Quartz watches from Rolex, the affordable alternative?  

Bieten quarzuhren von Rolex eine günstige Alternative?

Wenn der Name Rolex fällt, kommt den meisten Perfektion in der Uhrmacherkunst in den Sinn – Automatikwerke, welche aus hunderten winzigen Einzelteilen bestehen und genauso zusammengesetzt sind, dass sie ein großes Ganzes Ergeben.  

It is precisely this idea that fascinates so many enthusiasts behind the centuries-old art of watchmaking. Quartz movements, which are clocked with a quartz and powered by a battery, are rather smiled at by most. Although they too have their raison d'être.  

The best-known quartz watch from Rolex is the Oysterquartz. Nevertheless, it is relatively unknown.

Rolex launched the Oysterquartz in 1977 in response to the quartz watch crisis. This watch is characterised by its angular design. But the main difference is the movement. Rolex's quartz movement is self-designed, powered by a battery and clocked by a quartz. It has the advantage that it is very precise and has a high degree of accuracy.  


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The history of the Oysterquartz

The Oysterquartz from the brand with the golden crown has its origins in the quartz watch crisis of the 70s. The automatic watch industry had previously been very prosperous, as Rolex and other notable companies had massively advanced the development of automatic movements, particularly in the past decades. Naturally, they initially did not want to pay attention to the quartz movement.

But over time, the once expensive quartz technology became cheaper and could be produced in large quantities. Companies like Seiko were able to put their pride aside and saw battery-powered automatic movements as a great new opportunity.  

Quartz watches experienced a genuine hype. The movements had very good accuracy and were quite robust, in fact, ideal conditions for a wristwatch. The classic automatic movements suddenly seemed out of fashion and were briefly less popular.

But the entire watch industry suffered massively from this development, as many traditional companies were not prepared to adopt the new technology and preferred to insist on the conventional movements. As a result, many old companies disappeared from the market and the number of jobs in the watch industry in Switzerland alone shrank to a third.

Rolex also saw itself forced to act. Although the luxury watch manufacturer from Geneva swore by the classic automatic movements, it did not want to be written off by the short-term quartz watch hype. A completely new watch was needed. In 1977, the time had come and the Oysterquartz was born.  


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Special features of the Oysterquartz

The Oysterquartz is in many respects a very extraordinary watch, especially in terms of design. Surprisingly, it is a relatively angular Rolex watch. But what is special is that the bracelet seamlessly transitions into the case.

Die Rolex Oysterquartz 1977
Quelle: cleanpng

A style, that we are usually accustomed to from the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or the Patek Philippe Nautilus. And when these names are mentioned, Gerald Genta is not far away, as he is famous for exactly this kind of design and designed both watches.

(That's not enough information for you? Good! You can continue reading right here. Either "Royal Oak the Rolexkiller", "Nautilus, the Emperor of Luxury Watches" or even to "Gerald Genta, the man who changed everything").

Die Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
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The Ultimate guide of the Patek Phillippe nautilus
Source: Pexels

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Many suspect that Genta also had a hand in the Oysterquartz. However, there are no official statements on this. The angular design and the case fused with the bracelet was simply trendy at the time and could therefore have been designed by someone else.

But there is also an interesting story about the movement. Because Rolex set very high standards for itself with the quartz movement and was not ready to simply buy any. Thus, the luxury watch manufacturer from Geneva developed its own quartz movement over several years, the Quartz caliber 5035.

However, as already mentioned, the development took several years. The case and the bracelet, however, were completed much earlier. So in 1975, Rolex already released the 1530. This was an Oysterquartz with an automatic movement. About 1500 copies were produced until 1977 when the actual Oysterquartz with quartz movement was released.

The 1530 with automatic movement is a rare collector's item today.

The newly designed quartz movement was something special. Experts even describe it as one of the best quartz movements ever. Rolex incorporated elements from its already existing calibers and supplemented them with electronics and a stepper motor. This made the movement extremely accurate and easy to maintain.

In addition, the quartz caliber featured a KIF-Ultraflex shock protection for the balance wheel and the stop second, which made the watch exceptionally robust. This robustness also gave the Oysterquartz the reputation of a "tool watch," as it could be used in many demanding situations.

In 1978, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first people ever to climb Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen. This was not only a formidable challenge for the mountaineers, but also for the Oysterquartz, which always accompanied the extreme athletes on their wrists. Messner and Habeler successfully scaled the summit while the quartz Rolex ticked tirelessly to its rhythm.  

But the Oysterquartz 1530 was also a pioneer in another respect. Because it was the first Rolex with a sapphire crystal. Previously, all watches were equipped with plexiglass. Here too, Rolex was absolutely visionary, as sapphire crystal was only widely used in the eighties.


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The Oysterquartz today

The Oysterquartz is now a rare collector's watch and may be extremely interesting for one collection or another. The angular design with the bracelet integrated into the case is very untypical for Rolex. Opinions on the appearance are divided. Some believe it is one of the best designs ever. Others are of the opinion that this has nothing to do with a Rolex anymore.

Even the quartz movement is somewhat disreputable these days. Even though it is very reliable. Nowadays, there are several Oysterquartz models being traded on the secondary market. You can find several online. The Rolex quartz wristwatch is usually traded between 5,000 and 10,000 euros. It depends entirely on the condition and the reference. Considering that the list price of the Oysterquartz was once 2000 Deutschmarks, this is a significant increase in value.

The Oysterquartz with the automatic movement is particularly rare and therefore worth even more, as it was only produced 1500 times.

Looking ahead, it's not so unlikely that the price will continue to rise. The design is still unique and timeless. Moreover, the watch is becoming increasingly rare over the years, as it has long since been unavailable in the Rolex range and consequently no new watches of this model are being produced.

Why are there no more quartz watches from Rolex?

When the invention of quartz movements became suitable for mass production, a real hype broke out. But this hype was only relatively short-lived, as trends are wont to be. Over time, quartz movements became cheaper and cheaper and were mass-produced.

Buyers no longer had the feeling that they stood out from the crowd when they wore a quartz watch from a luxury watch manufacturer.  

Ultimately, people began to appreciate the high-precision mechanics behind automatic movements again and were reminded of the long history of watchmaking. Automatic watches re-established themselves as luxury objects. The only disadvantages attributed to automatic movements, such as less accuracy and shorter power reserves, were once again accepted. People realized that this is exactly what gives automatic movements their charm.

Consequently, automatic watches were once again a symbol of luxury and quartz movements were more of a mass product. In addition, wristwatches became much more established as a fashion symbol. While functionality was the highest priority in the past, the fashion factor increasingly came to the fore. Losses in accuracy were readily accepted.

This movement was also reflected in the sales figures. Because over time, the Oysterquartz sold less and less, as the quartz movement was increasingly ridiculed, until Rolex finally discontinued it in 2001. 

Today, Rolex no longer manufactures quartz movements. The traditional company has indeed succumbed to the ingenuity and perfection of automatic movements and remains so. Quartz watches were a short-lived trend that Rolex did not want to miss. Nevertheless, the brand has remained true to its principles.


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Q&A

What is the difference with a quartz movement?  

A quartz movement is much simpler and less complicated. It is powered by a battery and clocked by a quartz.  

What is so special about the Rolex Oysterquartz?  

What is so special about the Rolex Oysterquartz is that Rolex developed their in-house quartz movement for the Oysterquartz at a time when quartz watches were becoming established as a new technology. Experts say that the Rolex quartz movement is one of the best ever. 

Why does Rolex no longer make quartz watches today?  

Rolex no longer makes quartz watches because the popularity of them has waned. Enthusiasm has returned to automatic movements, while quartz movements were just a passing trend.  

Is the Oysterquartz a good investment?

While it used to have a price tag of around 2000 marks, vintage models now trade for around 5000 to 10000 euros. The watch has been discontinued, is becoming rarer and rarer and could therefore certainly still increase in value.  

Scource cover image: Unsplash


About the author

Autor bei Gentleman-watches

Alexander Weinberger

For me, the most fascinating thing about watches is the interplay between precise craftsmanship and artistic development. In a watch movement, hundreds of small parts have to be put together precisely so that they form a large whole.


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