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by Li Wang July 12, 2020 2 min read

Many Rolex fans will dismiss the Turn-O-Graph Datejust model as an odd hybrid between the traditional Datejust and a sportier Oyster case watch. But therein lies its beauty.

It made its debut in 1953 and was marketed as Rolex’s first tool watch with rotating bezel meant for timing events. Rolex had an official tie-in with the military with the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds, the air demonstration division, thus earning the nickname Thunderbird through this association.

turn-o-graph rolex, thunderbird
Photo source: Timepiece Chronicle

The Turn-O-Graph is actually Rolex’s first serialized watch with a rotating bezel, predating even the venerable Submariner for that distinction. Of course, Rolex’s most popular watches with a rotating bezel included the Sub, GMT-Master, Sea-Dweller and Yacht-Master. But the Turn-O-Graph is Sneaky Sporty, and quite possibly one of the best arguments for The GADA (go anywhere do anything) watch of all time.

These days not many of us have to dress up, even for the office, and a traditional Datejust may be a tad bit too formal for some to wear with shorts and a T-shirt, so the Turn-O-Graph takes down the formality—just enough. One is not used to seeing a fluted bezel rotate, and witnessing the Turn-O-Graph bezel rotate on what is a design hallmark of Rolex is a subtle insider wink.

Then you get the splash of color on the seconds hand of the Turn-O-Graph that lets people know it’s not your usual Datejust. Choose an Oyster bracelet, combined with its versatile 36mm case size and you have an ideal watch for the individual who wants to stand out without being fussy about it.

turn-o-graph rolex, thunderbird
Photo credit: Bob's Watches

Fast forward to the early 2000s when Rolex reintroduced the Turn-O-Graph in its modern incarnation, which has a white gold fluted bezel, a 3135 movement, the same as modern Submarine Date and other popular Rolex sport models with a date complication. The Turn-O-Graph was discontinued in 2011, but you can find good examples of them fairly easily on the secondhand market. Because Turn-O-Graph models aren’t as popular, it’s an opportunity to get a great price on an overlooked gem.

Much of the reason why the Turn-O-Graph may have been lost in the shuffle is because the Submariner and GMT-Master are simply such great watches with clear purposes for divers and aviators. The dress/sport hybrid nature of the Turn-O-Graph perhaps made it feel too precious for the rugged esthetic favored by watch collectors aspiring to look the part of an adventurer. And the standard Datejust simply cast its long shadows over the Turn-O-Graph making a difficult choice for those seeking a more traditional look.

But don’t be afraid blaze your own trail. The Turn-O-Graph will be ready to be your partner in trailblazing. And, we're always ready to trail-blaze at Everest with a custom look. Whether you're looking to rock a sporty rubber watch band, an elegant leather or a one-of-a-kind racing or nylon style, we've got you covered. Find your new style with Swiss-Made Everest watch bands for Rolex, Tudor or Panerai here.

Li Wang
Li Wang



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