The 1970s were a weird, unpredictable time for the whole watch industry, including Rolex. While ‘The Crown’ wasn’t liable to any purchase outs or solidifications (or completely going under) in the same way as other inheritance watchmaking brands did during this decade, the quartz emergency still verifiably affected Rolex’s plan decisions and movements.
Of course, the 1970s were additionally a notorious and extraordinarily powerful time for design and style. Thus, in this extreme manual for vintage Rolex watches from the 1970s, we will walk you through this noteworthy and urgent decade, disclosing what prompted these progressions and featuring the intriguing (and exceptionally collectible) watches that emerged from it. Prepared to twist back the time?
1970s Rolex Timeline
1970: Rolex presents the reference 5100 controlled by the Beta 21 development, which was made subsequent to joining with other Swiss watch brands to make the Centre Electronique Horloger, a gathering that united together to make electronic watch developments. It is additionally the first run through Rolex utilized a synthetic sapphire gem rather than an acrylic crystal.
1971: Rolex presents the Oyster Perpetual Explorer II with the reference 1655.
1972: Rolex sets out on a 5-year excursion to conceptualize, plan, create, and test its own in-house quartz movement.
1975: The last Rolex ‘Red Submariner’ ref. 1680 watches are sold retail.
1977: Rolex presents its in-house quartz developments (cal. 5035 for the Oysterquartz Datejust; cal. 5055 for the Oysterquartz Date-Date).
1978: Rolex dispatches the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 16660.
1979: Rolex ends the Submariner Date ref. 1680.
Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on Rolex watches.
What was the Quartz Crisis?
The Quartz Crisis is a timeframe that started during the 1970s and reached out into the mid 1980s when the mechanical watch industry was being beat by economical quartz watches that offered timekeeping execution past couldn’t be accomplished by conventional mechanical movements. For the first run through ever, the wristwatch got modest to produce and modest for customers to claim. Quartz developments were more affordable, more exact, and could be created at a scale far more noteworthy than mechanical developments at that point. Brands from Japan, for example, Seiko, Citizen, and Casio accepted the innovation completely, flooding the U.S. furthermore, European business sectors with their new items and taking a colossal market share.
It is known as the ‘Emergency’ in light of the fact that the quartz timekeeping innovation totally overturned the whole inheritance Swiss watchmaking industry. At that point, Quartz watches were viewed as forefront innovation and had the option to offer already impossible degrees of precision, alluring more individuals to begin purchasing and wearing watches that flaunted quartz technology.
The Swiss watch industry was to a great extent revived by Swatch, who we know today for its economical, quartz style watches. Sample took the business toward another path, taking the consideration back to Swiss assembling, regardless of its cutting edge, non-customary quartz innovation. A considerable lot of the other extravagance Swiss watch brands who endure the emergency likewise took a stab at the quartz development pattern, delivering extravagance inclining watches with quartz developments with an end goal to gain by the pattern and keep their client’s attention.
What did Rolex do during the Quartz Crisis?
In the 1970s André Heiniger was running Rolex – just the subsequent individual to do as such after the brand’s originator Hans Wilsdorf. Heiniger considered the To be Crisis as a flaky pattern, one that would endure a similar destiny as innovation like the portable radio. He accepted that following quite a long while of savoring the out of control plans and afterward novel nature of quartz watches, individuals would ultimately turn around to the advantage of a mechanical watch: an extravagance that Switzerland had culminated for quite a long time. Heiniger was somewhat right in the end, individuals wound up yearning for the advantage of a mechanical, Swiss-made watch. Notwithstanding, quartz is as yet the go-to innovation for the developments utilized in many watches today, and they have entered the extravagance market profoundly, particularly with respect to ladies’ watches.
With that as a main priority, Heiniger actually needed to stand by out the pattern and ride the wave through the emergency. While Rolex consistently kept the accentuation on its mechanical developments, Heiniger controlled the company towards making two quartz models dependent on the brand’s top rated Datejust and Day-Date assortments. In the wake of teaming up with various other Swiss watch brands to make Switzerland’s first quartz development, Rolex then set out all alone to make an in-house quartz development that had the option to fit inside its incredible waterproof Oyster cases.
The result of a costly and long undertaking that required practically a large portion of 10 years, Rolex’s quartz watches were initially situated as exceptional alternatives inside its index, valued altogether higher than comparable Datejust and Day-Date watches with conventional mechanical developments. Notwithstanding, during the Quartz Crisis, Rolex likewise multiplied down on its endeavors to make superior games watches. During this decade we saw the presentation of the Explorer II assortment, alongside key updates to the Sea-Dweller. Furthermore, during this decade Rolex dispatched another group of mechanical developments to supplant the cal. 15xx arrangement. The Caliber 30xx territory guided the company into another time as the business set up itself back after the Quartz Crisis.
Most Notable & Collectable Rolex Watches From the 1970s
Rolex Stella Dial Watches
There may not be anything as astounding and symbolic of the 1970s than the particular and brilliant Rolex Stella dials. Supposed to have initially been intended for the Middle Eastern market, Rolex presented an assortment of Day-Date and Datejust models with splendidly shaded polish and stone dials in the 1970s.
This was a tremendous redirection from the brilliant and marvelous, yet generally calm appearance of the exemplary Rolex President that had to a great extent stayed steady since its presentation in 1956. The general impact was much the same as the combination of styles that can be seen in the hallucinogenic paint work on John Lennon’s Rolls Royce at that point. With the Stella dials, Rolex was interesting to a completely unique sort of purchaser, taking something customary and ageless and making it present day and stylish. Nonetheless, while these dials are presently extraordinarily collectible today, they didn’t exactly reverberate with purchasers at that point, likely in light of the fact that those with the craziest styles weren’t accepting Rolex watches back then.
The tones went from retina-threateningly brilliant pink to orange, green, turquoise, and a large group of other shadings that won’t ever be found in nature. In spite of the fact that creation gushed out over into the 1980s, Rolex’s Stella dials experienced rather languid deals, thus only a generally modest number of these lacquered, multi-layered veneer dials were at any point delivered. One secret that actually remains is the reason we call them ‘Stella’ dials. Some imagine that it is regarding American craftsman Frank Stella and his decision of clear tones, others think it is after the Latin word for “star” because of their brilliant appearance. Notwithstanding, since this is a casual title, we won’t probably ever know reality behind the root of this specific Rolex nickname.
Over the previous few years, costs for vintage Rolex Stella dial pieces have been climbing consistently and essentially, with the adaptable 36mm measurements driving numerous ladies towards them as well, notwithstanding their developing number of male purchasers. While this style of dial certainly isn’t for everybody, you can’t reject that Rolex Stella dials are symbolic of the 1970s and imprint a genuinely strange and significant time in Rolex’s history.
Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655
The Rolex Explorer II was delivered in 1971 as a watch for cavern travelers whose mission it was to go to the farthest corners beneath the outside of the earth. A development of the first Explorer that was introduced in 1953 to observe Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay effectively arriving at the culmination of Mount Everest, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer II was made to expand upon that challenging inheritance, offering a bunch of highlights explicitly focused on those working for delayed periods without sunlight.
The first Rolex Explorer II (reference 1655) was worn by speleologists, volcanologists, and polar and wilderness adventurers around the world. Controlled by the 26-gem Caliber 1575 development, the watch includes various qualities explicitly for monitoring day and night hours in conditions without daylight. These highlights incorporated a date work, a fixed hardened steel bezel with 24-markings, a 100-meter profundity rating, and an enormous, splendidly shaded 24-hour hand to be utilized with the bezel as a conspicuous reference for AM and PM hours.
Production of the ref. 1655 endured into the 1980s, and simply like the Explorer II watches that Rolex delivers today, the reference 1655 was just at any point fabricated in tempered steel, with positively no valuable metal or two-tone choices accessible. Also, in the same way as other of Rolex’s other games watches at that point, the reference 1655 Explorer II was only offered with a dark dial. Nonetheless, all ensuing Explorer II references have offered the choice of either dark or white dials.
Both Olympic ski champion Jean-Claude Killy and Hollywood entertainer Steve McQueen were broadly connected with the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655. Various photographs exist of Jean-Claude Killy wearing the Explorer II ref. 1655 and the skier was even included in various Rolex promoting efforts at that point, however there are peculiarly zero photographs of Steve McQueen really wearing a reference 1655, as it was a Rolex Submariner that the celebrated Hollywood entertainer really wore, both on-screen and in his own life.
Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 16660
While a significant part of the world was all the while zeroing in on quartz development innovation, Rolex was all the while working away on improving and growing its elite, mechanical games watches, for example, the Sea-Dweller. The Rolex Sea-Dweller was at that point a significant and critical watch since its delivery in 1967, as it was the principal watch for non military personnel buy that was planned with a helium get away from valve. It additionally bragged a great 2,000 feet water obstruction, so when the new Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 16660 was delivered in 1979 and expanded the watch’s water opposition fuerther, the world took notice.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 highlights a unidirectional turning timing bezel (for expanded jumper security), a thick sapphire gem (rather than acrylic), a bigger and further developed helium discharge valve, and an improved profundity rating of 1,220 meters (4,000 feet). With a thick, 40mm case made completely from treated steel, the first Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 additionally runs on the Caliber 3035 development, which beats at a higher recurrence of 28,800bph and incorporates a speedy set capacity for the date.
When we say Rolex Oysterquartz we mean two models: the Datejust and Day-Date. Rolex just at any point utilized its in-house quartz developments in these two watches, which we’ll detail here beneath. Above all, 5 fundamental realities to think about Rolex’s Oysterquartz watches and movements.
1. It Took Five Years To Complete The Oysterquartz Movement
Beginning in 1972, Rolex required five years to conceptualize, plan, create, and test its own in-house quartz developments. In 1977, the brand presented the Caliber 5035 for the Oysterquartz Datejust and the Caliber 5055 for the Oysterquartz Date-Date models. The Rolex quartz developments included 11 gems and a 32khz oscillator, characterizing them as present day wonders upon their launch.
2. The Precursor To The Oysterquartz Was The Rolex ref. 5100
Before fabricating its own quartz development, Rolex joined with 20 other Swiss watch brands to shape the Centre Electronique Horloger, whose mission was to make electronic watch developments. The outcome was the Beta 21 development which was utilized by various Swiss watch brands at that point, remembering for the restricted edition Rolex reference 5100 in strong gold.
3. The Rolex Oysterquartz Was In Production For 25 Years
While the Oysterquartz was a result of the 1970s, it really stayed underway for around 25 years, with Rolex actually offering Oysterquartz Datejust and Day-Date watches into the mid 2000s.
4. Under 25,000 Oysterquartz Watches Were Ever Produced
Although it stayed underway for a very long time, it’s assessed that less than 25,000 Oysterquartz models were at any point made. Compared to the quantity of mechanical Datejust and Day-Date watches that Rolex created during that time, this is a staggeringly little number.
5. An Oysterquartz Watch Went to the Top of Mount Everest
In 1978, Reinhold Messner turned into the first to climb Mount Everest without utilizing supplemental oxygen tanks, and on his wrist was a treated steel Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust.
Rolex Oysterquartz Watches from the 1970s
When Rolex at long last revealed its Oysterquartz models in 1977, what made them genuinely novel were their in-house developments. There was the cal. 5035 which was fitted inside quartz-controlled Datejust watches, close by the cal. 5055, which was utilized to control the same Oysterquartz Day-Date. Rolex would not like to completely waste time, so the two developments shared some of the very components that were at that point inside the new age of conventional mechanical developments (the Cal. 3035 and Cal. 3055) that were delivered to control the as of late delivered programmed forms of each watch.
Interestingly, the fundamental plan of Rolex’s quartz system was generally founded on the idea of an ordinary escapement with the key special cases being electronics and the beat engine. Notwithstanding, the timekeeping execution of Rolex’s quartz developments was a wide margin better than anything conceivable with a customary mechanical movement. Compared to the Beta-21, Rolex utilized an oscillator multiple times quicker and furthermore furnished it with a thermistor, making it one of the main simple thermo-compensation developments at any point assembled. Quartz innovation alongside Rolex’s quest for flawlessness made these watches extraordinarily exact, permitting them to effectively finish the fundamental assessments for COSC chronometer-certification.
A exceptional element about the Oysterquartz developments is the means by which boisterous they tick, especially compared to its mechanical development fueled kin. You’ll additionally see that the seconds hand bounces in 1-second augmentations – an indication of a quartz watch – rather than clear around the dial like the seconds hand on a customary mechanical watch.
Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust
Rolex’s CEO Andre Heiniger was resolute that nobody would botch the electronic adaptations of his reality renowned looks for their mechanical partners. Thus, all Oysterquartz models were equipped with sharp, rakish cases and coordinated arm bands causing them to seem bolder and bigger on the wrist.
The refreshed look shouts 1970s in the most ideal manner – really mirroring the taste, style, and patterns of the time. Like the various Gerald Genta-planned watches, for example, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus that would proceed to characterize the decade, the Oysterquartz Datejust was portrayed by sharp lines and an incorporated arm band. Notwithstanding addressing a huge esthetic deviation from the exemplary mechanical adaptation of the watch, the Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust was accessible in an assortment of metals and configurations.
The Oysterquartz Datejust was offered in three varieties: tempered steel (reference 17000), Rolesor treated steel and yellow gold (reference 17013), and Rolesor hardened steel and white gold (reference 17014). As a component of the more noteworthy Datejust assortment, the Oysterquartz Datejust likewise included the most meaningful highlights of the model like the date window at 3 o’clock amplified by the Cyclops focal point, regardless of the critical esthetic overhaul.
Rolex Oysterquartz Day-Date President
Visually unmistakable and unbelievably uncommon, the Rolex Oysterquartz Day-Date watches are not normal for whatever other models that the brand has at any point advanced. At the hour of its delivery, Rolex’s Oysterquartz watches were at that point premium choices inside the brand’s index, with the Day-Date Oysterquartz addressing perhaps the most costly watches accessible and a critical cost increment compared to the standard mechanical renditions of Rolex’s leader watch collection.
Fitting with the remainder of the Oysterquartz line, the Oysterquartz Day-Date is described by its precise 36mm Oyster case combined with a rakish form of the brand’s particular President wristband that offers an incorporated appearance. Keeping with the custom of the leader Day-Date line, the Oysterquartz variation was just ever accessible in valuable metals – both 18k yellow gold (reference 19018) and white gold (reference 19019). Naturally, the Oysterquartz Day-Date President actually includes unmistakable President attributes, similar to the date window under a Cyclops focal point and the day of the week worked out in full and showed through a gap at the highest point of the dial.
Given that the Oysterquartz Day-Date President was fundamentally more sumptuous than both the Date and the Datejust, Rolex additionally disclosed some unique references including precious stones, gemstones, and other fascinating plan components. Specifically noteworthy is the Rolex Day-Date Oysterquartz ref. 19028 with pyramid configuration subtleties on the bezel, arm band, and hour-markers.
Rolex ref. 5100 Beta 21
The Rolex ref. 5100 was the brand’s first historically speaking quartz watch. (Credit: Phillips)
The reference 5100 was the principal Rolex watch to at any point highlight a quartz development. Fueled by the Beta 21 from the Centre Electronique Horloger organization, Rolex immediately sold out of its 1,000 restricted edition models nearly when the watch was reported. Not exclusively was the quartz development inside the ref. 5100 a first for Rolex, however the plan of the watch was additionally exceptional. The reference 5100 was additionally the main Rolex to at any point highlight a sapphire gem rather than an acrylic precious stone. Ultimately, the case was formed from either 18k yellow or white gold and included unmistakably rakish edges and the watch’s restricted edition number out of 1,000 engraved on the side.
Despite the accomplishment of the reference 5100, Rolex didn’t really accept that that it was to its greatest advantage to offer watches that were furnished with similar accurate developments as so numerous other Swiss watch companies. All the more critically, the size and strange elements of the Beta 21 development that it couldn’t fit in Rolex’s incredible Oyster Case – the very innovation that had filled in as the foundation of the brand’s standing since it originally showed up in 1926. Not long subsequent to delivering the ref. 5100, Rolex left its organization with the Centre Electronique Horloger and started the improvement of its own in-house quartz developments which would later go into the Oysterquartz line.
Submariner Date 1680 and the ‘Submariner Red’
While the Rolex Submariner Date ref. 1680 was made in 1966 and formally dispatched to the public the next year, the genuine reference itself remained in production through 1979. This was the first run through Rolex offered their famous plunge watch with a date complication, promptly separating it from every single past reference. The presentation of a date-showing model likewise offered path to the ‘Red Submariner’ dial, which is an outright symbol today among gatherers since it was the lone time that the shading red has at any point showed up on the dial of a Submariner Date watch.
Today, just an overall modest bunch of the first ‘Red Submariner’ dials from the 1970s are as yet in presence. This is on the grounds that by far most of reference 1680 watches that necessary substitution dials wound up accepting the later-period variant with all-white content. In addition, specialists gauge that Rolex just at any point made these ‘Red Submariner’ watches until around 1973, with the most recent potential models dating to 1975.
Consequently, ‘Red Submariner’ watches from the 1970s are among the most collectible vintage Rolex models on the planet. Additionally important to gatherers, Rolex made a lot of little acclimations to their ‘Red Submariner’ dials consistently, bringing about a scope of collectible dial variations.
Rolex ‘Red Submariner’ Dial Variations from the 1970s
Below are the entirety of the distinctive Red Submariner dial varieties (every now and again alluded to as “imprints” or “makes”) that showed up during the 1970s. What’s absent from this rundown is the absolute first cycle of Red Submariner dials – the MK1 dials – in any case, that is on the grounds that they were created in the last part of the 1960s rather than the 1970s. These ‘Red Submariner’ dial varieties are assessed to be found on reference 1680 watches until somewhere near the mid-1970s. From that point forward, they were supplanted with dials that highlight all-white text.
1. Red Submariner MK2 Dial
The first MK2 dial showed up toward the beginning of the decade in 1970, as did the MK3 dial, which is almost indistinguishable in its general appearance. In any case, there are unpretentious contrasts between these two varieties of Red Submariner dials. MK2 dials are of the meters-first assortment and will have the red ‘SUBMARINER’ name imprinted on top of white. Moreover, MK2 dials will include open sixes, and the highest point of the ‘f’ doesn’t reach out similarly as on MK1 Red Submariner dials.
2. Red Submariner MK3 Dial
Red Submariner MK3 dials of the 1970s are unimaginably like MK2 dials and are likewise of the meters-first assortment with open sixes. In any case, while MK2 dials have the red ‘SUBMARINER’ text imprinted on top of white, MK3 dials will have it printed straightforwardly onto the dial surface. With MK3 dials, the ‘f’ in the profundity rating is likewise more limited than it shows up on MK2 Red Submariner dials.
3. Red Submariner MK4 Dial
Mk4 Red Submariner dials are the most punctual variants of the feet-first assortment, first showing up close to the furthest limit of 1970 and proceeding to be highlighted for the several years. MK4 dials include the red ‘SUBMARINER’ text imprinted on top of white, alongside particular open sixes for the profundity rating.
4. Red Submariner MK5 Dial
Just like the MK4 adaptation, the MK5 Red Submariner dials are of the feet-first assortment with open sixes, albeit the sixes are less open on MK5 dials compared to the MK4. Dissimilar to the MK4 dials, the MK5 style includes the red ‘SUBMARINER’ name printed straightforwardly on the dial surface without a white base layer. Furthermore, the MK5 dials stayed being used somewhat more than the MK4, regardless of first showing up around a moderately comparative time.
5. Red Submariner MK6 Dial
The MK6 dial is the last Red Submariner dial to be fitted with tritium hour markers. Like other later-time Red Submariner dials, the MK6 is of the feet-first assortment, and simply like the MK5, it includes its red ‘SUBMARINER’ name printed straightforwardly on the dial surface without the extra white base layer. Notwithstanding, while the MK5 highlights open sixes, the MK6 highlights shut sixes, and the ‘S’ in “Standout” has an observably more bended appearance.
6. Reward Dial: Red Submariner LumiNova Service Dial
When you own a Rolex watch, you can send it to Rolex for administration or fixes. Harmed or broken parts will be supplanted, and this can likewise incorporate the dial of the watch. Around the mid-1970s, Rolex quit delivering the ref. 1680 with dials that included the ‘SUBMARINER’ name in red, and rather changed to dials with all white content (now and then alluded to as MK7 dials); nonetheless, these are not Red Submariner dials as the ‘SUBMARINER’ name isn’t in red letters. Considering that, there are sure Red Submariner dials that were not initially fitted to Red Sub watches and were rather later gotten done with photoreactive LumiNova and utilized as administration new parts. Therefore, this style of Red Submariner dial is known as the Red Submariner Service Dial.
Frequently Asked Questions About 1970s Rolex Watches
What is the cost of a 1970s Rolex?
The cost of a 1970s Rolex can shift extraordinarily relying upon the sort of model and the materials of its development. Be that as it may, a considerable lot of these vintage Rolex watches hold incredible worth and a few models sit at the summit of vintage Rolex gathering. The 1970s were an intriguing time for the watch world in general, and a ton of the watches that were conceived during this remarkable period are currently profoundly collectible and costly today. The most affordable models will begin at around $3,000, however anything is possible for vintage Rolex 1970s watches, and a few models with extraordinary provenances have been known to sell for more than six-figures.
What is a Rolex 5100 Beta?
The reference 5100 is Rolex’s first quartz watch that highlighted the Beta 21 development which was made in joint effort with 20 other Swiss watch brands as a component of the Centre Electronique Horloger as an approach to allow Switzerland to combat the Quartz Crisis. The Beta 21 development was utilized by various Swiss watch brands, however the lone Rolex watch to be controlled by the Beta 21 development is the restricted edition reference 5100.
What is an Oysterquartz?
Rolex created a line of extravagance watches equipped with in-house, quartz types beginning in 1977. There were the Oysterquartz Datejust and Oysterquartz Day-Date models, both highlighting exemplary Oyster cases with stunningly sharp edges and incorporated bracelets.
What watches were made by Rolex in the 1970s?
To combat the Quartz Crisis, Rolex revealed their Oysterquartz line of watches controlled by in-house quartz developments. Rolex additionally considered quartz to be a pattern in extravagance watchmaking and kept advancement endeavors going on its mechanical developments, close by reason assembled sports watches like the Explorer II and the Sea-Dweller.
Is the ‘Red Submariner’ from the 1970s?
The ‘Red Submariner’ was first delivered in 1967 and was created as late as the mid-1970s. In light of its short creation run, the Red Submariner is quite possibly the most sought-after vintage Rolex watches in the world.
What was the Quartz Crisis?
The Quartz Crisis was a timeframe that started during the 1970s and stretched out into the mid 1980s when the mechanical watch industry was being beat by quartz-fueled watches from Asia. Rolex withstood the emergency, yet numerous Swiss watchmaking brands failed or were purchased out during this profoundly pivitol time.
Is there a Rolex Presidential from the 1970s?
Yes, there are really two very differnet Rolex Presidential watches from this decade. During the 1970s, Rolex was delivering both the mechanical Day-Date President and the Oysterquartz Day-Date President, and every adaptation was accessible in various diverse configurations.
Are there 1970 Rolex looks for sale?
Rolex just sells new watches, so the solitary spot you will fine 1970s Rolex looks available to be purchased is the used market. We offer an assortment of vintage Rolex looks available to be purchased from the 1970s and rundown the particular year of creation for every one that shows up on our website.