Did Rolex Make Quartz Watches? – A Rolex Watch With A Battery?

Yes, they used to, but not anymore.

The Rolex Quartz Date 5100 was the first commercially available quartz watch from Rolex.

This watch was launched in 1970 and used the Beta 21 movement.

In 1977, the brand introduced the quartz calibre 5035 for the Oysterquartz Datejust and the quartz calibre 5055 for the Oysterquartz Day-Date.

For almost 25 years, Rolex produced Oysterquartz models, and finally, in 2001, they discontinued the production of quartz watches (Oysterquartz could be seen in the Rolex catalogue until 2003).

But, let’s start from the beginning.

The Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust

How It Began

In the early 1950s, Rolex began its own research into electronic timekeeping.

In 1952, they received their first award for a patent for an electro-mechanical watch design.

10 years later, in 1962,  Rolex was one of 20 Swiss watchmakers that founded the CEH (Centre Electronique Horloger) with the goal of developing a quartz wristwatch movement.

The result of this collaboration was the Beta 21 quartz calibre, and after the Beta-1 and Beta-2, the Beta-21 made its debut in 1969, with about 6,000 pieces produced.

The Beta-21 movement was used in models from various manufacturers, including Omega Electroquartz, IWC Da Vinci, Patek Philippe 3578 and Rolex Date 5100.

The First Rolex Quartz – Rolex Date 5100

Of the 6,000 Beta 21 movements produced, 1,000 went to Rolex for the Date 5100, which was Rolex’s first quartz model – a monolithic timepiece in 18-karat gold that sold out before it even hit stores.

In addition, the reference 5100 was the first Rolex to feature sapphire crystal.

Although some variants were also made in white gold, the model was initially produced in yellow gold.

The large dimensions of the movement also dictated the large dimensions of the case.

The case was thick and angular and had a diameter of 39 mm, which was quite large for the time.

This particular model had a three-link bracelet and Rolex’s traditional fluted bezel.

Since it was integrated into the case, the bracelet was also unique to Rolex at the time.

Originally, it was believed that Rolex made 1,000 units of the Date 5100.

However, it is speculated that two batches of 1,000 watches each may have been produced because pieces numbered over 1000 have been found on the secondary market.

Although the Date 5100 (now known as the “Rolex Texan”) was popular with collectors, Rolex ceased production of the model in 1972.

In the same year, they parted ways with CEH and began developing their own quartz movement.

The Rolex Oysterquartz

For the next five years, Rolex worked on its own quartz movement.

They wanted a movement that would be far better than the Beta 21 and could be housed in its own waterproof Oyster case.

The case was completed much earlier than the movement due to the parallel work on both projects.

Finally, in 1977, two new quartz movements were launched. These were the calibre 5035 for the Oysterquartz Datejust and the calibre 5055 for the Oysterquartz Day-Date.

These movements had a 32 kHz oscillator and 11 jewels.

Rolex was aware that a higher frequency oscillator than that of the Beta-21 was needed to compensate for temperature effects and achieve superior accuracy.

As a result, the oscillators in the Oysterquartz movements were four times faster than those in the Beta-21, and when these in-house quartz movements were introduced, they offered greater accuracy than any Rolex mechanical movement at the time.

Compared to mechanical movements, which had a rate deviation of -4/+6, these quartz movements had a rate deviation of +/- 0.7 seconds per day.

While the reference calibre 5055 Day-Date was certified by the COSC from the beginning, the calibre 5035 was submitted for certification only a few years after its launch.

As a result, the inscription “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” is missing from the dial of Oysterquartz Datejust models manufactured during this period.

The non-COSC-certified calibre 5035 movements are referred to as Mark I, while the COSC-certified calibre 5035 movements are referred to as Mark II.

Watches with Mark II movements are much rarer, having been produced for only 18 months of the 25-year life of the Oysterquartz line.

Although some Oysterquartz batteries have reportedly lasted up to five years, the typical battery life for the Oysterquartz series is two to three years.

The 36mm Oyster cases of Rolex Oysterquartz watches came in a variety of materials.

The Datejust Oysterquartz models were made in stainless steel, steel-yellow gold combination, and steel-white gold combination.

The Day-Date Oysterquartz models were made exclusively in gold (yellow or white gold).

In keeping with the model family, the Day-Date variant also had an integrated President bracelet, while the Datejust had an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet.

There were also special Oysterquartz models with jewelled dials, bezels and bracelets.

For example, the Oysterquartz Day-Date reference 19078 had a yellow gold case and a bezel with rainbow-coloured gemstones.

The End Of The Rolex Oysterquartz

Around 2001, Rolex stopped manufacturing the Oysterquartz, and it’s believed that the brand has produced around 25,000 pieces over its 24-year lifespan.

Rolex began developing the successor to the Oysterquartz movement in the 1980s.

The brand filed a patent in 1987 for a perpetual calendar quartz movement that could be set via the winding crown.

The calibre 5355 was developed for the Day-Date and the calibre 5335 for the Datejust.

Rolex even developed some prototypes of these watches, but they never went into production, and most of the prototypes built were eventually discarded or destroyed.

Rolex Oysterquartz Today

The Oysterquartz watches show a side of Rolex that many people have forgotten and that is often ignored today.

They are also a strong argument that quartz watches can be high-quality and interesting luxury items.

And what is their price on the pre-owned market today?

While the precious metals of the Oysterquartz Day-Date fetch a premium pre-owned price of around $14,000 to $17,000, the Oysterquartz Datejust can be had for around $4,000 to $8,000.

Despite the fact that Rolex no longer makes them, quartz watches might be worth another look.