Archive for June 11th, 2010

Rolex Serial Numbers: What Do They Mean?

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA (Re...
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In 1927 Rolex began issuing every Rolex Oyster case a unique serial number to distinguish them from one another. Around 1953, the numbers reached the 999,999 mark. Refusing to continue on with a 7th digit, Rolex restarted the sequence at 100,001.

Around the same time, Rolex had initiation another dating system – one in which the inside of the case back was stamped with a Roman numeral and two digits. The Roman numerals  included I, II, III, and IV (each representing a particular quarter of the year). The numbers simply represented the two-digit year in which the watch was produced. For example, the code IV 59 would represent the 3rd quarter of 1959. This continued on until 1970.

In the 1960s, Rolex once again reached the 999,999 mark, but this time elected to add a 7 digit number. This system continued on to 1987 when Rolex reached 999,999. Consequently, they began to number their watches with a letter prefix.

The system started with the letter “R”, which was then followed by L-E-X (which almost spells out the word ROLEX, except Rolex elected not to use the letter “O” since it can be closely confused with the number “0”.). Rolex has continued with the letter number system, using letters such as W, T, U and others which are all specific to a year.

Interestingly, many of these prefix have run concurrently over the past few years, giving the appearance of a random numbering system. As a result, only Rolex knows when a particular watch was made.

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Servicing for your Rolex

Rolex Yachtmaster
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Every Rolex is produced as closely as possible to perfect, but like a finely-tuned automobile, it may require periodic servicing. Most people don’t get their watches serviced until the watch breaks or experiences a problem. This approach can be quite costly, which is why it’s wise to periodically service your watch.

The number one cause of watch malfunctions is neglect. Lubricants often coagulate and cause friction within the movement’s gears. Overtime, this friction can cause wear to the parts and damage to the movement. Many of these parts inside watch cases are tiny, which is why they function within tolerances measured in thousandths of a millimeter!

Sometimes it is difficult to wear your watch everyday, for whatever reason. Consequently, it’s a good idea to wind your watch at least once per week. The reserve power should keep the watching running for at least 40 hours, so the more often you wind it the better (if you don’t think you’ll remember to wind your watch once per week, some companies sell automatic watch winders for a price range between $200-$500).

Rolex recommends the watch to be cleaned and oiled every five years. In some cases, a complete overhual (refurbishment) is needed. The process undergoes several steps:

1) visual identification inspection
2) vision diagnosis inspection
3) timekeeping diagnosis
4) servicing
5) clean and polish
6) pressure-proof test
7) timekeeping test
8) final pressure-proof test
9) final quality control

If you’re looking for a servicing for your Rolex or an overhual, contact Raymond Lee Jewelers in Boca Raton, Florida.

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Why do some Roman numeral dials represent the 4th hour as IIII instead of IV?

Clock in Bad Salzdetfurth, Germany, Badenburge...
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There are three theories for this:

1) One theory is that a famous clockmaker was commissioned to build a clock for a powerful king in Europe. The clockmaker printed the dial with the 4th hour represented at IV and showed it to the king. The king informed the clockmaker that it was wrong, and to avoid trouble, the clockmaker changed it to IIII. This explanation seems unlikely, but it does make an interesting read.

2) The second explanation dates back to Roman mythology, when apparently IV was too similar to the name for the Roman god, Jupiter, whose name in Latin begins IV. I representing the J and V being used instead of U in ancient times. Consequently, IV represented the abbreviation JU for Jupiter. It was thought as disrespectful to display the name of a god on the face of a clock, so it was changed. This is another unlikely explanation, but once again, interesting.

3) The third explanation has to do with symmetry. With the 4th hour represented as IIII, you have the first four hours displaying the “I” numeral, the second four hours displaying the “V” numeral and the last four hours displaying the “X” numeral. Likewise, on the opposite side of the IIII is the VIII (which is most similar in physical appearance and size than IV and VIII). Using the IIII creates a more balanced appearance on the dial. This is the likeliest explanation.

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Breitling Navitimer: A History

Breitling Navitimer wristwatch with circular s...
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The Navitimer wrist watch was launched by Breitling in 1952 and to this day has accumulated a worldwide following for both the newer and older models.

How did this particular model become so popular as to be worn by Raquel Welch as a skydiving spy in the film Fathom (1967) and by Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball (1965)? It all started in 1884 when Leon Breitling established a factory in the watchmaking town of Saint-Imier in the Swiss Jura mountains. Breitling at the time had the intention of turning out timepieces that would be equipped to perform functions well beyond merely imparting the time of day. To start with, he made pocket chronographs – event stopwatches for all kinds of occasions – and they were robust in their manufacture.

As World War I broke out Leon’s son Gaston took over the running of the company. To meet wartime requirements, Breitling manufactured wristwatches with luminous dials and hands, and a chronograph mechanism. After Gaston’s death, it wasn’t until 1932 that his son Willy assumed control over the company. Not long after, Willy was overseeing the production of over forty chronograph models, as well as the first one with two buttons. By this time Breitling had identified the aviation industry as a major growth area. This notion was correct as it was confirmed with a large contract from Britain’s Royal Air Force in 1936 for the supply of chronographs and cockpit clocks.

In 1952 when Breitling launched its Navitimer model, it was quickly adopted by the international Aircraft Owners’ and Pilots’ Association as its official timepiece. The Navitimer was favored for its chronograph timing in hours, minutes, and seconds, and also a slide rule around the outside of the face. This consisted of a mobile outer scale, engraved with numeric scales, actioned by rotating the bezel, for use with a fixed scale marked around the rim.  Such a feature allowed pilots to make in-flight calculations to gauge how much fuel remained in relation to miles already travelled, or at what speed, related to the total journey time, the plane should be flying.

During this period in the 1950s, Breitling was also supplying cockpit clocks to aeroplane manufacturers such as Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed.  At this time, the first civilian jet aircraft  (De Havilland Comet) flew from London to Johannesburg with a Breitling clock on board for guidance.

Eventually, Breitling created a spacegoing version of the Navitimer, the Cosmonaute, which featured 24-hour markers because notions of day and night off the Earth were meaningless. This particular model was used by astronaut Scott Carpenter.

In 1969 Breitling released the first-ever automatic chronograph (the Calibre II, renamed to Calibre 12). This chronograph was the inspiration for the Navitimer Chrono-Matic. In 1976 an LED version of the Navitimer appeared, and this was eventually followed by an LCD model. Both are now collector’s pieces.

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