In 1972 the final Quartz Date watches from the single run of 1000 were sold and Rolex abandoned the Beta 21 and began with a clean slate designing their own quartz movement and a totally new watch to house it. Over five years of research, design, and development went into the 5035/5055 movement that would eventually power the Oysterquartz. The end result is arguably the finest quartz movement that has ever been made.
In moving away from the First Generation quartz technology that characterized the Beta 21 and other early quartz movements, Rolex recognized that two key elements to superior accuracy in quartz timekeeping would be needed in their new quartz movement: A higher frequency oscillator and some means to negate the effects of temperature change on the stability of the oscillator. Consequently, the oscillator used in the 5035/5055 was four times as fast as that used in the Beta 21 and the module was one of the first quartz movements to utilize analog thermocompensation. Oscillator stability over a wide temperature range was accomplished through the use of a thermistor to sense ambient temperature. Data from this sensor is sent to the electronic control module which then regulates the voltage to the quartz crystal, adjusting its rate accordingly. In addition, a rate trimmer is employed on the circuit board which enables the movement to be manually “fine tuned” during Rolex’s notoriously rigid internal testing and adjustment, something every Rolex movement goes through before being sent to the COSC for “official” chronometer certification. The rate trimmer also allows for manual adjustment when the movement is serviced to compensate for the frequency drift that comes with the aging of the quartz crystal.
Even though the technology of quartz wristwatch timekeeping has moved beyond that found in the 5035/5055, this movement still remains one of the most “over-engineered” quartz movements ever produced and clearly carries on the Rolex tradition of solid engineering, superb finishing, and understated beauty. Advancements in technology have yielded quartz modules with superior accuracy, but when it debuted, the 5035/5055 only had one true rival from a technological standpoint: the 2.4Mhz Omega 1516 movement used in their famous Marine Chronometer wristwatches of the mid 70s. But from the standpoint of “build quality” and finish (anglage, perlage, and Geneva stripes), the 5035/5055 still reigns supreme, something that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
Besides being a Rolex – considering the impact of the brand on the industry, this could be itself a proper category of watches – the Rolex Oyster Perpetual sits right in the middle of two main types of watches. It’s neither a dress watch, nor a sports watch. We like to call it a casual watch. It’s like a Levi’s 501. You can mix it with your ugliest grey hoodie or with a white shirt. The same goes for the Oyster Perpetual. You can wear it during weekends with a pair of sneakers or during the week with your suit and tie. That’s the watch made for the non-collectors, in the sense of those that are not accumulating timepieces. It’s simple, very qualitative (it’s a Rolex) and it could be your next and only watch for the 30 years to come. Of course, aficionados will find it boring and that’s why Rolex comes with new editions for 2015, with more colorful dials.
On the wrist, the 2015 Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39mm is, as said, a perfect daily-beater for those seeking for a qualitative, robust and discreet watch. As the diameter and thickness are reasonable, it feels comfortable and it looks good in every situation. It is the definition of a casual watch.