Inside of a Rolex Watch

Take a closer look at what makes a Rolex watch tick, from its hidden components to the precision engineering that sets it apart.

May 4, 2023


Caliber 3135 has been in Rolex watches since 1988, when it replaced the previous 3035. It has since been phased out in his updated 3235 Submariner, but it lives on in the Datejust 34, at least for now. Millions of units have been manufactured, proving to be one of the most robust and reliable movements ever devised. how does that work? Everything starts with wrapping. For a long time, wristwatches, and before that pocket watches, were hand-wound. The watch's power comes from a spring tightly wound around the barrel. In 3135, the mainspring retains her energy for 48 hours. This meant manually winding it every other day, which is not the case with the 3135.


A further development of an existing idea, the Perpetual Winding Rotor was Rolex's solution for automatically recharging the watch's energy. A semi-circular weight rotates with the movement of the wearer, winding the mainspring tightly and keeping the watch running. It also slides when full so it doesn't roll too tightly and break. And those two purple wheels aren't just for show. An internal ratchet allows the perpetual rotor to rotate in any direction to wind the movement. Unlike many other watchmakers, Rolex removed these Teflon-coated wheels so they could be properly serviced. The power of the mainspring leaves the movement so slowly that there is an invisible series of gears accelerating beneath the winding rotor assembly. The first watch he makes one revolution every 60 minutes and directly drives the minute hand. The next two he converts the speed in seconds to revolutions per minute. 31 lab-grown synthetic rubies act as bearings and are chosen for their low friction and durability. But what about the hour hand? It has a gear separate from the minute hand that slows its rotation every 12 hours.


The Rolex caliber 3135 vibrates 28,800 times per hour. That is 8 times per second. Many people are accustomed to the idea of ​​a quartz watch that he only beats or ticks once a second. Here's the boring answer: Physics. Any more interesting answers? It's almost there. As you can see, the watch needs to adjust its performance. In other words, they should be used evenly. I'm sure you've been in a car driving down the highway with a driver who thought the accelerator pedal was an on/off switch. Speed ​​up, speed down, speed up, speed down. And you feel sick. This makes for a very poor watch. Like this bad driver, your watch needs cruise control to keep your speed constant. This is the escapement, which consists of three main components: the escape wheel, the escapement fork and the balance. The balance wheel is the key and has a fairly constant time to bounce back and forth freely like a pendulum swing. Every time he swings eight times in one second, the second hand moves forward at a constant speed. But this is where physics tries to screw things up.

The smaller the balance wheel, the faster it can move, giving you more ticks per second. This his 3135 makes an 8, but watches with larger balance wheels are often slower, and pocket watches with larger balance wheels are even slower, about half as fast as the 3135 and he's 1 second to he carves four times. .


So why do you need a fast beat? Wouldn't that save electricity? Not only is it a by-product of miniaturizing watch mechanisms to fit in wristwatches, but it's also a very easy way to increase precision. The automatic winding system reduces the need for longer power reserves, so more attention can be paid to performance. Just like a basketball spinning on your finger, the faster you run, the more stable and protected you are from impact. But the shock isn't the only one trying to topple the balance wheel. There is also position, temperature and magnetism.

The 3135 is provided for this purpose. The balance wheel is made from Glucydur, a beryllium alloy with minimal thermal expansion. The small gold Microstella weights on the balance wheel can be screwed on and off for fine adjustment. The nib itself is spun from Parachrom Blue, a niobium alloy that protects against magnetism. A small Paraflex shock absorber protects the balance jewel from impacts. The clock is then set in five different positions and temperatures, and in one day he is tested not to drift by more than two seconds.


For over a century, Rolex has been known for incorporating quality movements into its watches. Their calibers are built to last. This proves its longevity and provides excellent timekeeping, as evidenced by its chronometer certification. It was fine in the days when Rolex was a watch made to be worn by professionals, but it probably doesn't sit well with the extravagant approach expected today, which is why Rolex chose to cover his 3135. Is not it?

Interestingly, no. The 3135 may not be as fancy as a Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin, but it's more than just a tractor engine either. But what does decorated mean? To do that, we need to understand a little more what watchmaking really means.

Switzerland has been producing watches in earnest since the 18th century. Certainly, even before that, a reformer named John Calvin banned jewelry, and above all dancing, in 1541 and forced the jewelry makers of the time to make watches, but the country was forced into the industrial revolution in England and France. The revolution makes a name for itself. English watchmakers were too expensive, French watchmakers were dead, and fugitives, including Abraham-Louis Breguet, fled to Switzerland.


But the real turning point for Swiss industry in a commercial sense was the introduction of the American watchmaking system. After Americans like IWC founder Florentine Ariosto Jones developed mechanized mass production methods to handle the quantity of quality watches needed for America's vast railroad network, government incentives , lured them to bring that ability to Switzerland.

Companies like Patek Philippe, like the British and French watchmakers of old, had a reputation for handcrafting each component individually, but now it's possible to use machines instead. , did most of the work, leaving only finishing and assembly. I need that human touch. These English and French watches were often rather simple, perhaps with carved covers, but Swiss watchmakers, with this new time at their fingertips, developed their expertise. I was able to make full use of it to decorate the movement itself.

But it's not all just for show. I have a realistic motive. For example, rhodium plating on the brass plates and bridges protects against corrosion. Chamfered and polished corners and countersinks prevent sharp edges from fragmenting. Strips and grit catch and hold all debris. Mirror-polished screws - well, I guess they're just doing it to look good. Today, movements like Caliber 3135 are more machine-made than man-made, but they exist. you just don't see it.

In some ways it makes perfect sense for Rolex to hide the movement. Historically, it has more in common with DeWalt than with Patek Philippe, making quality products that are built to get the job done, and aesthetics always make up for where it doesn't. It continues to demonstrate this approach in construction and technology, and is preferred by many watchmakers for its reliability and ease of maintenance. But today's watchmaking is different. The Marche is a living museum on the wrists of millions of people around the world. Now, in the case of Rolex, I hope you enjoy it a little more.


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