Rolex really is a brand that needs no further introduction. No matter where in the world you go, people will know about Rolex. Known for its high precision, iconic, and timeless designs, Rolex is a brand that has passed the test of time in terms of design, reliability, and accuracy.
Over the years, the designs of Rolex has evolved, but Rolex is known as a brand that makes subtle but important innovations and improvements, that are careful, but which improves Rolex watches substantially – both in quality, but also in design and reliability.
While Rolex’s watches and movements are the most important part of Rolex’s watches, an element that may not be discussed as much is Rolex bracelets.
Rolex has a number of bracelet designs that have now become as iconic as Rolex’s watch designs. Many of Rolex’s bracelet designs have become the standard of bracelets for watches, and they have become imitated by many other watch brands.
And it’s important not to underestimate how much the bracelet of a Rolex watch plays for its overall look, appearance, and how it wears on your wrist. This is something that can be noticed when changing from a Rolex bracelet to a NATO-strap, or leather strap, for example, as doing so tends to change the watch’s appearance completely.
Over the years Rolex has come up with a number of different bracelet designs, and just like their watches, they’ve subtly been improved and changed in order to perform better, become higher quality, and to sit more comfortably on the wrist. And just like its watches, Rolex pays just as much attention to their bracelets as they do with their watches. Rolex bracelets are not just something needed to keep the watch on your wrist, but more so a crucial design element that complete the look of the watch.
Rolex bracelets are just like its watches made with the purpose in first hand. Everything about Rolex’s design is made for a purpose in first hand, and in second hand for looks, and so this is why you can rely on Rolex bracelets to be extremely durable, comfortable, and of high quality. In fact, according to many watch collectors, they’ll say that the Rolex bracelets are the most comfortable watch bracelets on the market.
In this article, we’ll go through the history of Rolex bracelets, look at the different bracelets that Role has made, and how they’ve changed over the years.
Guide to Rolex bracelets: The start of Rolex bracelets
In Rolex’s early days, the watches of Rolex weren’t fitted with metal bracelets like most of Rolex’s watches are today. Instead, they were, just like all watches at the time, equipped with leather bracelets that were comfortable on the wrist and which completed the look of the design of that time’s watch designs.
But from the 1920s, Rolex started equipping their watches with metal bracelets, but they didn’t manufacture these bracelets themselves like they do today.
Instead, they ordered the bracelets from the Swiss company Gay Frères, which was a company specializing in watch bracelets. This company also manufactured bracelets for a number of other leading Swiss watch brands apart from Rolex. This is the reason why, when looking at watches from this time, and equipped with Gay Freres bracelets, you can see that several of them have bracelets that are similar in design.
The maybe most well-known fact about Gay Frères is that they manufactured the original Audemars Piguet Royal Oak bracelet.
But having in mind that Rolex is a watch brand that doesn’t want to be compared with any watch brand, but wants to be a company which people sees as an industry leader that leads the way, or more correctly, creates the way, it’s not strange that the time eventually came for Rolex to create its own bracelet designs to complement its watches.
As a result, in the late 1930s, Rolex created its own bracelet design, which was the first iteration of the today so well-known Oyster bracelet.
Gay Frères made Rolex’s first oyster bracelets, however, the bracelets were initially not offered as a standard option in Rolex’s own catalogs, partly because they were, at the time a costly addition to the watch which most people didn’t prioritize. In fact, at the time, the bracelet cost about half the price of many Rolex watches.
Rolex bracelets: Gay Frères acquired by Rolex
After having supplied Rolex with bracelets for its watches for several decades, Rolex acquired the company in 1998 to support Rolex’s mission of making the production process of its watches more seamless, to get a greater control throughout the manufacturing process, and to decrease the production cost. With the increased production of Rolex watches, and thus the orders of bracelets from Gay Frères, the acquisition of the company made sense.
Today, Rolex offers a number of different type of bracelets:
- Oyster bracelet
- President bracelet
- Jubilee bracelet
- Pearlmaster bracelet
- Leather strap
- Oysterflex rubber strap
All of these bracelets have different designs, but most importantly is that they have different purposes. Some of the bracelets are dressier, while other bracelets are sportier and more robust.
The metal of the bracelet can be seen in the reference number of the watch. By looking at the Rolex reference number of a particular model, you will be able to tell which metal the watch (and thus bracelet) is made of. The metal can be seen in the last digit of the reference. What the last digit doesn’t tell you, however, is if the watch has a leather strap (and technically also a rubber strap).
0 = Stainless Steel
- = Yellow Gold Filled
- = White Gold Filled or Stainless Steel & Platinum
- = Stainless Steel & Yellow Gold
- = Stainless Steel & White Gold
- = Gold Shell or 18k Pink Gold or Rose Gold
- = Platinum
- = 14k Yellow Gold
- = 18k Yellow Gold
- = 18k White Gold
The most iconic bracelet: The Oyster bracelet
The most well-known and iconic Rolex bracelet is the Oyster bracelet.
The Oyster bracelet is recognized by its flat three-piece links construction. The Oyster bracelet is considered to be one of the sportier bracelets in Rolex’s lineup of different bracelets, and this makes sense. The Oyster bracelet is mostly seen in robust, brushed steel, but is also sportier in nature since it is, among Rolex’s metal bracelets the more robust alternative. Its robust design makes it less prone to stretching, and this also makes it a better bracelet alternative for sports Rolexes.
Over the decades, the Oyster bracelet has undergone a variety of changes, each one refining the design and adding to its overall durability. Despite the numerous revisions, the Oyster bracelet’s iconic, three-link design has not changed, and it has played a central part in Rolex’s collection. The general sporty nature of the Rolex Oyster bracelet is, as a result, mainly used for Rolex’s sporty models, such as the Daytona, GMT-Master II, and Submariner, but it can also be found on dressier models such as the Datejust.
Furthermore, the Oyster bracelet could first be seen in a Rolex catalog in 1948. At this time, Rolex had obviously owned the company which originally had manufactured its metal bracelets for a while, but it was actually in 1945 that Rolex released its first in-house bracelet, which was first seen on the new Datejust range.
The iconic Oyster bracelet was not originally made for Rolex’s Submariner watch, which was first released in 1953, but instead, it was initially made for Rolex’s ”bubble-backs” which was their first (and a revolutionary) waterproof watch.
As such, the Oyster name makes sense since Rolex’s waterproof oyster concept of complete waterproofness with their new watches was the foundation for this new bracelet design.
At this time, and the decades before this, regular straps always remained the more common option for Rolex watches. But with the Oyster bracelet, the bracelet option came to become more common for its watches.
Rolex’s Oyster design didn’t change for many years, but in 1952, a major change came to happen to the Oyster bracelet. The Oyster bracelet was until this year manufactured with straight ends, but from now on, Rolex got a new patent, number 303,005, which meant the introduction of Rolex’s now well-known end links. As such, Rolex introduced the look of the Oyster bracelet which you know today.
Oyster bracelet clasps
Over the years, there have been slight changes and improvements to the Oyster bracelet, and an important aspect of the bracelet that has changed is the clasp.
As a result, the Oyster bracelets can be found with a number of different clasps, and this is especially true when looking at bracelets that have been made over the years. But at the same time, there are also different clasps of the Oyster bracelet available for the bracelets currently in production, and this obviously ties in with Rolex’s vision of function before form, and always giving each change an actual purpose.
For example, watches like the Submariner feature an Oyster bracelet that have a Glidelock clasp system which allows for easy sizing of the watch, and for being able to wear it on top of a dive suit, but other watches, such as the Milgauss feature a folding Oysterclasp with the Easylink 5mm extension system, even though both of these models use the Oyster bracelet.
The Oysterclasp has the Rolex cornet embossed into the clasp. It has a folding clasp with a cover. The Osterlock clasp has the coronet as part of the opening mechanism. It has a folding safety clasp, a cover, and a safety catch that keeps the bracelet closed and in place.
When it comes to Rolex’s most ”advanced” and serious dive watches, which are the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, and Deepsea, you have an even more advanced diver’s clasp that is designed to be used on top of a wetsuit. The Oyster bracelet has a glidelock extension system which allows you to quickly and effortlessly adjust the sizing of the bracelet without the use of any tools.
The Glidelock clasp allows you to adjust the sizing with 2mm increments, allowing for a total length extension of 20mm, but the Deepsea and the Sea-Dweller has an even greater clasp extension than the Submariner, which is a diver’s extension, allowing you to extend the bracelet by a total of 27mm so the watch can be worn on top of a wetsuit.
The design of the Rolex clasp has, just like the design of the bracelet undergone a number of improvements and innovations, both in terms of looks and function. These improvements have allowed for a greater quality clasp, but also a better function, such as the Glidelock clasp system that allows for simple sizing.
Today, the Rolex Oyster bracelet is today available in a number of different metals. The most common is obviously stainless steel, partly because of its sporty nature being an obvious choice for a sporty bracelet like the Oyster bracelet, but also because of the fact that stainless steel is much cheaper than for example gold.
For all Rolex’s stainless steel, including its bracelets, Rolex uses a 904L steel, different from its competitors which used 316L steel. This steel is corrosion-resistant, unlike 316L steel which prevents rust and corrosion, which makes a lot of sense, especially for Rolex’s dive watches.
The Oyster bracelet is today available in two-tone Rolesor– yellow or rose gold, solid 18k yellow gold, solid 18k Everest gold, 950 platinum, and 18k white gold.
Furthermore, the Oyster bracelet is also available in different sizes, which also makes sense since there are many different-sized watches which use the Oyster bracelet – from the 36mm Datejust to the 44mm Sea-Dweller.
Rolex bracelets: president bracelet
The President bracelet is another important bracelet in Rolex’s lineup of bracelets. It uses a three-link structure but looks a lot different from the Oyster Perpetual. Maybe the most substantial difference from the Oyster bracelet the fact that it has no visible clasp.
In terms of design, the President bracelet is a mixture of the Jubilee bracelet and the Oyster bracelet, since it combines the robustness and sturdiness of the Oyster bracelet with the elegance and neatness of the Jubilee bracelet.
The biggest difference from the Oyster bracelet is that it uses semi-circular links instead of flat links. The bracelet design was first seen on the Day-Date and launched in 1956, and today, it is mainly seen on the Day-Date, even though it is available on certain Datejust versions. As such, the President bracelet is, just like the Day-Date only mace in precious metals.
Over the years, the President bracelet has been made in several different iterations, for example with diamonds, and with a ”bark” design. Maybe one of the most iconic is the ”Tridor” design. This is a design where the center links have combined three gold types, but this was only made in the late 170s and early 80s as it wasn’t a huge success.
The design of this Rolex bracelet has actually not changed that much over the years, but it has, however, gotten a few updates that have made it sturdier and higher quality.
The President bracelet is equipped with what is known as a ”crown clasp”, which means that there is no visible clasp of the bracelet. Instead, all you have is a Rolex crown where you’ll usually find the clasp, but if you pull that Rolex crown upwards, a hidden clasp system will appear. This hidden clasp feature allows for a more clean and minimalistic look of the Rolex bracelet. Without the clasp, the bracelet naturally feels neater and will sit better on your wrist.
Rolex Bracelet: Jubilee bracelet
Ahh, the jubilee bracelet.
The Rolex Jubilee bracelet is the bracelet that is, after the Oyster bracelet the most popular bracelets in Rolex’s lineup.
The Jubilee bracelet has a five-link construction, with three interior links, which are flanked by larger links. Since the Jubilee bracelet is made up of more links, the Jubilee bracelet will adapt better to the wrist, and naturally sit more weightlessly on your wrist.
As the name reveals, the Jubilee bracelet was actually first made in 1945 to celebrate Rolex’s 40th anniversary. The Jubilee bracelet was released on the new Datejust, and it was initially only offered in solid gold.
Originally, the Jubilee bracelet was solely made and used for their Datejust models, and slowly but towards the 1950s, Rolex started making their Jubilee bracelet in two-tone and stainless steel.
The Jubilee bracelet has always been a bracelet that people consider as more dressy and less sporty, for obvious reasons, but the fact is that Rolex actually offered some of their sports watches on a Jubilee bracelet, such as the Daytona, and maybe most notably the GMT-Master. Why is this important? Well, because at Basel watch fair in 2018, Rolex introduced a new model in their Range of GMT-Master II watches: the 126710BLRO, which was based on the original ”Pepsi” GMT-Master that Rolex had previously made with a Jubilee bracelet.
What was especially notable about the new GMT-Master II was that a watch as sporty as the GMT-Master II came with a Jubilee bracelet.
The Jubilee bracelet was always thought as a dress bracelet, but since Rolex introduced the President bracelet in 1956, Rolex could use the Jubilee bracelet for sportier watches as well.
Apart from certain exceptions, the Jubilee bracelet is mainly reserved for the different Datejust models, and this is because the Jubilee bracelet is elegant, neat, yet still a bit sporty, and this goes together perfectly with the DNA of the Datejust.
This is not true for all Jubilee bracelets, though, since not long ago, Rolex introduced the Oyster clasp for some of the Jubilee bracelets, which meant making the bracelet sportier and more robust.
Just like the President bracelet, the Jubilee bracelet has a hidden crown clasp. This means that the crown which you can find on the place where you would normally expect a clasp When pulling the clasp, it works as a lever which opens a well-hidden clasp system. The hidden clasp prevents the symmetry of the Jubilee bracelet to be disturbed by a clasp.
Rolex bracelets: Pearlmaster
The Pearlmaster bracelet was introduced in 1992 for Rolex’s Datejust Pearlmaster watches for ladies.
Rolex’s Pearlmaster collection is not a huge one, but it is Rolex’s most luxurious and exclusive jewelry watches collection, that is all about making glamorous and lavish watches for women.
With the Pearlmaster watches, you’ll find a lot of diamonds on the dial, bezel, and even the bracelet, and this goes to show that this collection really is Rolex’s most exclusive collection in the sense that it only focuses on ”jewelry watches” in a completely different way than other Rolex watches. Also that the line is completely dedicated to women.
The Pearlmaster bracelet design has a rounded five-links design, and is meant to be elegant, luxurious, and sophisticated.
The bracelet features a crown clasp, just like the President and most Jubilee bracelets, which seamlessly hides the clasp system.
With the fact that all Pearlmaster watches are meant to be highly exclusive, all Pearlmaster bracelets are made in 18k gold.
Rolex bracelets: leather strap
The leather is not that common for Rolex watches, but it is available for some, more dressy models.
Maybe the most important collection when it comes to leather straps is the Cellini collection. Of course, over the years, Rolex has used leather straps a lot for its watches, especially in the beginning, but this has become less and less of the case, with Rolex’s introduction of new metal bracelets.
This is not the only watches that use leather straps, but it makes sense that it does, because leather straps add a different character to the watch, and they certainly make them more dressy. Leather straps also tend to work the best with dress watches, and with that in mind, it’s a given that Rolex uses leather straps for its Cellini collection, or that they use leather straps for their most dressy, gold Day-Date versions.
The leather straps give a certain traditional style to a watch, which goes perfectly with watches that are meant to be dressier and more traditional in style.
About its Cellini model, Rolex writes ”In the purest traditional style, the Cellini is fitted on a remborded and stitched alligator leather strap with large scales. The 18 ct gold buckle matches the gold of the watch case.”
It’s safe to say that leather bracelets were most important to Rolex in their early days, when there were no real other alternatives, however, over the years, this came to change with the need for more sporty and robust watches. Rolex has introduced a number of different watches on leather straps over the years, including some Daytona models, but not long ago, they made the decision to change all their leather straps for a relatively new addition to the family of Rolex bracelets, the Oysterflex.
Rolex bracelets: Oysterflex
In the watch industry, rubber straps have become more and more popular, and at Baselworld watch fair in 2015, Rolex introduced its very own version of a rubber strap. the Oysterflex bracelet.
The Oysterflex bracelet was introduced together with the new Rolex yacht Master in 18k Everest gold, reference 116655, and added a very sporty look to the watch, while also offering the comfort of a rubber strap. A perfect combination, in other words. Followingly, the Oysterflex was then added to some of the watches in the Daytona range, thus replacing the leather Daytona models. And most likely, we can expect more watches to get the Oysterflex bracelet in the future.
The Oysterflex is far from your ordinary rubber strap. It has a titanium and nickel metal alloy blade at its core, and that metal blade is then coated in a black elastomer. This allows for a sturdy and robust design of high quality.
As for clasp, the Oysterflex actually has a regular Oyster clasp, Oysterlock clasp that features a 5mm extension system. The fact that Rolex decided to use a very robust and quality clasp on a rubber strap helps make the strap more exclusive, feel more high-quality and more suitable for a Rolex watch.
Another interesting feature about the Oysterflex bracelet is that it has a unique strap design to make the watch sit better and more comfortably on your wrist.
Rolex actually made a patented cushion system on the underside of the strap, which allows for air circulation to prevent your wrist from getting sweaty, as well as to make the bracelet sit more comfortably.
Rolex bracelets: Oysterquartz and integrated
An interesting part in Rolex’s bracelet history is their integrated bracelets. In 1977, Rolex introduced their oyster quartz watches – the new range of quartz watches, equipped with quartz movements. These watches weren’t just new to Rolex because they featured a new battery-driven movement, but they also featured a new design, including a new bracelet design.
Unlike Rolex’s other bracelets, the Oysterquartz watches have an integrated bracelet design, which means that the bracelet is integrated into the case.
But the era of quartz watches by Rolex didn’t last long, and eventually, Rolex discontinued the production of all its quartz watches, and thus its integrated bracelets.
No matter which Rolex bracelet you put on, a ton of design, innovation, and testing has gone into making it. All of Rolex bracelets have a clear purpose and a place, and they’re all done with function in mind. Rolex has a large number of patents under its name for its bracelets, and they’ve always focused on evolving, improving, and refining its bracelets – not just its watches, over the course of its history in order to improve the overall feel of the watches, and to make the bracelets last longer.