Extreme& Not So Extreme Rolex

All images are shared here with permission

These images are compiled from various Rolex watch forum posts that show how tough as well as the limites of Rolex watches. Each of these images are posted with permission of the owners and are intended to show that Rolex watches are tough, but not necessarily indestructible.

Click on images for larger photos.

This Daytona was dropped onto a tile floor. It is commonly remarked that the safest place for a Rolex is on one's wrist, even while in the shower. Although sapphire is one of the hardest substances next to diamond, it easily shatters and breaks into miniscule pieces that can fall into the movement.
If your crystal breaks, the first thing to do is hack the movement by pulling out the crown so that the watch stops, reducing the possibility of movement damage by crystal fragments.
Rolex Broken Crystal
Rolex  Broken Crystal II

Rolex Sapphire Shards

Rolex  Broken
Rolex Broken2
This stainless Daytona was broken while mountain biking. The crystals are not as robust as the rest of the watch.

Rolex Shattered DateJust
Rolex Shattered DateJust
This DateJust was just serviced by Rolex RSC New York when it hit the bathroom floor. The watch has to go back to Rolex for a new crystal and hopefully this watch will not require another full service.

Rolex Broken Rolex Bracelet
Broken Rolex SeaDweller Bracelet
Broken Rolex Oyster link
Springbars used on Rolex bracelet links
These images were posted on www.r-l-x.de showing a brokern SeaDweller Band. It has been known that the first link is weakest link in Oyster bracelets. Apparently, there is a springbar that holds the bracelet to the Solid End Link (SEL).

Rolex SeaDweller in Accident
This image has floated around the Internet for years. Apparently, this Sea Dwelller survived a motorcycle accident.

Rolex 16710
Rolex 16710
Rolex boil
Boiling Rolex
In this TimeZone post, asalles06 took his 16710 and put it in a glass of water and froze it for 8 hours.
To thaw out his 16710, he then put it in a pot of boiling water for a 10 minute boil. Nine hours after removing the watch from boiling water, asalles06 indicated that the watch kept perfect time. Obviously not something that I would recommend to test the toughness of your watch, but this demonstration certainly illustrates the ruggedness of Rolex watches.

Rolex Wash Before Rolex Wash Before 2
Rolex Wash 3 Rolex Wash 4
Rolex after restoration Rolex after restoration 2
Rolex after restoration 3 Rolex after restoration 4

Hannes posted these images on the of a Lady DateJust going through a washing machine.

The top four images show the damage after the washing machine, and the bottom four images show how the watch was restored.

The red arrow on the after pictures shows one place that could not be restored.

This image is of a Rolex GMTII-C (Ref 116710) after it flew out of a bag stored in a locker. The watch landed on a tile floor. Other than the dent on the side of the case, the watch works as if it were still new.
Dented Rolex GMT

Well Worn Rolex Rolex Daily Use
This Explorer I (Model 14270) has been a daily user for ten years and has seen everything.
In general, this Rolex owner is very careful with his watches, but he does enjoy wearing them, and does NOT hesitate keeping them ON his wrist. It is a great feeling having the same watch on one's wrist whilst rebuilding a house during the weekend as the same watch one is wearing during the board meeting the following Monday...
The photo on the right shows a dent on the side of the case, but is still holding strong.
Broken Rolex

This image was found on a one of the Rolex boards. Photo origin unknown. Nonetheless, be sure to keep the crown snug and certainly tighten it when going underwater.
Rusted Rolex

Rolex on the rack Rolex setting
Rolex temperature Rolex 214 degrees
Rolex open it iup Rolex Ta-da
Moose589 put his SeaDweller in the Dishwasher. He was curious to see what happens to a Rolex when put through the full cycle in a dishwasher. His dishwasher is a Kitchen Aid and it takes water from the hot water heater, it then boils it internally, then washes the dishes. It also has a heat cycle that dries the dishes at about 200 degrees. Moose589 took his SeaDweller, put it in the dishwasher on pot scrub, heavy duty, heat dry cycle. He opened the dishwasher during the wash cycle, checked the temp with an infrared thermometer, it was well over 200 degrees. Moose 589 then opened it during the dry cycle to check out the steam. After a complete cycle, he took the watch out, which was almost to hot to hold, and rinsed it with cold water. Dried it off, and put it on his wrist. How's it running? Perfectly. There is no doubt in Moose589's mind that any modern Rolex dive watch would survive this.

Broken Rolex  Milgauss Broken Rolex  Milgauss
These images are from www.r-l-x.de of a broken Anniversary Milgauss crystal. It has been rumored that the early Anniversary Milgauss crystals had durability issues, but those rumors can be without merit. Umkarton indicated that he snapped this image with a webcam and a mirror as the watch face lettering is backwards. Umkarton did not elaborate how the crystal broke.

Rolex Submariner
Rolex Sub Bracelet
Rolex Bracelet Stretch
Rolex Acrylic Crystal
Rolex Acrylic Crystal
Rolex Worn Bezel Ring
This is a classic post on TimeZonefrom Jacob Hagert who allowed me to repost this story about his friend's Submariner. The serial number indicates that this watch is from 67/68 and was given to the owner on his 18th birthday as a new-old stock watch. Jacob's friend works as a Skipper on small coast ships. In 1995 he lost this Submariner while doing some engine work. About one year later the watch was found lying in old spill oil & diesel under the engine!! The watch had a "sailor" service at once using soap & autosol. The cleaned-up Sub went back on the wrist the very same day working fine. Who says traditional Oyster bracelets are not strong. The amount of stretch is well within reason considering the life this watch has had. Notice the benefits of an acrylic crystal. Although one cannot buff out a ding like this, this photo clearly illustrates the benefits of acrylic as a sapphire crystal would have otherwise been shattered.
The middle left photo shows another healthy crystal ding. The photo in the middle right shows how worn the bezel ring has become, but still very usable by "sailors fingers." The watch has been serviced twice after all these years.
The last visit was Rolex, Coopenhagen. As the scans show, it´s been a while since it has visited an RSC. When this watch was initially lost, the owner purchased a 14060 to replace the lost Submariner. Upon finding his trusty Submariner, he put it on instantly as the bracelet on the 14060 still "felt stiff." Apparently, it takes years to break in a Submariner, movement, bracelet and all

Broken Rolex DateJust Broken Rolex  DateJust
Brian in Austin, TX writes that the breaking of this DateJust is typical. Sitting on bathroom counter, he swept it off with a towel and it fell and landed flat on the crystal. Brian notes that sapphire makes the oddest ping sound when it shatters and a sound that no one want to ever hear.

Chris_NorCal was traveling on business and managed to drop his Sub onto a hotel bathroom tile floor from probably 5 feet. It landed directly on the case and chipped the corner of the lug and the caseback. It amazingly had not affected the timing--still keeps the same time.
Chipped Rolex  Sub Case

Cracked Rolex 16710 Repaired Rolex 16710
James (jm433) dropped his 16710 while changing at the gym. He took it to the independent RSC in San Francisco and three weeks later it was back as good as new. See before (left) and after (right) pictures. Giovanni at the SF RSC did a fantastic job. James paid $180 to fix the crystal, but he also serviced the watch movement to ensure that no crystal fragments had found themselves inside the watch. The SF-RSC was able to do this work under the Rolex warranty. The service center cleaned, oiled and regulated the movement. There was apparently were a few small shards of glass that had gotten under the dial through the date window. The dial was not scratched -- James is appreciative to those who told him to hack the movement after the incident.

Broken Rolex Bracelet
This is an image of what appears to be a newer style bracelet . Initially it was beleived that this image was from a fake Rolex, but it became apparent that broken bracelets are becomming an issue after seeing more of these images and stories (below).
nylawbiz posted a similar problem on the Rolex Forums. It appears that this problem is a little more widespread as it is becoming more obvious. The clasp is a piece that is not entirely machined; there are some welded/soldered pieces.

These are Rolex springbars that held a jubilee bracelet. During watch service, be sure to have the springbars checked. According to the watchmaker who posted this image, worn springbars like this are fairly common.
Rolex Springbars

Rolex Worn Pins Rolex Worn Pins

Alcan on the Rolex Forums posted these Bob Ridley images of his 1630 DateJust* bracelet. These imags show the importance of examining the bracelet pins periodically as well as keeping the bracelet clean.

*The 1630 appears as an OysterQuartz, but in reality it is a rare OysterQuartz case fitted with a DateJust Movement.

Rolex Worn Pins

Blue Rolex Rolex Inside
Rolex Rotor Removed Rolex Rotor Removed
Rolex stem gasket Toasted Rolex Gasket
Nick Hacko, a watchmaker and dealer in Australia posted these images on his blog illustrating how important it is to have your Rolex pressure tested each year, as well as getting it overhauled every five years. The first image shows a fantastic looking two-tone Submariner, but the inside of the watch is a mess.
The culprit is either a worn caseback gasket, or worn crown gaskets. Photos reposted with permission. See more of Nick's images and insight here.

Toasted Rolex GMT watch head Toasted Rolex GMT face
Toasted Rolex GMT Toasted Rolex GMT shock jewel missing
Toasted Rolex GMT Profile Toasted Rolex GMT Profile 2
Nick Hacko shared these images of a GMT II that was wrecked in a motorcycle accident on his blog. The motorcyclist only had a few minor scratches, but his GMTII did not.
To get this watch back to its original condition, the following parts were required:
  • new bracelet,
  • middle case,
  • rotating bezel,
  • bezel spring,
  • winding crown and stem,
  • new crystal and crystal seal,
  • new set of hands
  • calendar wheel and the dial.
Internally, the following parts would also require replacement:
  • the rotor,
  • balance wheel
  • escape wheel and all the wheels in going train
  • auto rotor wheel and case clamps.
The only parts that were spared from the impact are the bridges, screws, the main spring and a few wheels underneath the dial. In terms of dollar-value, less than 10% of the watch survived and the rest was completely toast.

Rolex President bracelet Rolex gold bracelet
Nick Hacko sent me these images of a Rolex president and the damage done to the bracelet after a golf game. There has been much debate whether a Rolex can survive a golf swing. There is no doubt that Rolex can survive a round of golf, especially when Rolex is major sponsor of various top level golf tournaments. In the course of the these debates, people focus on the effects of golf on the movment, but there was never any consideration of the bracelet. Look what happened to an 18 karat gold bracelet that holds a pretty heavy Rolex President watch head.

Rolex GMT-C Bezel Fell Out Rolex GMT-C Ceramic Bezel Insert
Rolex GMT-C Watch Rolex GMT-C Bezel Underside
g340 on shared on The Rolex Forums and on WatchUSeek his experience when he removed his GMT-C watch at an airport security screening, only to find the ceramic bezel had fallen out. Fortunately, he found the insert, but could not press it back into the bezel ring (like one can with the older aluminum 16710 inserts).
A few days later, g340 dropped off his GMT-C with the New York RSC who indicated that, "they have seen situations like this before, but that it is uncommon." Rolex indicated that the bezel insert is a press fit and held by the beveled edges of the bezel ring. g340 indicated that his visit to the RSC in New York was a "good experience." The watch was repaired in 24 hours and mailed back to him.

Rolex GMT face Rolex Crystal
Rolex ring Rolex gasket
Rolex Will not snap back Rolex bezel insert
Lubrifar went to change the bezel insert on his 16710, and the entire crystal ring that the bezel ring snaps onto pulled off. Typically, removing this ring requires a special ring puller.
You can see how the crystal ring holds the sapphire crystal to the case as well as the gasket that assist with water resistance.
The repair requires Rolex's crystal ring press.

Rolex Dirty Rolex Dirty Rolex
John Brozek of InfoQuest Publishing posted these images depicting how the outside of a Rolex looks fine, but without regular maintenance, the inside can become quite dirty. John has a repair service located here.
The watch above left is a 1997 GMT that had a damaged rotor pin as you can see how the rotor hit the inside of the caseback. The watch above right is a 1990 DateJust that had been neglected for about 10 years.

Cracked Rolex  Deep Sea Rolex close up
This image was posted of a cracked SeaDweller Deep Sea. Both the Deep Sea and the ceramic bezeled Submariner have a raised pearl at 12 o'clock that allows for the diver to feel where zero is on the bezel. The original aluminum bezels had a luminescent ball, which also was known to fall out, but the Deep Sea version is quite pronounced and is subject to getting hit. The traditional aluminum bezels would flex when the pearl would be hit, but the Deep Sea bezel seems to crack.

Broken Rolex GMT Clasp
nylawbiz on the Rolex Forums shared a broken GMT clasp. This break is similar to the post above whereby the hole with which holds the safety clasp beaks off. There are two of these pieces that are welded to the clasp and are not machined as part of the clasp. nylawbiz will post an update after RSC fixes the problem.

Broken Rolex SEL Rolex Lug Underside
Rolex Lug Ding Rolex Lug Ding II
Rolex Broken Bracelet
This 116713-C was involved in a car accident. Fortunately, the owner is okay but the watch appears to have taken some of the brunt. The SEL on the bracelet broke as well as the springbar, and something obviously smashed into the lug as it is both dinged and bent. Some laser restoration and soldering will bring this watch back to new.

Rolex Broken Pearl Rolex
Medic 103 had the pearl fall out of his DeepSea SeaDweller. Most likely Rolex will repair this under warranty.

Broken Rolex GMT-C clasp
Here is an image provided by spogehead of a half-broken GMT-C clasp. It is becoming apparent that this welded piece sometimes breaks. Initially thought as being entirely machined, it has become apparent that the hinge is welded/soldered onto the clasp and sometimes breaks. Obviously a production defect, Rolex has replaced these clasps.

Frozen Rolex AirKing Frozen Rolex AirKing
Frozen Rolex AirKing Frozen Rolex AirKing
Frozen Rolex AirKing Frozen Rolex AirKing
Akira posted on the Rolex Forums images of a frozen AirKing that continues to run.
The 2001 AirKing was a watch that had never been serviced and one he purchased for 1300 euros. He froze it for 14 hours. He observed that the watch continued to run by timing it against a Swatch (image above left). The watch lost 57 seconds during the 14 hours in the freezer probably because of the frozen/cold oil, nevertheless, the watch still ran.
After the watch thawed, it returned back to its normal plus 10 (+10) seconds fast. The +10 seconds/day is probably as a result of the watch not being serviced at a regular 5-7 year interval.

Chipped Rolex  GMT-C Bezel Insert
Chipped Rolex  GMT-C Bezel Insert
Postiff on the Rolex Forums posts his GMT-C mishap that happened on Christmas morning (2009). His 13 year old niece and her 18 year old brother were fighting at the house and he intervened. Postiff's niece was swinging a necklace of keys and key chains. Apparently, the GMT took the brunt of it. Postiff was surprised to find that there was no damage as she hit it pretty hard. He did not notice the chip for a few days as it is possible that the chip did not fall out until later. Nonetheless, watch was less than a year old and a cracked bezel is hard to take no matter the age of the watch.

Broken Rolex DateJust
Broken Rolex  DateJust
These DateJust images were emailed to me by a Minus4Plus6 reader. Apparently, the watch stopped shortly after it was dropped. The watch stopping could be attribued to the watch not being worn (a good thing) and the mainspring wound down, or broken sapphire found its way into the movement (a bad thing). With any broken crystal, be sure to hack the movement by pulling out the crown into the time setting position so that the movement stops preventing any further damage by crystal shards. Notice the amount of sapphire chips stuck to the underside of the crystal.

Justrolexes on the Rolex Forums attempted to pop off the bezel on his GMT II Z series to change the insert, and he inadvertently slid the cyclops.
On the older acrylic crystalled Rolexes, the cyclops was integral to the crystal. On the sapphire crystalled Rolexes, the cyclops is glued on. Some people haveintentionally removed the cyclops using a single edge razor blade, but this instance was purely accidental.
Justrolex did have the crystal replaced.
Slid Rolex Cyclops
Slid Rolex Cyclops 2
Slid Rolex Cyclops 3

Rolex Ceramic Bezel Chip
Stropley (Rolex Forums) didn't hit or even remember knocking his GMT-C. Apparently after swimming in the sea a couple of times with it on I noticed a splintered crack between the numbers. A morning or two later he awoke to a shock - there was no bezel insert in the watch at all; it was lying nearby and had literally 'sprung out' like a circlip and flew several inches.

This picture is of a piece he found on the floor after he took his GMT-C to the AD.

There has been much discussion regarding the differences between the industry standard 314L stainless steel and Rolex's 904L stainless steel used in its cases. These images certainly show what happens when a watch is not cleaned periodically, as well as what kind of corosion can happen to stainless steel. It appears that all these images are of 314L (or older) stainless steel.
Rolex Tudor Sub Pitted
Rolex GMT Fat Lady case
Rolex Case and Caseback
Rolex GMT Fat Lady 16760 Profile
Pitted Rolex GMT

Although not Rolex, the watch below is an IWC Top Gun chronograph. IWC utilizes a ceramic case with the Top Gun watch. I discovered these but the story on how this particular watch broke is not in English and subsequently cannot be retold here.
IWC TopGun
IWC TopGun
IWC TopGun
IWC TopGun

These images of a 1997 Rolex SeaDweller were emailed to me. These images show how the pin that holds the bracelet to the SEL can break. Keep this pin oiled and be sure to have it inspected during service.
Rolex SeaDweller
Rolex SeaDweller

Smashed  Rolexes
This image was one that has been posted on the Internet with which I am reposting here (source unkown). The amount of crystal fragments on the watch face solidifies why the winding crown has to be pulled out to stop the watch. Those fragments can damage the watch face as well as the movement if the watch is still running.

New GMT had the bezel fall off after the plastic/nylon ring that holds the assembly to the case snapped. Fortunately, the plastic/nylon ring is replaced at service. These images were initially posted by Pedalma on TimeZone.
Rolex Bezel Fell Out
Rolex Bezel Fell Out 3
Rolex Bezel Fell Out 2

Nick Hacko writes of the "The dreaded scenario." While admiring the fine details of your new Rolex, it accidentally slips through your fingers and finds itself on a one way collision course with the floor. In the milliseconds before it even hits, a number of possible outcomes flashes through your mind - none of them good.

After the impact, you examine the watch carefully. Although there is no visible major damage and it seems to be functioning correctly, you do find that an hour marker has dislodged itself from the dial. What should you do? First and foremost, pull out the winder in order to stop the watch and avoid any possibility of the loose hour marker scratching the dial.

Secondly, you have two choices to consider in regards to repairs. You can take it to a Rolex service centre where it is highly likely that service will involve replacing the dial and overhauling the watch altogether, which can set you back roughly $1500. The other option is to bring the watch to us, which will set you back all of $50 – free if you purchased it from Nick. Why the drastic difference in price?
Rolex Dial Marker
Rolex Dial Marker
Because we see this as a simple repair (assuming there is no damage to the mechanism itself). Each hour marker is held in place with 2 “feet”, and can easily be set in place permanently with a microscopic drop of adhesive – no dial replacement necessary!

Production Defects
These are images that Matthew J emailed me from his collection of images.
Although Rolex has excellent quality control, some watches do slip through. Be sure to do a careful inspection when purchasing a new watch.
This particular image is of a GMT with mis-aligned hands. Both the 24 hour hand should be closer to the hour bullet on the bezel ring. The hour hand should be on or past the hour dot. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple repair.
Rolex Production Defects
This is a Rolex crown that snapped off the jubilee bracelet clasp.
Rolex Production Defects
A Daytona with a chrono button that unscrewed from the staff/pusher.
Rolex Production Defects
Examine the lume at 5:00 O'Clock. Notice that is spread outside of the white gold marker.
Rolex Production Defects
I initially thought this was a bad reflection on the case of this GMT-C, but in actuality, it is a groove on the case. The groove came from the factory on this unworn, new-in-box (NIB), GMT-C.
Rolex Production Defects
The lug on the top right shows that it is not completely finished on this Anniversary Submariner.
Rolex Production Defects
This Anniversary Submariner on the right has a maxi dial, but not a maxi minute hand. The traditional Sea Dweller on the left illuminates the difference when compared.
Rolex Production Defects
It appears that the ink ran out while this dial was being printed.
Rolex Production Defects
Take a close look at the right lug. It appears to be more polished/finished than the lug on the left. Notice that the right lug does not extend into the bracelet link as the lug on the left does.
Rolex Production Defects
This Sea Dweller had the 12:00 O'Clock triangle fall off.
Rolex Production Defects
Compare the Daytona on the left with the Daytona on the right. The Daytona on the left has the six upside down on the left hour subdial. The Daytona on the right has the correct hour subdial. As an aside, these are new style Daytona (non-Zenith movement) as noted by the Hour and Seconds subdial are above the 9:00 and 3:00 O'Clock hour markers. Zenith movements have these subdials in line with the 9:00 and 3:00 O'Clock hour markers.
Defective Rolex Daytona Dial
This DateJust Turn-O-Graph is missing the red Turn-O-Graph designation on the dial.
Rolex Factory Defects

Hulahula at the Rolex Forums had his Ceramic Bezel fall out after 5 months of ownership. Although rare, unfortunately, these things do happen. The only way to repair is to send to Rolex.
Rolex Ceramic Bezel Fallout
Rolex Ceramic Bezel Fallout

jeangtd writes from Columbia that he went to put his GMT-C into a watch pouch but he did not seal it shut. He walked a few steps and the watch fell out from waist high. Off to the Rolex RSC to get repaired.
Rolex Sub Ceramic
Rolex Sub Ceramic

Broken Submariner Broken Rolex Submariner
Here are three images of a Rolex ceramic Submariner that popped off the watch. Fortunately, the bezel insert stayed intact. This is a relatively simple fix by replacing the nylon washer that holds the bezel onto the watch.
Broken Submariner

Another broken Oysterlock clasp. Fortunately, this is not an occurrance that happens often (although this page might illustrate otherwise). With the four-five or so new style clasps I have owned, I have never experienced or seen this type of failure other than these images posted on the Internet.
Broken Rolex Clasp

These images were posted by Versatle 1 at Rolex Forums about this Submariner that spend 14 months undersea.
According to Versatile 1, the owner was fishing on the west coast of British Columbia when the clasp of his Submariner hooked onto his fishing rod, broke a pin on the bracelet and fell overboard. His first reaction was to record the coordinates on his GPS so he knew within a few meters of the "Drop Zone"
It just so happened that not far from this particular location there was a dredging barge, that moves sediment from the oceans floor working on a regular basis, so he contacted them asking to search the area on occasion (at a cost of 85.00 per hour) to see if the watch could be found. For some extra incentive he offered 1000.00 cash if the watch was recovered.
14 months later the watch was found in over 100 meters of salt water. After 40 winds the watch still worked to spec! The watch had a freakin barnicle growing on the bezel! How crazy is that??
Rolex Underwater
Rolex Underwater

Here's a watch image from Nick Hacko, Australian watchmaker. Here is an Explorer II that had not been serviced. Even though a movement might work fine, the rubber seals still require replacing every 5-7 years. More Ouch

This is an especially poignant example of one heroic Rolex.  This watch was owned by Todd Beamer when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on 9/11/2001 killing all on board including him and the four terrorists who hijacked the plane. 

Beamer Rolex

Here's another watch image that ran across Nick Hacko's bench in Australia. This Explorer II is different than the one shown above. Looks like this one hit the deck pretty hard and did some sliding.
Rolex Explorer II smashed crystal

Rolex GMT Rolex GMT
These images are from a Rolex GMT ceramic red-blue bezel. The bezel itself is 18K white gold which leads me to think that one of the contributing factors for the insert breaking as 18K gold is much softer than traditional stainless steel.

Here's a Explorer II 216570. All in all, this will be a simple fix as long as the crown is pull out (as shown) such that nothing gets scratched from the sapphire crystal shards.
Rolex Explorer II

Kenfl74 posted on YouTube how a ceramic Submariner survived three years of daily use on a Florida beach. Click the image for the .mp4 video.
Rolex Submariner on the Beach