Rolex is responsible for many, many horological innovations. From the first water-resistant case to the first self-winding movement and, as I recently learned, the first date complication on a watch. Yes, the Datejust introduced in 1945 (although the dial did not bear the name) was the first mechanical wristwatch to come with a date complication. (I feel there is so much I keep learning about Rolex everyday!) And, a few years after that, Rolex introduced the Cyclops, the first date magnifier. The history behind the Cyclops—or at least what people say it is—is quite interesting. So, first we will discuss the history of this neat feature before discussing pros and cons of having it on a watch crystal.
The History of the Date Magnifier (Rolex Cyclops)
As we all now know, Rolex was the first watch brand to make a watch with a date complication. A complication that we now take for granted and that divides the watch community in the pro and against-date complication on watches. (I recently wrote an article discussing this topic which you can find here. What fascinates me is the engineering prowess that came into adding a date complication to a watch, and what sort of mindset Hans Wilsdorf must have been in order to come up with that innovation. Regardless of how one might feel about Rolex, we can all agree that the brand had a knack for coming up with ideas that only Rolex could have.
So, what’s the alleged story behind the cyclops? I don’t know how accurate it is but rumor has it that Hans Wilsdorf came up with the design whilst getting ready in the morning. He seemed to be in the habit of taking a very long time to get ready and one fateful morning, a drop of water fell on the crystal of his watch exactly above the date aperture. And there it was, the concept for the cyclops or date magnifier. Wilsdorf had been wondering how to make the date easier to read for his wife who had trouble seeing it. The name cyclops, by the way, comes from the mythical Greek one-eyed creature.
So, Yay or Nay on Date Magnifiers?
Whether or not you like Cyclops on your watch is a matter of personal preference. And with a few exceptions, it is mostly Rolex that puts Cyclops on its watches. Besides Rolex homages and replicas, Seiko is one brand that routinely puts Cyclops on their watches, and having a Seiko equipped with one, I’ve become a great supporter of date magnifiers. The common argument in favor of it comes from older watch enthusiasts who have trouble reading the date otherwise. It’s a bit the reason why Hans Wilsdorf came up with the idea in the first place, so it would make sense to have one.
I have excellent vision and I don’t wear any glasses or contact lenses, and because I prefer having a date complication rather than not, I champion Cyclops. Because, why not make it even easier to read than not? Having a date complication is to me a plus because I find it practical. It’s nice to know where I am in the month I am so that I can remember important dates, bills to pay, or someone’s birthday. So might as well have a date magnifier so that it takes just a second to read the date instead of having to squint my eyes. (And that all depeds on how the date aperture is designed.)
I know, whether Cyclops on a watch is a Yay or Nay is a personal opinion. What is your opinion about having one, is it practical or just plain ugly? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter below. And, as whole, it would be interesting to look at more Rolex innovations or unique innovations from other brands, for example watches that come with a 24-hour local hand instead of a 12-hour one, watches with a built-in mechanical alarm clock, or mono-pusher chronographs. Do you know what they each have in common? They were all designed with a specific need in mind.
So let’s stay tuned for more articles like this one!