run…..because neither the style or the movement hardly changed during its entire existence.

The design of the watch is far removed from the classic Rolex style with completely angular case, an integrated band with a polished finish and sapphire glass.

DSCN9745The 11 jewel 5035 movement is finished to an even higher standard than the superb mechanical Rolexes. It is fair to say that no other quartz movement ever produced can compare to it from the standpoint of pure beauty.

Compared to its mechanical counterpart, this watch is at least 10 times more accurate, it requires less servicing (my example here has never been serviced in nearly 30 years!) and it cost less than the mechanical. Despite these obvious advantages, Rolex didn’t bother to promote it much and in 24 years, only 105,097 watches were produced.

In 2001, the Oysterquatz was discontinued.

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Poljot Sturmanski

The First Watch in Space (55 years ago today)

YuriIn 1957, the Soviet Union put the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into earth orbit. A month later, Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, became the first living creature in space. By 1961 the Soviets were well in front in the “space race” and to the great embarrassment of the “Free World”, pulled further in front when Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.

On Uris’ wrist was this Poljot Sturmanskie.

DSCN9511The Soviets may have been at the vanguard of space technology but nowhere near it when it came to timepieces; technically, the Sturmanskie is a very ordinary watch.

Let’s start with the movement. Small but quite rugged, this movement uses a copy of superb Swiss incabloc shock protection device. It has a hacking device (where the watch is stoped when in the hand setting mode for accurate synchronisation), a feature rarely found in Swiss watches. It has a Breguet (overcoil ) hairspring, a feature found in only the most accurate Swiss watches. The finish is pretty good and very good on the screw heads and other steel parts.

The dial is what really makes this otherwise ordinary looking watch stand out; large full figure numerals with black outline, long Cyrillic character branding stretching from the 10 to the 2, beautiful sword shaped hands tapering to long pointed sticks paired with a nice red sweep second hand and, best of all, an emblem of a winged bomb with a red Soviet star over it leaves us in no doubt of this watch’s military heritage.

Finally, the case. Chrome plated! Why Oh Why? The back is stainless steel, but so thin you can almost see through it. The crown is light as are the seals. Needless to say, the case is a disappointment.

The dimensions are a little disappointing too; very small for a military watch, only 33mm in diameter and very thick, 13mm, almost twice that of a comparable Swiss watch.

The Poljot Sturmanskie was, from the early 1950’s, presented to Soviet pilots upon their graduation, the model was not available to the general public. During the sixties, it was made available to the public and there was some variations produced.

A very nice watch and part of history.

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Robswatches at the Museum

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My entire watch collection (almost) is on display at the Channel Heritage Centre, Margate, for the month of March. The exhibit consists of over 200 items including 180 watches ranging in age from 1750c to 2010.

On display is some of the world’s most desirable classic brand names; Patek Pillippe, Rolex, Omega, Longines, Baume and Mercier, Girard Perregaux, Cartier, Rado, IWC, Bulova, Certina, Zenith and more. Other, more commercial brands, include Tag Heuer. Seiko, Citizen, Edox, Enicar, Waltham and many others.

Some of the collection is organised into categories, such as; Railroad watches, braille watches, watches in space etc.

Also included is a superb Zenith marine chronometer, some watchmakers’ tools and some classic advertisements and posters.

The Channel Heritage Centre is well worth a visit anytime but all the more so this month, so, if you live in Southern Tasmania, go for a  drive, check out the museum and drop me a line with a comment.

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Classique Skeleton Pocket

One For The Connoisseur

DSCN9286This is one for the connoisseur of classic, simple, mechanical beauty.
Apart from the shock proof system, which looks very much like the Seiko Diashock system, the technology is standard, Swiss 19th century. In fact, I doubt if the tooling for this movement has changed any more than minutely since it was first produced just after the first world war.
So now in the teen years of the 21st century where micro electronics rule supreme, where mechanical technology, that once ruled, has become a novel curiosity, this “tarted up” example of old technology that was once taken for granted, is now an object of marvel and beauty by all that cast their eyes upon it.

This is how it’s done:

mvtTake a standard Unitas 6497 17 jewel pocket watch movement, cut as much out of the plates as possible so as to reveal all of the mechanical components, put a high quality finish on all components, plate the bridges and plates with palladium, engrave the plates with a classic pattern, blue the screws, install the movement into a double sided glass case without a dial and that’s it!

 

DSCN9289This is the result. An object of timeless mechanical beauty that is perfect for a very special gift such as a 21st, graduation, special achievement etc.

I can only find one fault with this object of allurement……its price! At $850 it is way under priced!

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Tudor Oyster 1966

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DSCN8896This is not a Rolex! Every time I see Tudor advertised for sale, the headline is something like “Rolex Tudor”. This annoys me. Tudor is a separate product and although both come under the same parent company and Tudor came about 40 years after Rolex, the two are aimed at two different markets.

A brief history of Tudor.
By virtue of its Oyster Case, Rolex had cemented itself as a leader in the upper mass market, competing in the marketplace with Omega, Certina, Longines, Zenith etc.

Thirty eight years after Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf started Tudor. To make Tudor stand out in a cluttered market, Rolex cases where used. The movements used were the standard but brilliant ETA’s, manuals and automatics. The in house Rolex automatics of the 40’s through to the 70’s were not a patch on their DSCN8900competitors, watchmakers were gleefully bagging out the Rolex as “rubbish”, but the Oyster Case was its great virtue. So, the Tudor enjoyed instant success with the Oyster case and good ETA movements…….A better watch than Rolex, some would say and has actually been referred to as the thinking man’s Rolex.

Over the years Tudor moved further and further away from its big brother until the present day where it bears no resemblance and has a clear direction of its own.

This model.

DSCN7371This model is classic Tudor, a 1966 model (twenty years into this young company’s history). It uses a basic Ebauche ETA 1100 manual wind movement, no date, housed in a Rolex Oyster case. And, like all Tudor Oysters it lets it be known loud and clear having “ORIGINAL CASE BY ROLEX GENEVA” etched into the back along with the Rolex crown emblem. The crown logo is also seen on the winding crown.

So, although the Tudor may not have the pedigree of Rolex or have some of the world’s most desirable models, that isn’t to say it should be snubbed. It is a unique watch, basic but a top performer that holds an important place in watchmaking history.

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Omega Seamaster 1968

DSCN8687The Seamaster was the most popular series in the Omega range during the eminent years of watchmaking. Here I have an excellent example of an ordinary looking but nonetheless beautiful Seamaster from 1968.

The flagship of the Omega range was the Constellation and, in its shadow, was the Seamaster. But there wasn’t a lot of difference between them, technically or aesthetically. I have, on several occasions mistaken one for the other when viewed from the distance of the wearers’ wrist.
I think the difference is slight. The Constellation is a certified chronometer, which means it complies (and tested) to a standard of performance and construction. But the movement that was used in all models, the 500 and 700 series were, as far as I know, identical. So, performance should be consistent between the two even though the Seamaster was not tested to chronometer standards.
The quality of the entire Omega range was at such a standard that just about all movements would have passed the chronometer tests.

Seamaster medallion and signed crown

Seamaster medallion and signed crown

Back to this watch. By 1968 the “Pie Pan” dial was replaced with much plainer dials as this but whatever it was about the pie pans that made them age so much was not included in their successors. Here we see an almost perfect dial with minimal aging.

We also have beautiful hands, delightful raised index markers and a rare magnifying “bubble” covering both the day and date. The interesting, and innovative thing about the magnifier is that it bulges downwards not upwards as all others do. This has always been a problem with date bubbles because by protruding up from the plane of the glass they scratch first and easily. The date has a quick change feature, essential when you have both day and date display. Quick date change and day/date display where not new but top end features in 1968

I can't stop raving about these beautiful movements. This is the 752 one of the last of this series

I can’t stop raving about these beautiful movements. This is the 752 one of the last of this series

The rest is standard Omega style and quality: The Seamaster medallion on the back, the signed water resistant crown, the amazing 752 24 jewel movement.
The only thing that I dislike about this masterpiece is that the bezel is plain a little wide taking the finesse away from the style making it appear a little bulky. A precursor of what was to come in the 70’s.

It is all original except the strap. Signed five times including the watermark on the glass.

The Seamaster is all it’s cracked up to be; Water resistant, tough, reliable, accurate and durable.

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Omega Constellation 1966

DSCN8107The Constellation has been the flagship of the Omega brand since its introduction in 1952. It was a robust, water resistant, chronometer that was, through its various style changes, always very stylish and it outsold its main rival, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, until 1969.
What put the Constellation ahead of the rest? Well, it was a chronometer, but not only that, at a time when most people only had one watch, an all rounder was very important and the Constellation was the epitome of the all rounder.
It was accurate and reliable, the case was rugged and water-resistant and it was stylish and downright beautiful. The finish on all parts, visible or otherwise is second to none. It has many distinguishing features; the beautiful applied index markers, the delphine hands, the faceted date window, the ??????????observatory medallion on the back and, most of all, the “pie pan” dial. It is very distinctive and it carries one of the most prestigious names, Omega
What is a “pie pan” dial? You may ask. This is the 12 edge pattern used in the Constellations and Seamasters for about 10 years, and now, these models are the most desirable amongst collectors.
I find this term “pie pan” a little silly. I had never heard of it until after the internet era. It is said that this nick name comes from the dial’s resemblance to an inverted pie pan. Stretch the imagination enough and this explanation works. Now Omega’s activities are centered in the French speaking area of Switzerland and I have also heard of this dial referred to as douze pans (twelve points). So, I reckon that someone in internet land

The beautiful 500 series that graced the Omegas from 1958 to1970. This is the 564 with quick date change feature.

The beautiful 500 series that graced the Omegas from 1958 to1970. This is the 564 with quick date change feature.

changed douze pans to pie pan and having been repeated enough, has made it official. So, sadly, pie pan it is.
Possibly the only weaknesses of the 60’s Omegas was that the dial tended to age severely with time, one with a pristine dial is very hard to find. Happily, in this I have a good one.
I restored this watch myself. It is all original except for the strap. It is signed five times including the watermark Omega symbol in the center of the glass and it is one of my most prized watches

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