Have you ever flicked through the Rolex watch catalogue and wondered what on earth their watches are made of? Rolesor? Oystersteel? Are these made up? Well, in a word, yes, and so today we'll go through the different materials Rolex is known for using in its watches and cover the specific nicknames it uses for them. We'll also talk a little about the production process, although this is mostly a secret, as you might expect.
One thing the staff in Rolex authorised dealers and boutiques might tell you is that Rolex is the only watch company in Geneva which smelts its own metals for production. This may not be entirely true, as Chopard is partly based in Geneva and can smelt its own metals, too, although we can't confirm how the two compare.
We know that Rolex tries to do as much as it can in-house when it comes to production, whether by learning the know-how or buying out smaller businesses which specialise in that area (such as when they bought renowned bracelet maker Gay Frères in 1998). That know-how involves producing the materials for its watches and therefore controlling the precise blending of the elements, which is pretty darned cool, in our opinion.
The name Oystersteel appeared on the Rolex website and in their brochures in 2018. There isn't a specific reason we know that they made this change, as the stainless steel remains the same, although it's worth pointing out that the Oyster has been a part of the Rolex world for nearly a century.
The stainless steel Rolex uses in its watches is of very high quality. It's officially graded as 904L steel, although it is sometimes known as "surgical grade" or "904L surgical" steel. Nearly every other watch on the market, from TAG Heuer to Omega to Patek Philippe, uses 316L steel; we know that Ball Watches also use 904L, though. The surgical grade connotations may not be entirely accurate, either, as 316L has some distinctive advantages over 904L and is known to be used in a variety of surgical devices.
Firstly, 316L steel is technically harder than 904L and, therefore, more resistant to scratches, although the marketing blurb about the difficulty of machining 904L will have you believe the opposite. Further, 904L steel can have up to 2.5X the amount of nickel in it compared to 316L, so if you have bad skin reactions to nickel, this may be something to consider, although 316L does contain nickel as well.
Rolex chose to go with 904L despite these apparent disadvantages because 904L is considerably less likely to corrode when exposed to salt water and other chemical compounds. It's reasoned that professional Rolex watches would spend most of their time in the environment they were designed for (Rolex started using 904L in 1985 when its watches were used as watches rather than investment pieces). It's also said that 904L polishes to a better finish, although we'll leave that one to you.
This is Rolex's way of saying stainless steel. Inox is what the French call stainless steel, and steelinox is a combination of the two languages only, as far as we can tell.
Interesting one, this one. Rolesor is a term patented by Rolex in 1933 and is reportedly a portmanteau of the words "Rolex" and "or", which is the French word for gold. Bimetal watches are iconic in their own right within the Rolex lineup, and the brand knows which models to release in two-tone and which to hold back on. Look at most press releases around Christmas and March when the big watch shows are on, and you'll see most brands debut a whole range of watches in one go with a plethora of options. Not Rolex, they'll usually take their time and build up interest in their new models. The more time taken between releases, the more likely fans will ask for a two-tone version of a watch, and then Rolex will deliver.
As Rolex uses three different kinds of gold in its production watches, there are three different types of Rolesor. The combination of Oystersteel and 18k white gold is often called white Rolesor, it's most commonly seen on the Yachtmaster and DateJust models as it adds a touch of class without being too obvious about it.
Perhaps the most iconic two-tone watch on the planet is the DateJust with Rolesor featuring 18k yellow gold. Whether you prefer the dressy and attractive Jubilee bracelet with a delicately fluted bezel or the smooth yet stylish Oyster bracelet, there's bound to be a two-tone DateJust for you. One of our favourites is the reference 126333, which has yellow gold, a fluted bezel, a Jubilee bracelet and mother of pearl dial with factory-set diamonds. There's also the two-tone Submariner and Sea-Dweller to think about, as they're also classics.
The final iteration of Rolesor features the marriage of Oystersteel and 18k Everose gold (more on that below). Some may prefer this combination as it reminds you it's gold without being nearly as showy as 18k yellow gold. Perhaps the most well-known watch to use these two metals is GMT-Master II 126711CHNR "root beer".
Rolesium is similar to Rolesor, except the solid 18k gold is replaced by the most majestic of materials: platinum. This combination is found in the Yachtmaster and Yachtmaster II ranges and mixes the sturdy stainless steel with the elegance of platinum.
Everose gold results from the unique thinking we'd expect from Rolex, and it first appeared in 2005. It is a secret alloy made of gold, copper and platinum, all blended together to create a type of rose gold which will not tarnish or lose colour over time. Exactly how long it takes regular rose gold to lose its colour depends on the environment it's in, but there's no need to worry at all with Everose, as it can go anywhere.
Everose gold can seem quite dark and subdued compared to other rose gold colours. It can even look like stainless steel in some lights, although with a lot more lustre thanks to the gold. It's a great unisex colour as anyone can match it with nearly any outfit, style and design of wristwatch. Indeed, Everose gold looks at home whether it's on the GMT-Master II mentioned above, a Day-Date, a Daytona or something else entirely.
A combination of different languages, Cerachrom combines the English (or French, they're virtually the same) word ceramic and the Greek word chrom, which means colour. Put simply, Cerachrom is Rolex's way of saying a ceramic bezel and has been in use since 2005. All ceramic bezels made by Rolex are extremely hard and feature a platinum inlay in their markings for a luxurious touch. In 2013, Rolex was the first manufacturer able to make a two-tone ceramic bezel in one piece with the launch of the GMT-Master II 116710BLNR, nicknamed "Batman". You can now find ceramic bezels on all of the GMT-Master II collection, the Yachtmaster and Yachtmaster II, the Daytona, the Submariner, Sea-Dweller and Sea-Dweller Deepsea.
Unlike the other metals on this list, little is known about RLX Titanium yet. We say "yet" because it's a brand-new material for Rolex. When it debuted the Deepsea Challenge ref 126067 in 2022, it was their first watch made solely from titanium. Rolex says it is grade 5 titanium which has been especially "selected by Rolex for its weightlessness and resistance to deformation and corrosion". The Deepsea Challenge watch is 50mm across, so the lightweight properties of titanium were required. The watch is 30% lighter than it would be if it were made from Oystersteel.
So far, this is all the different types of materials Rolex uses in its watches and all the different names it gives them. Which is your favourite? What would you like to see Rolex make a watch from next, tantalum? Check out our inventory of the finest pre-owned wristwatches from Rolex and other favourites, and find your next luxury watch today.