The story of how I converted a plexiglass crystal to a sapphire one on a Rolex Datejust

The story of how I converted a plexiglass crystal to a sapphire one on a Rolex Datejust

A few years ago, as a gift to my father, I decided to change the crystal in his Rolex Datejust from plexiglass to sapphire. Some of you Rolex guys might be cringing right now, but for my father it made a lot of sense. He is literally the most active person I know and he wears his two-tone Rolex Datejust without a care in the world. The plexi crystal was scratched to no end and about every two years he needed to replace the crystal, however the rest of the watch was somehow in excellent condition, even with him literally doing everything while wearing it.

I knew that many Rolex owners used either toothpaste or plexiglass polish to take small to medium sized scratches out of their Rolex crystals. For my father’s watch, this would have been a waste of time as he had some serious abuse applied to his crystal. I had shown his watch to a watchmaker friend and he suggested we use a Sapphire Crystal Conversion kit off eBay to help from making dear old Dad’s Rolex look so awful all of the time. 

I was at first hesitant since I thought it may mess up the watch - but this particular CW21 certified watchmaker was confident in his suggestion. He explained he had done it quite a few times over the years with 100% success. So, I purchased the kit off eBay that he suggested and I also purchased a taller, full gold fluted bezel to properly help seal the watch from water. This other part was also required.

It has been four years since I had my watchmaker do this for my father, and all I hear is rave reviews. I figured the Everest customers might like to see if they also could take advantage of having a Sapphire crystal over a plexi. So, I decided to call that same watchmaker back and ask him what watches are possible to do this with. 

Here is a list of a few Rolex watches that you can change the crystal from plexiglass to sapphire:

  • 36 mm wide Rolex Datejust - Ref: 1600, 1601, and 1613.
  • 31 mm wide midsized Rolex watches - Ref: 6466, 6630, 6635, 6639, 6827, and 6828.
  • 26 mm wide ladies Rolex Datejusts - too many references to list.
  • 34 mm wide Rolex Date models - Ref: 5700, 5701, 15000-15018, 15037-15053, 15148, and 15505.
  • 36 mm wide Rolex Day-Date - many references. From what I could tell in my research is that a replacement crystal was available for really any model of Day-Date that had a plexi one to start.
  • 36 mm wide Rolex Datejust - Ref: 16013, 16000, 16000, 16003, 16013-14, 16030, 16250-53 
  • 40mm wide Submariner 5512, 5513, and 1680
  • 40mm wide GMT Master 1675 and 16750

I am confident that I have missed many references here, but at least it’s a start. Again, I want to note that a replacement bezel was needed to guarantee the water tightness of the case.  It is due to a height issue of the new crystal being taller than the original bezel that came with the watch. Asking a watchmaker how to acquire this taller bezel is the best way to get one.

This relatively simple process took the watchmaker less than an hour to achieve once he had all of the parts. The cost with service and parts was approximately $350 which is a really decent price considering it gave my father’s Rolex watch an entirely new life. 

One item that did stick out about this modification was that the crystal on the inside was domed instead of flat. This did cause a slight magnification of the dial. I asked the same watchmaker why this was. He explained that the height of the hands of the watch mixed with the fact that the Rolex plexi crystal were slightly bubbled required this domed sapphire inside. In the end it is barely noticeable, but I figured I would note every detail I saw.

One final point to note, Everest does not make sapphire crystals nor are we experts in this field. We are just trusting experts in the watchmaker arena who have never pointed us in the wrong direction. We would love to hear what you think of this idea in the comments below and if you have any questions about a watch modification or read an interesting thing about Rolex watches that our readers would enjoy - please share it with us so we can share it with them!

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