How Rolex’s Oystersteel is Different from Traditional Stainless Steel

As Rolex goes about the never-ending process of refining and improving its products, some of the areas in which we have seen the greatest advancements are the new materials that are featured in the Rolex watches that have been released over the course of the last couple decades. From scratch-resistant ceramic bezels to antimagnetic movement […] The post How Rolex’s Oystersteel is Different from Traditional Stainless Steel appeared first on Bob's Watches.

How Rolex’s Oystersteel is Different from Traditional Stainless Steel

As Rolex goes about the never-ending process of refining and improving its products, some of the areas in which we have seen the greatest advancements are the new materials that are featured in the Rolex watches that have been released over the course of the last couple decades.

From scratch-resistant ceramic bezels to antimagnetic movement components, contemporary Rolex watches utilize some of the most advanced materials on this planet to aid in the company’s ongoing pursuit of building the best mechanical wristwatches possible. However, despite all of the unique, proprietary machines and materials that get used at the Rolex factory in Geneva, one of the most interesting aspects of the Rolex production process is the type of stainless steel that is used for the cases and bracelets of its watches.

Rolex Oystersteel

Most timepiece manufacturers use 316L stainless steel, which is more than adequate for the vast majority of applications and environments you are likely to encounter in everyday life. However, Rolex chooses to use a unique blend of 904L stainless steel for its watches (known as “Oystersteel”) that is highly resistant to a number of different forms of corrosion. The “Oystersteel” name first made an appearance at Baselworld 2018, taking the place of “904L stainless steel” within Rolex’s literature; however no distinction was made between the two metals, so it is likely that “Oystersteel” is just Rolex’s name for the high-quality, 904L stainless steel that is produced in-house by its own foundry.

904L stainless steel is a low-carbon variety of stainless steel with additives of nickel, chromium, copper, and molybdenum to make it highly resistant to the various types of corrosion. Most commonly used in the aerospace and chemical industries, 904L is difficult to shape and often requires the use of specialized equipment to properly cut and machine. Although it is more expensive and difficult to use, 904L can take on a higher polish than traditional stainless steel alloys and it possess a number of anti-corrosive properties that are somewhat similar to those of precious metals.

Oystersteel Rolex Dive Watches Submariner Sea-Dweller

904L Stainless Steel: Superior Corrosion Resistance

Rolex’s use of 904L stainless steel dates all the way back to 1985, when it became the first wristwatch manufacturer to use the metal on a large scale in its timepieces. Initially, during the 1980s, 904L stainless steel was only used for the Rolex Sea-Dweller line of deep-sea diving watches and later the Submariner collection; however in 2003, Rolex switched all of its various lines of watches over to 904L stainless steel, due to the superior corrosion resistance that it offered.

More traditional forms of stainless steel, such as 316L are quite corrosion resistant and more than adequate for the case of a wristwatch. However, small amounts of saltwater and other minerals can get trapped in the tiny spaces between components, and over an extended period of time, they can act as a catalyst for corrosion. Rolex noticed that stainless steel watches exhibited more premature wear on certain areas of components than what was observed on their precious metal counterparts, and so the decision was made to switch to 904L stainless steel for all of its watches.

Although “Oystersteel” is likely just another name for the 904L stainless steel manufactured by Rolex’s in-house foundry, it is undeniable that 904L stainless steel offers additional benefits over most traditionally used stainless steel varieties. Whether it is called “Oystersteel” or 904L stainless steel, this highly durable, corrosion-resistant metal is part of what defines a contemporary Rolex.

Oystersteel Rolex GMT-Master II Batman 116710BLNR Black Blue

Oystersteel Is Produced In-House

Rolex prefers to keep as much as possible of its production process in-house, right down to the intricate movements that beat within the case and raw materials used in their construction. By controlling every aspect of production, Rolex can ensure that each timepiece measures up to its incredibly high standards of quality. It’s also what sets the company apart from many other watch brands on the market that choose to outsource the supply of its materials. And while Rolex didn’t invent 904L-grade steel, the brand has since perfected the process for watchmaking purposes, resulting in a superior metal finish that is simply unmatched by the industry-standard 316L stainless steel.

Oystersteel Rolex Watches

Today, nearly every Rolex watch is offered in either Oystersteel or a combination of Oystersteel and some precious metal. Some exceptions include the Day-Day, Cellini, and Pearlmaster, which Rolex only produces in either solid gold or platinum. With the design ethos that every Rolex watch was meant to stand the test of time and last for generations, it only makes sense that the brand’s stainless steel watches should also last for a lifetime and not corrode or rust after decades of wear and use.

Rolex produces an impressive lineup of classically-styled watches, including the Oyster Perpetual, Datejust, and Lady-Datejust, each available in Oystersteel. Rolex is also known for its professional series, which consists of iconic tool watches such as the Submariner, Daytona, GMT Master II, and Explorer. Keeping in mind that many of the professions that these watches were marketed towards would see constant exposure to the elements, the switch from 316L steel to 904L steel, first starting with the Sea-Dweller, does not come as a surprise. The same can be said for the classic watches, which also require a tough metal finish to stand up to everyday wear.

Oystersteel Rolex Explorer II Black Dial 216570

How Much Do Rolex Oystersteel Watches Cost?

Oystersteel Rolex watches are positioned as entry-level models and retail for just above the $5k price point. As of spring 2021, some of the most affordable options in the classic model and sports watch categories include:

– Ref. 277200 Oyster Perpetual 31 $5,200

– Ref. 279160 Lady-Datejust $6,500

– Ref. 126200 Datejust 36 $7,050

– Ref. 116900 Air king $6,450

– Ref. 124270 Explorer $6,450

With that in mind, the pre-owned Rolex market is an entirely different story. Entry-level stainless steel models, such as the vintage Oyster Perpetual Date ref. 6694 and Air-King ref. 5500, resell for prices as low as $4k. While newer models typically trade hands for prices over retail, depending on the popularity of the model. One of the biggest exceptions is Rolex’s professional series. Despite being the more affordable option, Oystersteel Rolex sports models currently demand thousands more than retail, sometimes even doubling or tripling their original purchase prices and exceeding the retail price of many popular all-gold Rolex watches.

The sheer demand for these stainless steel watches and comparatively low inventory has driven up pre-owned prices dramatically. An intriguing example of that is the Daytona ref. 116500LN, which retails for $13,150 and currently commands between$30k and $40k pre-owned. Similarly, the brand new 41mm Rolex Submariner ref. 126610LV, which is relatively affordable by Rolex’s standards with a retail price of $9,550, currently fetches more than $20k when it trades hands on the secondary market.

Oystersteel Rolex Daytona 116500 Cosmograph White Dial

Rolex Oystersteel Combinations

“Rolesor” is the term coined by Rolex in 1933 for its pairing of both stainless steel and solid gold components on a single watch. Today, Oystersteel is used on the middle case and the outer links of the bracelet, while 18k gold is used on the winding crown, bezel, and center links of the bracelet (White Rolesor watches only feature an 18k white gold bezel). By pairing steel with gold, Rolesor watches offer the best of both worlds in terms of durability and luster.

Similarly, “Rolesium” is Rolex’s term for the use of Oystersteel and platinum on a single watch. At the present time, Rolesium is only found on select watches from the Yacht-Master collection, where the case and bracelet are crafted from Oystersteel, with a bezel made from solid 950 platinum. Rolesor and Rolesium make an excellent alternative for those who wish to invest in a precious metal Rolex watch without paying the premium that accompanies full gold or platinum.

Oystersteel Combinations:

– Yellow Rolesor: Oystersteel & 18k Yellow Gold

– Oystersteel middle case and outer bracelet links; 18k yellow gold crown, bezel, center bracelet links.

– White Rolesor: Oystersteel & 18k White Gold

– Oystersteel middle case, crown, and bracelet links; 18k white gold bezel.

– Everose Rolesor: Oystersteel & 18k Rose Gold

– Oystersteel middle case and outer bracelet links; 18k Everose gold crown, bezel, center bracelet links.

– Rolesium: Oystersteel & 950 Platinum

– Oystersteel middle case, crown, and bracelet links; 950 platinum bezel.

Rolex Submariner Watches Oystersteel Yellow Rolesor Two-Tone

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What Makes Luxury Watches Lose Value?

Collecting luxury watches can be a tricky endeavor. Many of us tend to collect with our hearts – buying pieces that catch our eyes, align directly with our personal style, or simply fit into our lives effortlessly. While our love for these watches may never fade over the years, unfortunately, their value can. The harsh […] The post What Makes Luxury Watches Lose Value? appeared first on Bob's Watches.

What Makes Luxury Watches Lose Value?

Collecting luxury watches can be a tricky endeavor. Many of us tend to collect with our hearts – buying pieces that catch our eyes, align directly with our personal style, or simply fit into our lives effortlessly. While our love for these watches may never fade over the years, unfortunately, their value can.

The harsh truth is that just because you purchase a luxury watch doesn’t mean that it will increase, or even hold its value over time. So what actually makes a watch lose value? There are a few key factors that play into its valuation. Let us explain.

What makes a watch lose value?

There’s no magic formula to dictate what makes a watch’s value rise or fall. However, there are some key factors that usually help determine the value of a luxury watch.

Brand

Not all brands have the same reputation or enjoy the same levels of collectability. In fact, just because a manufacturer has a long Swiss legacy, doesn’t mean that it will have the same desirability or value as the next. Rolex is the best example of this – as the brand is an absolute standout among its peers despite the fact that it’s one of the younger Swiss watch brands (established in 1905). Rolex is known for manufacturing incredibly reliable movements while also creating watches that are a joy to wear and last a lifetime – this is due to Rolex’s dedication to innovation with inventions such as the waterproof Oyster case and self-winding Perpetual movement.

As for where the value lies in watch brands, it is often a mix of wearability, exclusivity, and design. Rolex is so incredibly popular because its watches are both beautifully designed and durable, and the brand produces its watches in small batches with incredible attention to detail. There are many watch companies who create incredible complications, but not watches that are wearable for everyday use – or they create great-looking everyday watches, but not watches that are built to last a lifetime.

Two-Tone Rolex Datejust 36 Reference 126233 Jubilee Bracelet

Condition

The condition of your watch can be a key factor when determining its value, and this is one area that can vary quite a lot. Sometimes, it is as simple as having replaced the dial on a Rolex with a newer service dial. This can decrease the value greatly if the original dial was either rare or unique. However, the condition of a watch can also include the wear and tear that it has seen over the years – (generally speaking) the more dinged up and damaged a watch is, the less value it usually holds.

Model

Some models just hold better value than others, and Rolex is a great example of this. Let’s be clear – Rolex watches hold some of the best value on the secondary market. However, there are stark differences in the models on the pre-owned market, and these often have to do with factors like fame in pop culture (like the Submariner’s ties to James Bond) or just flat-out desirability (like the GMT-Master II and Daytona).

Rolex Daytona vs Rolex Cellini Gold Watch

Head to head: Daytona vs Cellini

Let’s say you walk into a shop today and ask to buy a Rolex. The owner takes you to the case and there’s a Daytona and Cellini. The 18k gold Daytona is a reference 116518 from the year 2000 and it is fitted with a leather band. The Cellini reference 5115 is from the same year, also features an 18k gold case (in this instance white gold), and it is also fitted with a leather band. However, the prices of the two watches couldn’t be further apart with the Daytona clocking in at nearly $30k, while the Cellini is under $5k.

So, what’s the difference? It’s popularity and desirability. While the Rolex Cellini is impressive and elegant in its own right, the Daytona is incredibly sought after for its striking dial, ties to Paul Newman, and scarcity at a retail level. In many aspects, these are totally different watches but the provenance of their model’s history and general popularity play a huge part in determining their open-market values.

Rarity and distribution

Another major factor that determines value is rarity and distribution. If a watch was made in large quantities, or widely distributed during its production run, this can drive down the price significantly on the secondary market. A great example of this is Omega, which produces a wide array of beautiful luxury timepieces and offers one of the widest and most diverse catalogs of any contemporary manufacturer. However, Omega produces a lot of watches each year and with so many different variations of each model, some simply are not all that exclusive.

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean vs Rolex Submariner Date

Head to head: Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean vs Rolex Submariner

Just compare the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean to the Rolex Submariner. Both models are professional dive watches that are tough enough to venture to the bottom of the ocean. The Submariner costs a few thousand dollars more at retail, but the key difference is the number of examples available and the resulting prices on the secondary market.

In terms of stainless steel Submariner Date watches, Rolex only produces the watch in a single size and buyers only have the option between either a black or a green bezel insert. Meanwhile, the Omega Planet Ocean lineup spans numerous case sizes, materials, complications, colors, and even a handful of limited editions. This ample supply of Planet Ocean watches actually helps keep pre-owned prices down since the model (in one configuration or another) is almost always available brand-new from an Omega retailer. Conversely, the minimal options and relatively fixed supply of the Rolex Submariner make it unavailable at a retail level, driving up pre-owned prices on the open market.

Trendiness

Trends are fleeting and so are the resale prices of watches that capitalize on them. The trendier the watch, the more likely it is that your watch will decrease in value over time. While we always encourage people to buy what they love and what makes them happy, if you’re specifically trying to collect for investment potential and monetary value, you should steer clear of the fleeting trends. Or, perhaps, lean into the brands who embrace the trends on their own terms.

Rolex is a great example of a brand that does this. In recent years as watches grew larger, Rolex didn’t manufacture “oversized” watches, and instead slightly enlarged some of its most iconic and popular models to cater to the ever-changing tastes of consumers. For example, Rolex introduced a larger 41mm version of its legendary Datejust and that model still remains incredibly popular today. However, had Rolex released an “oversized” version of the Datejust with (hypothetically) a 50mm case diameter, it is highly unlikely that model would retain the same value as the versatile 41mm version that we know today.

Gold Oris Artelier 110 Years Limited Edition Caliber 110 In-House Movement

Movement

As a general rule of thumb, watches with mechanical movements hold much better value than their quartz counterparts. This is because mechanical calibers are often significantly more expensive, labor-intensive, and complicated to manufacture. This value translates directly into their retail price, and also usually bolsters their resale value down the line.

Head to head: Cartier Panthere vs Rolex Datejust

A great example of this is Cartier’s Panthere timepiece. Women love this watch for its square, tank-esque case matched with a beautifully designed metal bracelet that makes it seamless for everyday wear. At retail, the medium-sized version of the Cartier Panthere in 18k yellow gold sells for $23,900. However, on the pre-owned market, these quartz-powered models can be purchased for as little as $16,000, which is why buying pre-owned is often considered to be the most cost-effective way of buying a luxury watch.

A great alternative to this timepiece is the Rolex Datejust – similarly elegant and practical, this watch holds great value over time, partly due to the fact that it’s a Rolex and partly due to it boasting a reliable self-winding mechanical movement. Although Rolex did produce versions of the Datejust with quartz movements as part of its Oysterquartz line and these models are now quite collectible today, it is ultimately the Rolex Datejust watches fitted with mechanical calibers that have retained their value the best, with many now trading hands for values greater than their original purchase prices, despite being more than thirty years old.

Rolex Datejust Two-Tone vs Cartier Panthere Gold

The post What Makes Luxury Watches Lose Value? appeared first on Bob's Watches.

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