Do Rolex tick? Do real Rolex tick?
These are questions that we get (and hear) at Millenary Watches quite frequently.
And you might be surprised to hear that a general belief is actually inaccurate.
The general belief is that real Rolexes don’t tick, but that’s actually not entirely true.
In this article, we’ll answer the common question ”do Rolex tick?”.
No matter if you have owned a wristwatch in your life or not, chances are you know the brand Rolex. Known all over the world, it is known for prestige, fine craftsmanship, and luxury. Owning a Rolex is not just about having a nice timepiece on the wrist, but it is in many cases also considered a symbol of success.
Do Rolex watches tick?
Well, let’s begin by understanding what makes a Rolex tick, as well as watches in general.
What most people mean when they say a watch doesn’t tick or not is whether it is quartz or mechanical (whether they know the difference or not). Quartz means that a watch is battery-powered, whereas a mechanical movement gets its energy from the mainspring which saves energy after either being manually wound or through the movement of the rotor in the movement.
To clarify, people often confuse the sweeping second hand that most Rolex watches have, with no ticking. But, as mentioned, Rolex has made quartz watches, and these both tick in terms of sound but also in terms of how the seconds hand moves.
The general belief is that only battery-powered watches tick, not mechanical watches, and therefore, Rolex watches should not tick.
This is incorrect for two reasons.
Firstly, no matter if it is a mechanical movement or a quartz movement, they both tick, but they do so in different ways.
And secondly, Rolex has actually made quartz watches back in the days.
Rolex quartz watches vs mechanical watches
Explained in the most basic form, there are two types of watch movements: mechanical and quartz.
The key visual difference is the ticking ”hacking” second hand on the quartz watch.
What a quartz second-hand does is moves in jerks as the electronic oscillator inside keeps time. This goes for more or less all quartz watches (except a few exceptions).
To go into nerd details, a mechanical movement has a balance wheel that interacts with a lever escapement to control the rate of the watch. Since a watch movement moves, it will make a “tick” sound. How loud that tick is will depend on a wide variety of factors, but the fact is that there are going to be pieces of metal hitting pieces of synthetic rock, and that’s going to make a sound. But Rolex watches mostly won’t tick as loud as a quartz watch.
Quartz watches started appearing on the market in the 1970s, and this caused what is known as the quartz crisis. This is a term used in the watchmaking industry, referring to the economic upheavals caused by the advent of quartz watches in the 1970s and early 1980s, which largely replaced mechanical watches around the world due to being significantly cheaper to make and technically more accurate than mechanical timepieces.
A quartz watch is actually more accurate than mechanical watches due to the fact that the seconds hand on a quartz watch beats 1 time per second.
Mechanical watches, on the other hand, do things a little differently.
Mechanical or automatic watches have smooth sweeping seconds hand as they tick, but they do so tick, but they do so very fast, about (8–10 times per second), and this makes it look like a sweep.
Due to the very fine ticking of a mechanical second hand, it means that there is no jerk of the second hand like there is on a quartz watch, just smooth, uninterrupted rotation. As a result, the ticking is not as distinct as on a quartz watch, and the sound is normally as high on a modern Rolex watch.
But to clarify, this means that mechanical watches do actually tick, but just not in the same distinct way.
When you say ”a Rolex doesn’t tick”, and are referring a tick as one tick per second, it means that you refer to Rolex quartz watches, and to make things complicated, Rolex has actually manufactured quartz watches during the quartz era, but they don’t anymore. This means that you’ll find no modern Rolex watch that ticks like a quartz watch, and if you do, it is fake.
During the quartz era, Rolex released a line called ”Oyster quartz”, which was a model line consisting of battery-powered watches. Rolex manufactured its last quartz watch in 2001, which is the last year Rolex ever submitted a quartz timepiece to COSC for certification. As such, while Rolex doesn’t manufacture quartz watches anymore, they have done so, and therefore, Rolex watches that tick especially ”high” and noteworthy exist. And what most people think of when they say ”tick” is one tick per second. And when we are talking one tick per second, only quartz watches do that.
So the short answer is that yes, Rolex watches do tick, but as you’ve understood, there’s more to it than that.
If you are to take a modern automatic Rolex movement in slow-motion, you will see that it will beat at 8 “mini-ticks” per second, as this is the normal beat rate of Rolex watches – a beat rate of 28,800 (the second hand has 28,800 beats per hour). The older Rolex movements had a 19,800 rate, which means the sweeping of the second hand not as smooth, and making it look (and sound) more ticking.
To conclude this question, yes, Rolex watches tick, but most Rolex watches do so in a different way than most people may think.
Both mechanical watches and quartz watches tick, but quartz watches tick in a much more distinct way, with one tick per second, whereas mechanical movement ticks at 8 to 10 times per second, creating a sweeping effect of the second hand.
Rolex has made quartz watches during its years, and this means that there is no rule of thumb you can use that Rolex never ticks like a quartz watch (one tick per second), but the vast majority of Rolex watches are mechanical, and thus sweeps. And today, Rolex only makes automatic, mechanical watches. So no modern Rolex ticks the way a quartz watch does.