My First Rolex, A Long Time Coming
After decades of admiration, window shopping and the constant staring anytime I saw someone wearing a Rolex, I finally decided it was time to own my dream watch. 2020 started out strong and had a lot going for it, including my 30th birthday and marrying the woman of my dreams. I mean who else would give me the best gift ever and the one thing I’ve always wanted!
Rolex is not only the greatest watch brand of all time, but it’s also one of the greatest brands of all times. If you actually research the branding and marketing related to Rolex throughout their history, you’ll quickly learn the growth and brand recognition they experienced was through exceptional timepieces, never deviating too far from their core and brilliant partnerships with individuals who were pushing the limits throughout the 1900’s.
As for the watches, they are works of art. Truly, a work of art. Handcrafted with the greatest material in the world that they produce themselves. Did you know that? Rolex actually produces their own steel and has their own refineries. Why? Because they wanted to create the greatest steel in the world and the current steel available just wasn’t good enough for them. It holds an incredible shine, have you ever noticed that?
Now, onto my first Rolex and what I’m calling the greatest Rolex of all time. Having admired the brand for decades I only ever wanted a Rolex Datejust, blue dial, white gold bezel and jubilee bracelet. I almost bought one eight years ago, but lost an auction at the last second. Once Rolex released the Datejust 41 with the brand new caliber 3235, I was laser focused on that magnificent watch. It was finally moving the Datejust into the 2000’s with a larger dial. Before then, only the Submariner and their other dive watches (e.g. Sea-Dweller) had larger faces, but the casual nature of those watches weren’t as appealing to me. They are all stunning watches, don’t get me wrong.
So as 2020 moved along and our wedding ended up getting postponed, the gift took a backburner to everything else. But, I was continuing my research and reading into forums and one day I came across a Rolex that I had never seen before. I was mesmerized by the exact combination that I was searching for with the addition of these captivating red accents. It slightly hinted towards a dive watch with the numbers on the bezel. I remember spending hours reading about the watch, the history and why on earth I have never heard of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph before.
I quickly came to the realization that this was the perfect watch for me. It embodies the dress component of the Rolex Datejust I have always been attracted to, but has a uniqueness that is unparalleled and actually, to many, unrecognizable. The Rolex Turn-o-Graph strikes this balance between dapper and casual that I didn’t even know was possible!
The history of the watch is truly incredible, at least I thought so. I’ll spare you many of the details, but essentially the Rolex Turn-O-Graph was first launched in 1953. It was actually released before the Submariner, Explorer and GMT-Master. The Rolex Turn-O-Graph was therefore the first Rolex tool watch, which featured a rotating bezel. A rotating bezel, think back before iPhones, was marketed as the easiest way to time anything.
Quickly after the launch of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph, the watch became part of the Rolex Datejust watches. At the same time, the famous United States Air Force Demonstration Squadron, known as the Thunderbirds, began wearing the watches. It was a practical timing mechanism while flying and the first pilot to start wearing it put a request into Rolex to provide watches to the squadron. Rolex was always capitalizing on individuals pushing themselves to the limits and wanted their watches on their wrist. So, Rolex created a special line of the Turn-O-Graph with a Thunderbird insignia on the dial and the Rolex Turn-O-Graph quickly became known as the Rolex Thunderbird.
The Modern Turn-O-Graph
Fast forward many decades and Rolex discontinued the Turn-O-Graph line of watches in 2011. However this was only after they created what I am deeming the greatest Rolex of all time. The Rolex Turn-O-Graph 116264 with a blue dial and jubilee bracelet. The 116264 Rolex Turn-O-Graph features everything modern about newer Rolex’s, the 3135 movement, solid link jubilee bracelet, a larger white gold fluted bezel and then those red accents that’s unique to only this Rolex. The sweeping red second hand, the red date wheel and the red TURN-O-GRAPH on the dial.
Additionally, the blue sunburst blue dial on this watch is a standout feature. I have not been able to find a single piece written anywhere about why this blue dial transforms in the light more than any other Rolex blue dial I have ever seen. When you look at my pictures you’ll notice that in direct light it appears a much richer, saturated blue, however when it’s in a normal lighting situation it maintains a deeper, richer blue. If anyone reading this knows the answer or more about this, please contact me and share your wisdom!
The Rolex Turn-O-Graph 116264 with the jubilee bracelet is a hidden closure bracelet which means the bracelet is continuous all the way around. In order to remove the bracelet you have to lift the Rolex crown.
The new design of this watch compared to previous version pushes the watch more similar to the Rolex Datejust watches, while also continuing the legacy of the rotating bezel with the numbers on it. As I stated before, this watch is the perfect balance between dapper and casual. There’s just something about this watch that is so captivating. When I compared it to the new Rolex Datejust, in my opinion, it just had a personality that was more reflective of my own.
The Rolex Turn-O-Graph is a rare Rolex, meaning you won’t see a lot of people wearing them, but that’s also because they are not as popular. So, with a limited supply on the market, if this watch ever takes off in popularity, the prices will skyrocket. For me, resale value has nothing to do with this purchase. This is a watch I will own forever.
36mm vs 41mm Dial Size
This simple question took me over a year to determine the answer to. Bigger watches are better right? Everyone is wearing bigger watches today and why else would Rolex release a 41mm Datejust? I read forum after forum, blog post after blog post to try and find the answer to this question. After many trips to the local Rolex dealers and trying them on many times, I ultimately had to stop reading what others were saying and focus on what FELT the best.
Once I put aside all preconceived notions about what I thought I wanted, I was 100% set on the 36mm. The 36mm while might seem small on paper, but on my wrist it had the presence I was looking for. I wanted a watch that stood out for being classic. Rolex has been making Datejust in 36mm for decades for a reason. I know I have a watch on my wrist, but the comfort of the 36mm Rolex is unprecedented. After having the watch for several weeks now, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go with the 36mm and I have zero regrets.
Finding the Rolex Turn-O-Graph
After finally determining that this was the watch I wanted, the real work began trying to find the actual watch. For those of you not familiar with the Rolex market, Rolex essentially controls the supply of their watches and it’s kept a secret, even from their own dealers. Rolex dealers have no idea when they are getting watches nor which watches they are receiving. Rolex sends their watches out when then determines it’s the right time and in whatever quantity they decide. If you walk into a Rolex dealer today, what you’ll find on the floor are watches that have no waiting lists. If an in demand Rolex model is received by a Rolex dealer, they have waiting lists for each watch. So, those watches will never even be on the floor at the Rolex dealer.
As for purchasing a used or vintage Rolex, it’s a process that has to be taken very seriously. You have to do your due diligence on the seller and ensure that the watch is actually in the condition that’s stated. Moreover, watches are complicated and it requires a highly trained Rolex specialist to be able to actually open, inspect and determine the true condition of the timepiece.
I purchased my Rolex Turn-O-Graph 116264, blue dial and jubilee bracelet from a reputable dealer, DeMesy. They happened to have the exact watch that I was searching for and so I began the process by reaching out to them to ask more detailed questions about the condition.
Their team was incredibly responsive and detailed oriented. I could share with you a very long string of emails with all my questions, but I’ll spare everyone from those. The important part to keep in mind is that you must buy from a place that is reputable. DeMesy, for example, guarantees authenticity and, more importantly, actually has a watchmaker inspect every watch, outside the watch and the inside of the watch. This watch was also fully serviced by their Rolex technician, so I know I’m set for a number of years before the next servicing. They also have a very strong relationship with the Rolex Service Center in Dallas, which is really important when it comes to servicing their watches. I’d only recommend buying a used Rolex from a seller who specializes in Rolex timepieces.
Is the Rolex Turn-O-Graph 116264, blue dial, jubilee bracelet the greatest Rolex of all time? For me, yes it is. For you? Well, that’s up to you to decide!