Rolex Defects that Collectors Love

Rolex is world renowned for its exacting standards. The manufacture controls as much of the watchmaking process as they can – from creating in-house movements to mixing their own alloys – to make sure every aspect of their watches is done to perfection.

That said, mistakes are a part of life, and even in the world’s preeminent watchmaker, they do happen. In its history, Rolex has released watches with imperfections – the result of experimenting with new materials or a quality control oversight – but these are very, very rare instances.

In the case of vintage Rolex, some watches change in appearance over time, given the unique aging process that every watch goes through.

As such “imperfections” are quite rare to see, they make these watches even more desirable. Here are some Rolex defects that collectors love.

 

ROLEX TROPICAL DIALS AND COLOR CHANGES

The main appeal of collecting vintage watches is knowing that no two pieces will be exactly alike. Each watch may change in appearance based on its exposure to elements and how it is worn. One interesting phenomenon that occurs with vintage Rolex is the color change – black dials turn into a “tropical” brown shade, and blue dials and bezels become an interesting shade of purple.

 

Rolex Submariner Purple
Rolex Submariner and Rolex GMT-Master that have faded to purple

 

Prime examples of these are older Rolex Submariner blue dials, which fade into a regal shade of purple, thereby complementing the gold or two-tone finish. There are also Rolex GMT-Master “Pepsi” models whose blue and red bezels turn into a bright fuchsia color. These dials are the result of long-term exposure to sunlight and humidity, and yield very interesting results that collectors seek.

 

Rolex Daytona Patrizzi
Rolex Daytona 16520 ‘Patrizzi’ Dial

 

There is also the case of the Rolex Daytona 16520 “Patrizzi” dial, whose chronograph registers have gone from white to brown. Produced sometime in the early 1990s, these Daytonas are coated with an organic varnish called Zappon. As the varnish couldn’t sufficiently protect the dial, it resulted in natural oxidation that gave the registers a unique shade of brown.

These dials are named after Osvaldo Patrizzi, an Italian auctioneer who first discovered these dials in 2005.

 


 

ROLEX SPIDER DIALS

In the 1980s, Rolex went through a transitional period where they experimented with new materials and different types of finishes to give their watches a more luxurious appearance. One of these changes was the switch from matte to glossy dials, which used lacquer to create a glistening effect.

 

Rolex Submariner Spider Dial
Rolex Submariner 5513 ‘Spider’ Dial

 

The earliest versions of these dials have not been perfected, resulting in a cracked texture that mimics the look of a spider web. These happy accidents, now called “Spider dials”, give each watch a unique appearance, making them somewhat collectible.

 


 

ROLEX ERROR DIALS AND MISSING TEXT

There are also rare and novel examples of watches with missing text or misprints, that are apparently due to quality control oversight. These “mistakes” are incredibly rare and in the world of watchmaking, rarity can prove highly desirable.

 

Rolex GMT Error Dial
Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 ‘Error’ Dial and 16760 ‘Without Date’ Dial
(photo: SWE / WatchProSite)

 

The Rolex GMT-Master has been released with many subtle dial differences; and Rolex has inadvertently produced some outliers. In the case of the ref 16760 “Fat Lady”, there is an uncommon variant that reads “Oyster Perpetual”, when the rest of the collection reads “Oyster Perpetual Date”. There is also a small sub-variant of ref 16710 watches where instead of Roman numerals, the “GMT-Master II” print appears with stick markers.

 

Rolex Daytona 16520 116520 No Daytona
Rolex Daytona 16520 and 116520 ‘No Daytona’ Dials (photo: Christies / Phillips)

 

There are even more rare and bizarre instances where only one piece out of the entire production appears with the “error” – and these happened with modern Rolex references.

A Rolex Daytona ref 16520 from 1999 and a ref 116520 from 2003 were discovered without the usually found red ‘Daytona’ script at 6 o’clock. There is only one known instance per reference, both of which appeared in the auction market.

 

Rolex Air King Double Nine
Rolex Air-King 116900 ‘Double 9’ Dial (photo: GQ.com)

 

As recent as 2019, there was a Rolex Air-King ref 116900 that turned up with a curious case of two ‘nines’ on the dial – one that replaced the 3 o’clock marker. According to WatchFinder.com, the said Rolex watch was put to market, sold repeatedly, until someone else pointed out the mistake to the latest owner. We can’t blame the people involved for taking a while to notice – the extra ‘nine’ blends in rather well, doesn’t it?

 


 

For a company known for perfection, Rolex defects are often one in a million, giving them great appeal among collectors. Explore our collection of Rolex watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.

 

 

Toll-free US and Canada Only:
1-800-797-0634
Outside US:
1-404-814-1814


Customer service:
info@swisswatchexpo.com


Swiss Watch Expo
315 East Paces Ferry Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305


M - F 10 AM to 6 PM EST
Saturdays 10 AM to 5 PM EST