Rolex has been one of the most interesting brands to reveal new things here at Baselworld 2014 - but only if you look really closely. Sure the new Sea-Dweller and "Pepsi bezel" GMT-Master II are lovely looking, but in my opinion the most interesting items of news are found in the minor details which are part of the new watches. For instance, almost hidden as part of a ladies watch is a new piece of Rolex technology known as Syloxi – which is essentially a silicon (silicium) hairspring.
Yes, that is right: for 2014, Rolex has begun to use silicon hairsprings, a technology that they have been working on for over a decade, but have only now decided to incorporate into a watch. It was only several years ago, in the year 2000, that Rolex introduced their "paramagnetic" Parachrom hairspring that is an exotic alloy of metals. As of 2014 the Syloxi silicon hairsprings will not replace Parachrom hairsprings, but will rather sit side by side them in a different range of watches.
Rolex seems to suggest that for the time being the more advanced Syloxi hairsprings will have life in their ladies watches - beginning with these new jewelry versions of the Oyster Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 34 watch. Normally I would never suspect that a precious stone-laden timepiece for women would be how Rolex debuts a new technology. In fact, one might argue that 2014 is really about Rolex intentionally doing things that people would never be able to predict.
While women's watches will contain the Syloxi hairsping, Rolex seems to suggest that their men's models (for now) will continue to use the Parachrom hairspring. Specifically, Syloxi has been introduced in the Rolex in-house made calibre 2236 automatic movement. Rolex says that the silicon hairspring has even allowed for an increased power reserve of 55 hours (adding about 6 hours over the traditional hairspring).
So these images are of two of the new Datejust Pearlmaster 34 watches that will contain the calibre 2236 movement. The Pearlmaster version of the Datejust has a unique bracelet and some other distinct features. Of course those features often include precious stone decoration and precious metal case and bracelet construction. Unsurprisingly the Datejust Pearlmaster 34 for 2014 will come in 18k yellow, white, or rose gold. The white gold version comes master with sapphires, the yellow gold version with diamonds, and the rose gold (Everose) version with rubies. All of the models have fully diamond set dials.
As a jewelry watch there is a lot to appreciate. For instance the dials are hand-set with diamonds before the hour markers are applied. If you look closely at the bezels you'll notice that Rolex selects slightly darker stones at each hour marker point. Of course all the stones are of excellent quality and hand-set by Rolex in-house. Each of these Pearlmaster watches comes with an option diamond-set bracelet as well.
There is no doubting that these are strictly ladies watches and to opt for this collection to debut a new piece of movement technology is a strange thing as women are traditionally not the key demographic to be interested in the details and performance of a watch movement. Nevertheless Rolex has incorporated Syloxi in the 2236 and it is unclear exactly how they will roll-out the technology into future timepieces.
Why silicon? Well the nature of silicon means that it does not require lubrication, is not effected by changes in temperature, does not react to magnetism, and is extremely stable. These are all benefits over traditional metal hairsprings. It was long believed that Rolex would never adopt silicon for use in their hairsprings even though it was known they had the technology to do so. Does anything make their silicon hairsprings different from those offered by other brands? According to Rolex yes. The Syloxi hairspring is covered by a number of patents, related to how it is produced, to how the hairspring is attached to the balance wheel. Rolex seems to promise that these are probably the best performing hairsprings they offer (and of course the 2236 movement is COSC Chronometer certified). While the Oyster Perpetual Datejust Pearlmaster 34 watches are high-end ladies pieces, it is possible that Syloxi will find its way into other Rolex models soon. rolex.com