Rolex Innovations: Six Important BreakthroughsWritten by Joshua Yap
Rolex is beautiful from the inside out.
While its peers are clamouring over each other to woo watch lovers with mind-boggling complications and new-fangled calibres year after year, Rolex stands out by standing relatively still. But that’s not to say it doesn’t make extremely robust and reliable watches that contain a slew of innovations. Here are six of them you need to know:
The most significant upgrade in the 3200 series of Rolex movements is the new patented Chronergy escapement. Rather than reinventing the trusted, traditional Swiss lever escapement, Rolex optimised its design, most notably by skeletonising the escape wheel and heavily re-engineering the pallet fork, to yield a 15 per cent increase in terms of the transmission of energy. Since it is made in nickel-phosphorous, the Chronergy escapement is also practically impervious to magnetic forces.
Pioneered by Rolex in 1931, the Perpetual Rotor spins freely according to the motion of one’s wrist to wind up the mainspring that powers the watch. It has been completely redesigned with a new reversing wheel that enables winding in both directions, a monobloc oscillating weight for greater winding efficiency, and cut-outs on the oscillating weight to absorb shock. Coupled with a high-capacity mainspring, it increases the power reserve by 50 per cent to 70 hours.
Introduced in 2000, the patented Parachrom hairspring may not be new, but it has earned its place here as it has been proven to be 10 times more resilient to shock than conventional hairsprings, due to its exceptional elasticity. Made from a proprietary alloy of niobium and zirconium, it is resistant to magnetic fields and temperature variations and features an optimised Rolex overcoil that improves chronometric precision by countering the effects of gravity.
Paraflex Shock Absorber
Developed and patented by Rolex in 2005, the Paraflex shock absorber protects the most sensitive part in a movement – the oscillator (comprising the hairspring, balance wheel and balance staff). Without an effective shock absorber, the movement can stop entirely with a hard bump and especially if the watch is dropped. Designed using dynamic 3D modelling, Paraflex increases shock resistance by up to 50 per cent, holding the oscillator firmly in place to keep it running without risk of deformation.
Proprietary Balance Wheel
Balance wheel with parachrom hairspring and balance staff
Featuring a redesigned geometry, the large balance wheel with variable inertia is produced with the latest micromachining technology, such as LiGA, improving its weight distribution by threefold. Rolex savants would be familiar with Microstella nuts, which can still be found here, offering high-precision regulating and excellent stability. Attached to the wheel is a newly designed, exclusive balance staff that also enhances the oscillator’s resistance to magnetic forces.
Proprietary High-Performance Lubricants
The oft unsung (and usually unseen) heroes of a movement, lubricants perform the critical task of reducing friction between moving parts, hence minimising wear and tear. It should come as no surprise that Rolex develops and synthesises its lubricants in-house, and it’s the only independent manufacture to do so. For the latest generation of movements, it has created new high-performance lubricants with a markedly longer useful life and better stability over time.
Though he wasn’t inducted into the world of watch journalism by choice, Joshua was hooked by mechanical horological wonders in no time. Although he personally favours modestly sized, no-nonsense timepieces, he sometimes misses the outrageous mind-bogglers of the pre-Credit Crunch years. As he dreams of owning a modern haute horlogerie watch one day, he’s currently content scouring the Internet for vintage value buys.