Watch Talk: Five Famous Rolex Calibers

While Rolex watches may be known the world over for their sharp and instantly recognizable designs, watch enthusiasts understand that the brand wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for the calibers powering the timepieces. Rolex calibers are famous for their reliability, precision, durability, and serviceability.


In fact, Rolex even refers to their movement on all their Oyster Perpetual watches—where “Oyster” refers to the waterproof case and “Perpetual” refers to the automatic movement ticking along beneath the caseback. Let’s discover five of the most famous Rolex calibers and the watch models they power.


The Rolex Date Movement: Caliber 3135


Introduced in 1988, the Rolex Caliber 3135 is without a doubt the brand’s most famous caliber. The ubiquitous in-house automatic movement features simple time and date functionality, but it’s precisely this utilitarian approach that provides ease of serviceability and unmatched performance. The Cal 3135 has a frequency rate of 28,800 beats per hour and a power reserve of around 48 hours.


Five Famous Rolex Calibers: Caliber 3135 Famous Rolex Calibers: Rolex Caliber 3135


Like all modern Rolex movements, the Cal. 3135 is certified by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, guaranteeing optimal precision and accuracy.


Three decades after its debut, the Caliber 3135 is still at the core of plenty of Rolex’s watches, including the Submariner, the Datejust 36, the Yacht-Master 40, and the Date 34.



The No-Date Rolex Movement: Caliber 3130


Based on the Rolex Caliber 3135 we mentioned above is the Caliber 3130. They are identical in almost all aspects except that the Cal. 3130 does not have a date function. Like its base, the Caliber 3130 operates at 28,800 bph and includes a 48-hour power reserve.


Five Famous Rolex Calibers: Caliber 3130 Famous Rolex Calibers: Rolex Caliber 3130


Rolex introduced this famous modern no-date Rolex Caliber in 2001 and continues to use it in some models such as the Oyster Perpetual 36 and the no-date Submariner. It can also be found in older versions of the Air-King and the Explorer.


The Rolex Day Date Movement: Caliber 3155


Similar to the Caliber 3135, Rolex unveiled the Caliber 3155 in 1988. This automatic movement includes the time, date, and day functions. It runs at 28,800 bph and provides a 48-hour power reserve. Thirty years after its unveiling, the Caliber 3155 still powers today’s Day-Date 36 President watches.


Five Famous Rolex Calibers: Rolex 3155 Famous Rolex Calibers: Rolex Caliber 3155


A practical automatic movement, the double quickset Caliber 3155 allows both the date and the day windows in the Day-Date watches to be set instantaneously rather than having to continuously turn the minute hand around the dial to pass midnight.


The Rolex GMT Movement: Caliber 3185


Yet again based on the Caliber 3135, the Rolex Caliber 3185 provides the time, date, and 24-hour hand functions. Also introduced in 1988, the Caliber 3185 was eventually replaced with the Caliber 3186 in 2005.


Five Famous Rolex Calibers: Caliber 3185 Famous Rolex Calibers: Rolex Caliber 3185


During its 17-year production run, the Rolex Caliber 3185 (operating at 28,800 bph and with a power reserve of 48 hours) was charged to power popular Rolex sports watches such as the GMT-Master II and the Explorer II. With this automatic movement, wearers of the GMT-Master II can keep track of three time zones, while those wearing the Explorer II can read two time zones simultaneously. This is thanks to the extra 24-hour hand on the dial used in conjunction with the 24-hour marked bezel on both Rolex watches. The only reason the GMT-Master II can indicate a third time zone is because of its rotating bezel.


The Rolex Chronograph Movement: Caliber 4130


Up until the end of the last millennium, Rolex had used and modified non-Rolex base movements to power their famous Daytona chronographs. For instance, in vintage Rolex Daytona models, modified hand-wound Valjoux movements were used, whereas in the first generation of the automatic Daytona watches, modified Zenith El Primero movements were used.


Five Famous Role Calibers: Caliber 4130 Famous Rolex Calibers: Rolex Caliber 4130


However, that all changed at Baselworld 2000 with the launch of the Rolex Caliber 4130 movement powering the new-generation automatic Daytona watches.


This time, Rolex built an in-house chronograph movement from the ground up, equipped with a vertical clutch system rather than a more traditional lateral one to activate the chronograph hand. This translates to smoother running chronograph hand without a trace of jittering. Plus, the chronograph hand can run run for a long periods without disturbing the timekeeping precision of the watch. Finally, Caliber 4130 boasts an increased power reserve of 70 hours.


It’s clear that with calibers like these, Rolex places just as much emphasis on what’s inside their watches as they do on what’s on the outside. After all, it wouldn’t be a Rolex without the ultra-precise and sturdy mechanical movements beating at the heart of the watch.

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