The Rolex Turn-O-Graph was initially introduced in 1953. Though it is often considered one of the least-known versions of Rolex watches, it has a more remarkable history than most Rolex’s bestselling icons, such as the Daytona, GMT-Master, Submariner, and Day-Date. What separates this model from other Rolex classic icons like Oyster Perpetual and standard Datejust is that it offers additional functionality. In this post, we will look at some of the key features of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph and the reasons you should get yourself one.
- · Other names: “Thunderbird.”
- · Functionality: Elapsed-Time Bezel, Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display (Apart from ref. 6202)
- · Year of establishment: 1953
- · Movement: Automatic (Self-Winding)
- · Notable feature: Bidirectional Rotating Timing Bezel w/ 60-Minute Scale
- · Price: $6,000-$ 100,000
- · Case Size: 36mm
A Look at the Rolex Turn-O-Graph
Since it is only the first and very last generation of the Rolex model to have the name “Turn-O-Graph,” printed on the dials, the easiest way of identifying a Rolex Turn-O-Graph from a standard Datejust is by simply looking at its bezel. Additionally, the formal and most common name among watch collectors for this watch is the Turn-O-Graph. You may sometimes hear other people refer to it as the “Thunderbird,” particularly in the United States. The nickname, “Thunderbird,” dates back to the late 1950s, when the US Air Force’s Thunderbird aerobatic squadron handed all its pilots Rolex Turn-O-Graph watches. Their bidirectional rotating timing bezels helped the pilots with navigational measurements. The first Rolex Turn-O-Graph model was launched in 1953 and had the reference number 6202. This model made history by becoming the first serially-built Rolex watch that featured a rotating bezel and making more sales than the popular Submariner model in just a few months. Although the ref. 6202 did not come with a date display; other subsequent models of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph included a Datejust collection and, thus, had the date window at three o’clock. One notable feature of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph was its bidirectional rotating timing bezel with a 60-Minute scale. This simple yet essential feature enabled the watch wearers to use their Rolex watches to determine elapsed time. As a result, Rolex decided to ensure that all its models will include rotating timing bezels regardless of its production materials, the time it was produced, or its specific reference. Furthermore, to celebrate this achievement, the brand “Rolex” decided to produce a number of the Turn-O-Graph watches that come with the squadron’s insignia upon its dials. Rolex also began referring to all its Turn-O-graph watches by the nickname “Thunderbird” as part of its advertising campaign within the American market.
Using the Rolex Turn-O-Graph
Similar to other 3-handed timepieces that include a rotating timing bezel like the Yacht-Master and Submariner, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph works remarkably. This model has been made popular due to its ability to measure the duration of events for one hour. However, unlike the Rolex Daytona, which is a chronograph watch that uses specialized movement and extra hands to determine the duration of events, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph includes a standard 3-handed movement with a bidirectional rotating bezel. The bezel graduates every 60 minutes to measure the amount of elapsed time for an event. Another notable difference between using a watch with a chronograph complication and using the Rolex Turn-O- Graph is that you can stop and start a chronograph watch but not the Turn-O-Graph watch. The main reason behind this is that the rotating bezel on the Turn-O-Graph watch only allows you to measure the total elapsed time from the start of the event. Moreover, since the Turn-O-Graph uses a 60-minute scale, it allows you to measure the duration of the event for up to one hour. There are some chronograph watches that measure the duration of events for up to 12 hours or more.
Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph Vs. Rolex GMT-Master
The Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph is definitely the ideal watch when it comes to aviation purposes. Despite the fact that both of these watches are designed for the same purpose, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph is today overshadowed by the Rolex GMT-Master in many ways. First, the GMT-Master is more than just a mere aviation watch as it caters to all the traveling needs of ship captains, pilots, and other professions. Another difference worth noting is that the Rolex GMT-Master has a 40mm case and is, thus, slightly larger than the Datejust Turn-O-Graph. The GMT-Master sports also includes a bidirectional bezel that can be rotated clockwise and anticlockwise. The Rolex Submariner and the Rolex GMT-Master might seem quite superior to the Rolex Turn-O-Graph in terms of features and design. However, the company’s Brand-Rolex justified that model of the Turn-O-Graph watch as being used as a blueprint in the production of the two of Rolex’s bestselling watch models; GMT-Master and Submariner. Furthermore, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph has become more of an everyday attire, unlike the tool watch back in the 1950s. This is quite different from GMT-Master sports and Submariner, which are only used for aviation and diving purposes.
Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph Vs. Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Turn-O-Graph is certainly the predecessor of the Rolex Submariner in terms of design. However, the Submariner is slightly larger than the Turn-O-Graph as it comes with a 41mm case which is larger than the standard Datejust in Turn-O-Graph models, though this is an added advantage to people with smaller-sized wrists. The Rolex Submariner borrowed some features of the Turn-O-Graph in terms of the dial, indication, and rotating bezel. However, unlike the Turn-O-Graph, the Submariner lacks the date aperture as it is mainly used for diving rather than the everyday watch-use. The Rolex Submariner also features 3230 caliber movement, with a unidirectional bezel that has a 60-min scale for improved diving capabilities and allowing divers to time their underwater activities accurately. Generally, both of these watches are great in terms of their features and design. Even so, Rolex’s frequent improvements with the Submariner have influenced its legendary status among the top-of-the-line watches, leaving the Turn-O-Graph watches left out.
After it was added to the Datejust collection, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph declined in popularity, and Rolex shifted its focus to other watch models. Despite its demise in the year 2011, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph remains the core and foundation of Rolex’s most famous watches.