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Based in Geneva, the Swiss watchmaker Rolex is one of the most recognized and sought-after watch brands in the world. It was founded in the early 1900s as Wilsdorf and Davis, named after its founders Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. Throughout the decades, Rolex has delivered numerous exceptional timepieces, one such example is the Rolex Turn-O-Graph. Although the model is not as famous as other watches in the Rolex family, it has started to gain more fans since the 2000s thanks to its unique history.
However, the production of the Turn-O-Graph has ceased in 2011. Before we answer the question why, let us take a closer look at the watch’s history and learn more about this special watch.
We all know that Rolex is a specialist in horology, and the Turn-O-Graph is one of the finest watches it has ever created. Introduced in 1953, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph with the reference 6202 was believed to be a predecessor of the famous Rolex Submariner which was first produced in the year 1954. Because of its black rotating bezel, many Rolex fans think the Turn-O-Graph was the first watch from Rolex to have a rotatable bezel. This is partially true. In fact, the Zerographe 3346 produced in 1937 was the first to be equipped with such a feature. However, the Zerographe was a prototype and Rolex only produced about 10 pieces of it, which makes the Turn-O-Graph officially the first series to have a rotatable bezel.
After introducing the Rolex submariner in 1954, Rolex needed to differentiate it from the Turn-O-Graph as the two models shared a lot of the same features: a black bezel and dial, an Oyster bracelet, Mercedes hands, and dot/stick dial indexes. This might create unwanted competition between the two watches.
Therefore, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph 6202 was unveiled, and it has a graceful honeycomb dial in gold or white, accentuated by dauphine hands as well as gold dart markers. Apparently, Rolex wanted the watch to be more distinctive as its own lineup and later launched the Rolex Turn-O-Graph 6309. It has a more mature look with a revamped dial to appeal to professionals and businessmen. As part of the Datejust family introduced by Rolex in 1945, the watch also has an additional date window at the 3 o’clock position and a Cyclops lens, and the Caliber A260 movement was replaced by Caliber 743.
Before the Rolex GMT-Master was debuted in 1955, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph was already an iconic aviation timepiece. Pilots used its rotational bezel to assist in navigational calculations. Among many users, the most well-known was the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron pilots, also called by the nickname Thunderbirds. The squadron established a solid bond with Rolex and the brand later even called the Turn-O-Graph watches by the same nickname in its advertisements. There were also exclusive custom versions with the squadron’s emblem on the dial specially made for their top pilots.
In 1959, Captain Charles W. Maultsby in charge of the Right Wing of the Thunderbirds was presented the Turn-O-Graph 6609 by Rolex. Later that year, 6609 was replaced by a new reference 1625 and it remained a sought-after timepiece thanks to its diverse casing options and dial configurations. The thin watch hands and rectangular markers are particularly iconic.
In 1977, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph welcomed new references including 16253, 16263, 16264 and 16268 which were equipped with the Caliber 3035 movement. The four models come with a classic dial embellished by stick indexes as well as a rail chapter ring with Roman numerals. These four five-digit references continued production to the early 2000s before being replaced by newer six-digit references.
Unlike the previous models which boast a classic charm, the new six-digit references are more splendid in design. Although sharing the same 36mm case size, they look larger with the bigger fluted bezel. In an attempt to distinguish the Turn-O-Graph from the other Datejust models, Rolex introduced the 60-minute calibration with stick markers to the bezel. In addition, the mark of Turn-O-Graph was back on the dial in red. This gave the watch a touch of originality even though it did not last long. Some of the six-digit references include the Rolex Turn-O-Graph 116263 WH, 116261-SSO, and 116264.
In 2011, Rolex ceased production of the Turn-O-Graph which had been in the market for 58 years. Some may credit the cause to Rolex having more superior models that outperform the Turn-O-Graph in all aspects. However, the Rolex Turn-O-Graph is still a watch to be remembered. Before it was a dress watch for businessmen, the Turn-O-Graph was a sports watch. The pioneering model with the reference 6202 comes in full steel, and also Rolesor, a two-tone combination of yellow gold and steel. It means that the Rolex Turn-O-Graph is Rolex’s first ever sports watch to be available in Rolesor.
Now that you have learned more about the history of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph, do you think it is a Rolex model that can be passed over? Or will its legacy live on?