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What a Rolex Used To Be

1029 Views 11 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  I_Like_ em_BIG ! !
I have a Rolex GMT Master that I bought new in about 1968 for circa $350 from the authorized dealer in Berkeley, CA. Back then the Rolex was considered a higher end but affordable watch that you bought if you wanted reliability and a waterproof and rugged watch. The GMT Master at the time had a plastic crystal, a folded sheet stainless steel links Oyster bracelet and the rotating bezel was strictly friction fitted so could rotate either direction. Quite a number of enlisted personnel on ships I was on wore Rolexs, typically the Submariner.. Definitely not rich men's toys. The one I bought was a window display and the blue and red 24 hour bezel was sun faded. Later I had it replaced by the Rolex factory service center in San Francisco along with a upgraded machined links factory bracelet when I had it serviced. Typically the crystal was also replaced as part of the standard service.

The body is about 39.5mm in diameter and 12.5mm thick, not counting the date magnifier. Only one extended crown position so setting the date can be a PITA and take a lot of stem rotating if many days off. With the current heavier machined links Rolex bracelet the watch weighs 3.9 ounces per my digital scale, light by current standards. As a quite valuable collectors item it now it lives in a wall safe most of the time. When originally bought this was a pretty simple watch except for the rotating bezel and the GMT time hand.
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Remember that back when I bought my Rolex Switzerland was watchmakers to most of the world and made all grades of watches, all the way from Timex grade pin lever junk watches on up to the top end. The USA also had a sizeable watch industry with Elgin, Hamilton, Waltham, Bulova and others. My first reasonable quality watch was a Bulova Accutron Astronaut, bought circa 1964 as I recall. Bought in Hong Kong, way prior to the Chinese counterfeiting quality watches. Back when I bought mine the Rolex was basically the available, and reasonably affordable, equivalent to the Casio G shock, about the ruggedest readily available watch you could buy. Rolex offered automatic winding and water proofing, relatively rare when they introduced them as standard on men's Rolex and Tudor watches. What moved most of the surviving factories in Switzerland to move into the super expensive mechanical watch category was the development of the affordable Quartz watch, which devastated most of the Swiss watch industry. With Swiss labor costs they could not compete and started an advertising campaign that tried to make the mechanical watch into a deluxe item for many with more money than sense. On average today's quartz watch is more accurate than the average balance wheel mechanical watch, no matter where made.
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I was in from 1963 to 1972 and quite a number of Petty Officers sported Rolex's. This was the time of 15 cents a pack cigarettes when a ship was outside the USA or military bought in an overseas PX. Beer in the EM club was about 25 cents a can. Over 2 years in active duty pay was quite a bit higher than for the under 2 year folks and as a Data Systems Tech I was getting extra "Pro-Pay" of $75 a month and a Rolex Submariner in Hong Kong retailed for under $200 as I recall. As I did not gamble, chase whores in port or engage in much hell raising I got by decently financially.
For photos below is a link to a Pepsi Rolex 1675 listed on Ebay which includes the original folded sheet metal Rolex Oyster bracelet, well pictured. It is basically just like mine when bought with the same markings on the dial and faded bezel color etc. Mine was upgraded to a machined link Rolex factory bracelet and the rotating bezel was replaced when serviced by the Rolex San Francisco service center. Sorry but I am a lousy photographer.

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