Don’t fear the Plexiglass when it comes to vintage Rolex models

Don’t fear the Plexiglass when it comes to vintage Rolex models

I used to look at listings for vintage Rolex and would immediately pass on one with a Plexiglass crystal. I thought they would be too scratch prone and wouldn’t stand up to daily wear. But when I tried on my friend’s 1601 Datejust with Plexiglass and an engine-turned bezel, I was instantly enamored with the overall look. 

Photo by Bulang & Sons

Yes, the cliched description is warm, but I truly got it for the first time. The plastic crystal (combined with the engine turned bezel) just made the watch look like it was a trusted old companion with no need to show off. It was, after all, already a classic that paved the way for the new generation of Datejusts to come.

Photo by Fratello Watches

Similarly, I had a chance to handle a Rolex Precision that also had a Plexiglass crystal that was dated to 1967. Yes, I’m lucky to have friends who dig vintage Rolex watches who let me try on their wares. At 34mm and less than 10mm thick, the Precision features a handwinding 1225 movement further distinguishing it from what one might normally see with any Rolex model.

The Hodinkee shop describes the Precision as “ of the most straightforward watches Rolex has ever built. The watch is truly about representing the essentials only, with no added distractions.”

I don’t own a vintage Rolex yet, but I can easily see myself hunting down the perfect model in the next few years. I used to not get vintage at all, but I realized they have the same effect on the wrist as when one sees a vintage sports car on the road. it’s a representation of a bygone era and you become part of a subculture that’s in the know.

At the moment I’m having my father’s vintage Omega Seamaster dress watch restored by Kelly Hunter at Art of the Watch in Portland, Oregon. The watch was gifted to my father by my maternal grandfather and was missing the seconds hand and the plastic crystal was not attached to the watch. But other than that not much was wrong with it.

All this exposure to plastic watch crystals even led me to choose the Hesalite version of the new 3861 Omega Speedmaster over the sapphire sandwich version because of the look. The indie brand Lorier makes it clear that they choose to spec their watches with Plexiglass over sapphire to create the look they prefer. They write: “In short, it's more visually pleasing (clearer, warmer, less reflective), harder to break/shatter (more tool-ish), and more authentic to the spirit of a mid-century sports watch.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love having my modern Rolex watches with a virtually scratch-proof sapphire crystal. But if you are looking for that special vintage Rolex, don’t shy away from it if it has a plastic crystal. It’s a certain look that can be a better choice for certain vintage models.

If you are lucky enough to own a vintage Submariner, we have a curved end leather strap for it that is a wonderful match.

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