Oysterquartz, a hidden Rolex gem
When talking about popular Rolex models the Daytona, Submariner, Oyster Perpetual and others will come into mind but not the Oysterquartz. This collection isn’t sought after like the others and only 25000 models were produced, thus it’s a perfect choice for the collector who’s searching for interesting watches.
In the 70s, due to the increasing popularity of inexpensive and accurate quartz watches from Seiko and Citizen, Swiss companies had to adapt in order to survive the “quartz crisis”. Rolex and other 20 Swiss companies developed the Beta 21 quartz movement that was used by all of them, including Omega and Enicar. Rolex produced very few watches with that movement inside because they were developing their own in-house movements; in 1977 the Datejust and Day-Date Oysterquartz models, housing the 5035 and 5055 movements, where released. 18 months after they achieved the COSC certification and “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” was added on the dial. In 2001 the production of the Oysterquartz stopped after 25 years.
This new movements were marvels of technology: 11 jewels, 32kHz of vibration frequency, thermo-compensation and manual regulation to compensate the aging of the crystal. The inclusion of Geneva stripes makes this one of the most beautiful quartz movement you will ever see. The architecture is nothing like the modern quartz movement: it uses a button cell ass a source of power that excites a quartz crystal that, thanks to its piezoelectric properties, oscillates but they still had the escapement at the end of the gear train leading to an extremely precise second hand.
The design of the Oysterquartz models is clean and focused on mostly simple and straight lines, the 36mm case has very sharp and defined edges and was made of steel or gold. There are many different dials: black, white, gold, blue, mahogany, beige and many others and they were one of the first models to have a sapphire crystal. The integrated bracelet is either Oyster, Jubilee or pyramid and follows the case shape and style. The main difference between Oysterquartz models is material used and here is a list of all references:
-17000 (Datejust in stainless steel)
-17013 (Datejust in yellow gold two-tone)
-17014 (Datejust in stainless steel and white gold fluted bezel)
-19000 (Day-Date in yellow gold with different dial variants)
-19018 (Day-Date in yellow gold)
-19019 (Day-Date in white gold)
-19028 (Day-Date in yellow gold with pyramid bracelet and bezel)
-19038 (Day-Date in yellow gold with pyramid bracelet and bezel with 12 brilliants)
-19048 (Day-Date in yellow gold with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial)
-19049 (Day-Date in white gold with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial)
-19068 (Day-Date in yellow gold with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial and a pyramid bracelet)
-19078 (Day-Date in yellow gold with pyramid bracelet and rainbow gem bezel)
-19148 (Day-Date in yellow gold with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial, bracelet set with 308 brilliants)
-19158 (Day-Date in yellow gold with 44 rubies on the bezel and dial)
-19168 (Day-Date in yellow gold set with gems on the dial, bracelet, and bezel)
But why is it so underrated? The main reason is due to the period of its release, when other quartz watches were produced at an extremely low price; this led the consumer to associate quartz technology as an inferior counterpart to the mechanical movements, perception that still persist today.