Rolex's Non-Chronometer Watches

While Rolex has the larger Oyster Pro Sport, the Sky-Dweller remains Rolex’s largest decorative model, and that alone makes it attractive to many wearers. For me, that appeal is largely based on its bold size, its complicated movement, and the fact that it is not one of Rolex’s more common watches. The world has changed a lot since Rolex first introduced the Sky-Dweller collection a few years ago, and it will take longer for the Sky-Dweller to really make its mark in the larger Rolex-themed pantheon.
As we know that Rolex is the most popular luxury watch brand in the world, it is probably not surprising that the Swiss watchmaking giant currently produces only chronometer-certified watches. Since 2015, every Rolex watch is guaranteed to be accurate to -2/+2 seconds every day, and almost all models carry the official Super Chronometer certification label on the dial. However, it wasn’t always the case. For instance, several of Rolex’s earliest sports watches were not chronometers. Think of the old Daytona chronograph and the early pre-crownguard Submariner. In addition, some of the longest-running models in the Rolex archives never used chronometer-certified movements. Perhaps surprisingly to some, a few models retained non-COSC-certified movements until the mid-2000s. From manual movements to automatic movements, Let’s see details here.
After a decade of producing the Submariner 14060, Rolex replaced it with the Submariner 14060M, where the “M” stands for “improved,” referring to the newer 3130 caliber that powers the watch. However, despite the updated movement, the first generation of the Submariner 14060M still featured a two-line dial. Possibly due to the additional costs associated with submitting the movement to third-party testing, the first generation Submariner 14060M watch was not officially regarded as a chronometer.
Eventually, the dial of the Air-King ref. 5500 does not bear the words “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified”, but rather “Precision” or “Super Precision” as the brand’s logo. Although not a hard and fast rule, a precision dial generally indicates that there is a 1520 movement in the case, while a Super Precision dial means that there is a 1530 movement powering the watch. Some of the earliest 5500 models had no printed text at all on the lower half of the dial. These pre-precision Air-King dials are the cleanest dial design ever proposed by Rolex and are emblematic of an earlier and less prescriptive period in Rolex’s history. Inside the Sky-Dweller is a complex Rolex in-house made 9001 automatic movement. With the exception of the chronograph movement inside the Daytona watch, this is the most complex mechanical movement Rolex currently produces. The self-winding caliber 9001 features the time, a GMT indicator and an annual calendar that displays both the date and the month. This 4 Hz running frequency movement provides a power reserve of approximately 3 days and features one of Rolex’s most interesting systems of movement regulation functions, using a bezel Rolex calls the “Ring Command”.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller may be the brand’s most “friendly watch offering, but it has always struggled with its own design themes. Early versions of the Sky-Dweller dial were not universally loved, and over time Rolex has made significant improvements to the dial.
As for the size and straightforward appearance, the Oysterdate Precision 6694 is similar to the Oyster Precision 6426, with the added benefit of a date window at 3 o’clock – topped with a Cyclops magnifying glass. Most Rolex Oysterdate 6694 watches come with a black or silver dial, but blue, champagne and white examples are also available.
As mentioned earlier, many of Rolex’s very early watches did not have a certified chronometer. In addition, as we have already illustrated, some non-chronograph cheap replica watches managed to remain in production for many years without ever having received a COSC-rated movement. While non-chronograph certified Rolex watches may not guarantee the same degree of timekeeping as their COSC-rated counterparts, many collectors prefer them to chronometers.
Just as the brand does each year, in 2022 Rolex has introduced a series of new model line extensions for its popular watches. In the Sky-Dweller collection, we watch lovers get six new models, each paired with one of Rolex’s Jubilee-style multi-link straps. 2022’s new Rolex Sky-Dweller watches include primarily steel models, as well as two-tone Rolesor versions. Rolex already offers the Sky-Dweller on the Oyster strap together with on the Oysterflex strap. On the Jubilee strap, reference 326933 and 326934 are very much like the “Super Datejusts”, highly similar in personality but with larger cases and more complex movements than the iconic Datejust.
This is a good opportunity to mention that although the current generation of Rolex Datejust 41 and Sky-Dweller differ in size by 1mm on paper, in my opinion, the 42mm wide Sky-Dweller is the larger, thicker watch that is best suited for larger wrist sizes. The price difference between these two models is not incredible either, although both are hard to come by from a 2022 perspective. My guess is that the Sky-Dweller will remain more difficult to obtain today than the Datejust due to it being a lower volume product.