Rolex watches are inherently desirable items, and the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer enjoys a level of brand recognition that is truly unparalleled within the industry. In recent years, nearly every single model that Rolex produces has become incredibly in-demand, and the majority of its timepieces simply cannot be purchased at a retail level without spending some amount of time on a waiting list. However, this overwhelming global demand is not a random accident, and Rolex is constantly working to generate interest in its various models.
In most cases, Rolex achieves this through marketing efforts and sponsorships. However, another way of creating interest in a specific watch is to release new models or additional options within that collection. Most recently, it seems that Rolex’s new favorite method of making an existing model desirable again is to offer a rubber strap for it, and the brand has successfully been using this tactic ever since it launched its first rubber strap back in 2015. Rolex is known for producing some of the best metal bracelets in the world and it almost seems strange for the brand to now offer watches without them, yet here’s how Rolex has been using rubber straps to increase the popularity of its most overlooked watch models.
Image: Watch Collecting Lifestyle
The Appeal of Rolex Rubber Straps
From a functionality standpoint, the appeal of a rubber watch strap is obvious. Along with being completely waterproof, the material itself is comfortable, lightweight, and durable. It is the ideal strap option for performance-oriented sports watches, but it has really only been within the last few decades that we have seen rubber straps appear on high-end luxury timepieces.
Hublot was the first watch company to pair rubber straps with precious metal cases in the 1980s, but you can now find countless different manufacturers fitting rubber straps to some of their most premium and exclusive models. With that in mind, rubber straps are a more recent addition to Rolex’s catalog, and up until just seven years ago, Rolex didn’t even make a rubber watch strap at all.
Now, as to why so many Rolex owners enjoy having rubber straps on their watches, the reasons are likely rooted both in functionality and aesthetics. Just like the watches themselves, rubber straps are not bothered by water and they can easily be worn throughout a wide variety of different activities and uses. However, far beyond their functional benefits, rubber straps also offer a distinctly sporty and modern aesthetic, which creates a lovely contrast with the classic and timeless designs of the watches themselves.
If you are looking for more information on Rolex rubber watch straps, be sure to check out our ultimate guide on the topic, which you can find right here.
A Rubber Strap for the Rolex Yacht-Master
Although the Rolex Yacht-Master is still arguably the brand’s most underrated sports watch, the model has enjoyed quite a bit more attention ever since it first received a rubber strap back in 2015. Officially known as a "bracelet” because it features a flexible metal core, Rolex’s own rubber strap is called the Oysterflex and it made its debut appearance on the 18k Everose gold Yacht-Master, instantly making the watch one of the most discussed new releases of the year.
Originally introduced in 1992, the Yacht-Master collection was more than twenty years old by the time that it received the Oysterflex bracelet and prior to that update, general interest in the model was at an all-time low. With the exception of the Rolesium (stainless steel and platinum) edition that was first launched at the very end of the 1990s, the Yacht-Master collection (as a whole) has never really enjoyed quite the same levels of popularity as many of its sports watch siblings. However, the rubber strap that Rolex fitted to the Everose gold edition in 2015 immediately transformed the model’s appearance, and the brand’s Oysterflex bracelet received more attention than even the new Yacht-Master watch itself.
Almost overnight, the new Everose Rolex Yacht-Master became a watch that could be spotted on the wrists of countless professional athletes and celebrities. Additionally, the simple fact that it was fitted with a rubber strap rather than a metal bracelet made it immediately identifiable, and it gave the watch a unique appearance that was truly unlike anything else in Rolex’s catalog.
Rubber Replaces Leather on the Rolex Sky-Dweller
In 2017, Rolex introduced the Oysterflex to the Daytona collection and by 2019, Rolex had also added a new 42mm white gold Yacht-Master that featured the brand’s signature rubber strap. However, it would not be until the 2020 update to the Sky-Dweller collection that the Oysterflex bracelet would finally become available on a Rolex model other than a sports watch.
Although the Rolex Sky-Dweller itself has been around since 2012, the model didn’t really become a hot commodity for collectors until the stainless steel model (particularly the blue dial version) was added to the lineup in 2017. Solid 18k gold has always been an option for the Sky-Dweller, yet the full gold versions previously struggled to find their buyers, and this was especially true of the models that were fitted with leather straps instead of matching gold bracelets.
However, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is no longer available on a leather strap directly from Rolex, and following the most recent update from 2020, both the yellow gold and Everose gold editions are now instead fitted with black Oysterflex bracelets. The ability to have Rolex’s ultimately luxury travel watch on a highly practical and lightweight rubber strap is clearly appealing to buyers, because these full-gold Oysterflex Sky-Dweller models are now completely sold out at retailers with available examples trading hands for premiums on the secondary market.
Rubber Rolex Straps: A Premium Option
Any watch enthusiast will be the first to tell you how much of an impact a strap or bracelet can make, and it certainly seems that Rolex is aware of this too given how the brand strategically uses the Oysterflex to help drive demand for certain models. The addition of a rubber strap made people start talking about the Yacht-Master collection again, and it transformed the strap-equipped 18k gold Sky-Dweller into a watch that could actually utilize the Oyster case’s water resistance.
Beyond that, the Oysterflex even helped fuel demand for the Rolex Daytona when it joined the collection in 2017. However, Rolex’s chronograph hardly needed any more of a push by that point in time since the fan-favorite stainless steel model had debuted just the year before. It could even be argued that Rolex chose to release the various Oysterflex Daytona watches as a way to better distribute the overwhelming demand for the stainless steel model, while simultaneously taking advantage of the higher retail prices charged for the solid gold editions.
And that leads us to probably the single most noteworthy point about Rolex’s strategic use of its Oysterflex bracelet: the brand currently only offers rubber straps on models that are crafted from solid 18k gold. This means that if you want to buy a watch with a rubber strap directly from Rolex, it will end up costing you about as much as a new entry-level luxury automobile.
Rolex is clearly using the cool-factor of its rubber straps to help drive demand for its sold gold watches, but getting a rubber strap on the Rolex model of your choice doesn’t have to cost a fortune. High-quality aftermarket straps make excellent alternatives, and going for a third-party rubber strap significantly expands your options when it comes to style, fit, size, and color.
Shown Above: Curved Rubber Strap for Rolex Submariner - Image: @rolexdiver