Comparing Rolex Bezels

Aside from iconic designs and groundbreaking technology, what makes Rolex a top choice among watch lovers is the sheer number of options available. When opting for a Rolex, whether vintage or contemporary, one is spoilt for choice when it comes to metal choices, dial designs, sizes and more.

When it comes to Rolex sport watches, we’re given three distinct bezel options: aluminum, steel, and ceramic. Rolex has gradually made the switch among these three materials over the decades, with ceramic being the current preference, but aluminum and steel bezels are still very much valued by Rolex fans.

 

Below, we discuss the history of these Rolex bezel materials and their pros and cons.

 

ROLEX ALUMINUM BEZELS

Rolex began to use aluminum bezel inserts in the 1950s. It replaced the previous material known as Bakelite, which is an acrylic with radium numerals embedded inside. Because of the brittle nature of Bakelite, as well as the radioactivity of radium, Rolex switched to aluminum insert bezels.

Aluminum bezels were less likely to crack than Bakelite. Moreover, the metal offered a great balance of traits – it was tough enough for daily wear, but could be fashioned easily, and also accepted color coatings readily.

 

GMT Blue Red Vintage
Rolex GMT-Master Blue Red Pepsi Bezel ref 16750 and 1675

While they did serve Rolex long and well, they do have a few flaws. First and foremost, aluminum bezels fade, scratch and discolor, particularly when exposed to external factors such as sunlight, friction, saltwater, and sweat. This is actually a trait that is cherished by many vintage watch collectors, but it goes against Rolex’s ethos of creating everlasting timepieces.

Despite their tendency to fade, one advantage of aluminium bezels is that they are relatively easy and inexpensive to replace.

 


 

ROLEX CERAMIC BEZELS

In 2005, Rolex released their first ceramic bezel, made from a patented material they called Cerachrom – “cera” for ceramic, and “chrom” for the Greek word for color.

Cerachrom was an improvement from aluminum in every way. The material is virtually scratchproof due to its extreme hardness and practically impervious to fading caused by UV rays, chemicals, and sweat. Moreover, it can be polished to a long-lasting luster. The result is optimum color and shine that will last for decades.

 

Submariner Green
Rolex Submariner Green Bezel Hulk 116610 LV and Kermit 126610LV

One disadvantage of Cerachrom is that it is significantly more expensive to produce, thus driving the cost of watches up. Being a brittle material, it can also shatter when dropped from a considerable height, or chip when knocked against a hard surface, and can be quite expensive to replace when it does.

Cerachrom made its debut on the 2005 Rolex GMT-Master II ref 116718LN, an 18k yellow gold model with a black bezel. Today, the Cerachrom bezel can be found on several Rolex collections including other GMT-Master models, Submariners, Seadwellers, Daytonas, and Yacht-Masters, in both singular and bi-color options.

 


 

ROLEX STEEL BEZELS

While current Rolex GMT-Master, Seadweller, and Submariner models now come exclusively with Cerachrom bezels, some collections are still outfitted with steel bezels — for example, the Rolex Explorer I and II, and the Air-King.

The Rolex Daytona was also available with a stainless steel bezel until 2018, until it was switched out for the Cerachrom bezel. The all-steel Daytona (ref 116250) remains a favorite among Rolex fans and is available in the pre-owned market.

 

Explorer II
Rolex Explorer II ref 16570

Stainless steel is very robust and won’t shatter like ceramic, however, it can be susceptible to scratching. Again, scratches and dings are still seen as quite desirable by some fans, as it suggests a life well-lived for their Rolex. Another advantage of steel bezels is that it offers a streamlined look, particularly for all-steel watches.

 


 

While Rolex is gradually moving towards the use of ceramic bezels for their sport watches, aluminum, and steel bezels are still very much sought after by fans of the brand. It all boils down to preference – choose the one that is easiest to maintain and appeals the most to you.

 

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