Rolex’s Material Innovations

Rolex’s Proprietary Materials: A Guide

Rolex is known for its uncompromising standards. The brand made its name through many firsts that it introduced to the watchmaking industry; and has stayed ahead of the curve through constant innovation.

One of Rolex’s secrets to achieving top notch quality and aesthetics is to rigorously select the materials for its watches. While outsourcing materials is still the norm for many watch companies, Rolex has a number of proprietary materials that they produce entirely in-house.


Here’s an introduction to the proprietary materials used in Rolex watches:


Datejust Diamond Dial Watches
Rolex Datejust Steel Yellow Gold, White Gold, and Rose Gold Watches


In the 1990s, Rolex pursued to control every part of the manufacturing process, in order to increase the level of their watches’ quality.

They began by manufacturing solid-link bracelets and eventually developed their own foundry in the early 2000’s, where they now make the metals used for their watches.



Oystersteel is a unique blend of 904L steel that’s proprietary to the brand. Whereas the industry standard is still 316L steel, Rolex shifted to 904L in the 1980s, and eventually created their own special blend of steel used in their watches. Due to higher levels of chromium, nickel, and copper, it’s tougher and has anti-corrosion properties comparable to precious metals.


GMT Master Everose Rolesor
Rolex GMT Master II Steel Everose Gold Mens Watch


Since the early 2000s, Rolex has also been producing the gold used in their watches. They exclusively use 18k gold, plus exactly the right mixture of elements, such as silver and copper, to produce 18k yellow, white, and rose gold. The exclusive Everose gold has a mix of platinum, which holds color for years, even when exposed to saltwater or sunlight.



Rolex uses 950 platinum, an alloy consisting of 950 thousandths of platinum combined with ruthenium, a chemical element in the platinum group. This combination makes their platinum alloy robust enough to be used for watches, while maintaining its brilliance and shine.


Submariner and GMT Master
Rolex Submariner Steel 18K Yellow Gold Blue Dial Bezel Watch, Rolex GMT Master II White Gold Pepsi Bezel Watch


One of the challenges faced by watch owners is the fading and scratching of bezels. Ceramic has been explored by watchmakers since the 1980s as a more scratch-resistant alternative to aluminum. Rolex took its time to perfect their ceramic bezel and eventually launched the Cerachrom in 2005.

Not only is the Cerachrom virtually scratch-proof, it is also impervious to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, so its vibrant hue never fades. It made its first appearance in the Rolex GMT-Master II in yellow gold.

Pushing the envelope further, Rolex created the first bi-coloured ceramic bezel in 2013, with the Rolex GMT-Master II Batman. While it was first thought of as impossible, Rolex was able to achieve the two-color single ceramic component, through a patented process.


Explorer II and Milgauss
Rolex Explorer II 42 Black Dial Orange Hand Watch, Rolex Milgauss Black Dial Domed Bezel Steel Watch


Watchmakers have long used luminous materials for the hour and minute markers, in order to enhance legibility in low-light conditions. Rolex has used several kinds of lume for its watches, from radium and tritium to SuperLuminova, which are also used by other watchmakers.

In 2008, Rolex introduced its own proprietary luminous material called Chromalight. Chromalight can last up to eight hours, which is more than double the lasting power of other luminous materials. It’s other noticeable trait is the bluish glow it gives, rather than the green glow seen on older Rolex watches.


Parachrom Hairspring
vintage Tag Heuer Monza (Christies), Tag Heuer Monza Black Dial Chronograph Watches


Look closely and you’ll see a blue material used in the construction of Rolex’s hairsprings. Called the Parachrom, it’s proprietary alloy made from niobium, zirconium, and oxygen; and is given a surface treatment that gives it its unique blue color. What makes the Parachrom superior to traditional hairsprings, is that it remains stable when exposed to temperature variations and magnetic fields and is 10 times more accurate when subjected to shocks.



Which material is your favorite from this list? We’d love to hear from you!




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