The Rolex 3135 caliber has been holding the world on time since 1988.
For the final 30 years Caliber 3135, or one among its variants, has been the trusted workhorse behind most Rolex fashions. It has been to the underside of oceans, the tops of mountains, and adorned the wrists of pilots touring the world.
Ask watchmakers and the story would be the similar: it has stood the take a look at of time for each them and for the buyer. I haven’t met a single watchmaker who doesn’t love engaged on the Rolex 31x sequence of calibers. They’re simple to service, maintain nice time, and stand as much as abuse.
Put merely: they work.
Nonetheless, in 2015 Rolex launched us to the brand new child on the block: Caliber 3255, which is an upgraded day and date motion. Shortly thereafter we met the 3235, the date-only variation.
Collectively, they’d be the Rolex reply to the trendy horological panorama with the 32x household being rolled out throughout the gathering. And it’s protected to imagine the 31x household shall be solely retired over the following few years.
With Rolex claiming on its web site a 70-hour energy reserve, 14 patents, 90 % new parts and a efficiency enhance of 15 %, prospects are excited. Who doesn’t love enchancment?
That’s, in any case, how we bought to the place we’re as we speak. Are perceived enhancements all the time higher? Are the technical advances in fashionable horology all the time useful? How do they have an effect on the tip shopper? What in regards to the watchmaker?
Having skilled on the 3235, I can say with all honesty that it’s a stunning piece of engineering. The end is spectacular and the development second to none, which makes this caliber a breeze to service. I’m comfortable to restore all of them day lengthy.
But once more, Rolex has produced one other watchmaker-friendly motion that shall be beloved the world over. The timing outcomes are really spectacular, and the ability reserve performs as acknowledged. True to type the buyer is comfortable, and the watchmaker is comfortable. Rolex has hit it for six, identical to in 1988.
Nonetheless, nice outcomes typically include some sacrifice.
So what’s the price of the 3235’s exceptional statistics? Is it really that significantly better than its formidable massive brother? Let’s study the 2.
The Rolex Chronergy escapement in Caliber 3235
The primary method Rolex has managed to extend energy reserve is through the Chronergy escapement, a contemporary tackle the Swiss lever variation. The escape wheel is pierced, which makes it lighter, and this in flip reduces inertia.
The pallet stones “are half as thick” as within the 3135, however the contact surfaces of the escape wheel have doubled in dimension. Escapement parts are now not in alignment however “offset to extend the lever impact.” The escape wheel and pallet fork are manufactured from nickel-phosphorus (LIGA) to keep away from interference by magnetism.
All these modifications assist to extend the effectivity of the escapement by 15 % and account for nearly half of the elevated energy reserve. Or so they are saying.
Let’s break it down by firstly discussing the declare of a 15-percent efficiency enhance. The LIGA-formed pierced escape wheel is a step up; its inertia shall be lowered and subsequently doesn’t require as a lot power to begin up at each beat, so a rise in efficiency is admittedly there.
Secondly, Rolex claims that halving the thickness of the pallet stones (we presume meaning width) and doubling the contact surfaces of the escape wheel results in a rise in effectivity, together with all the opposite components, however with out offering a proof as to why.
The general contact floor is strictly the identical if one had been doubled and the opposite halved, so friction wouldn’t be lowered, leaving you with the identical diploma of effectivity as a daily Swiss lever in that facet. The pallet stones being halved in width would cut back drag attributable to oil viscosity, which might enhance energy supply to the steadiness, which is a rise in effectivity.
The escapement geometry is somewhat trickier to quantify. Rolex claims “the escapement parts are now not in alignment however are barely offset to extend the lever impact.” With out receiving additional clarification about exactly what meaning, it’s tough to guage the reality of this.
The declare of avoiding magnetism is effectively based, though the pallet body within the 3135 can also be nonmagnetic. Belief me, I’ve spent loads of time on the bottom trying to find dropped ones! A step as much as an nonmagnetic escape wheel is an efficient factor as a result of a metal escape wheel retains its magnetism even after it has left the sector of interference.
Having in contrast the 2, I nonetheless consider the Chronergy escapement to be a transfer in the fitting course. It could have claims which can be tough to confirm, but it surely positively has enhancements in effectivity and energy reserve and most significantly it doesn’t adversely have an effect on the client.
Escapement checks are nonetheless carried out as regular and changes can be made in an identical method; additionally, parts don’t put on any extra shortly than in a daily lever escapement. If we maintain rating, it might be 1-Zero in favor of the 3235.
The second method the added energy reserve has been achieved is through the barrel. Bigger diameter barrel = longer mainspring = longer run time. That’s the formulation adopted.
Nonetheless, to maintain dimension down the barrel wall thickness has been decreased by half in order to not make the motion excessively massive.
Intelligent engineering, I need to admit. When subsequent to the 3135 this does seem to be a step up. However we should all the time ask at what value.
The wall being decreased by half implies that altering the mainspring is now not an choice. There is no such thing as a protected approach to take away and reinstall the mainspring with out damaging the barrel.
If a 3135 had a mainspring grinding alongside the barrel wall, the repair was easy: take away the mainspring, polish the bridle, lubricate the barrel wall, and reinstall. However that is now not the case with the 3235: it’s change, change, change.
You can be advised that every one new barrels work proper out of the packet, however that is hardly ever the case for any caliber. Typical full barrels usually want adjusting when new attributable to mainspring bridles not being polished accurately, inflicting the watch to knock.
So the change mentality isn’t all the time the most suitable choice. A barrel can outlast a mainspring by a few years. That household heirloom you had been leaving to your grandchildren is now on the mercy of the producer. How lengthy will elements provide be supported – 30, 40, 50 years?
One other issue to think about is that the 3235 has a motion diameter of 28.5 mm. Let’s evaluate this with a 4130, the in-house Rolex chronograph motion, which additionally has an influence reserve of 70 hours.
There is no such thing as a Chronergy escapement right here; Caliber 4130 comprises an ordinary lever escapement. Admittedly, it’s 2 mm bigger in diameter, coming in at 30.5 mm; nonetheless, it incorporates a three-register chronograph.
How did Rolex obtain this this feat? By putting in an extended mainspring right into a barrel with regular-sized partitions. This barrel doesn’t want changing each service – a brand new mainspring will do exactly positive.
So why couldn’t this have been an choice for the 3235? Maybe to make the servicing and the acquisition of elements tougher? Maybe there was really no more room to put in a bigger barrel? I’ll allow you to be the choose of that one.
Elevated energy reserves are positively a win for the client: individuals don’t get pleasure from having to set their watches incessantly, which might grow to be tedious.
Moreover, the much less the wearer has to regulate his or her Oyster watch, the much less possible water-resistance issues will come up. I’ve no situation with a contemporary caliber outlasting an older counterpart by many extra hours, however I do take situation with the best way it has been achieved on this specific case.
Now we’re tied at 1-1.
The steadiness in Caliber 3235 is pretty just like that of the 3135. It’s fitted with a Parachrom steadiness spring and Paraflex shock absorbers. This is identical setup as a contemporary 3135 fitted right into a Datejust II, so no actual change there.
Nonetheless, the 3235 does come fitted with a brand new tackle an previous basic: a friction-fit steadiness workers. No extra riveting steadiness staffs to the balances, ensuring you aren’t hammering them out of flat, no checking to see whether or not the rivet truly holds.
Rolex claims that the steadiness is not going to want poising each time, and that may be a declare that I can confirm, having modified many of those steadiness staffs, solely round half of which wanted poising.
I’ve to say this can be a nice characteristic and enjoyable to mess around with. It’s a half that may nonetheless be hand-turned if required and can guarantee a higher lifespan to a steadiness. There is no such thing as a threat of slicing too far when turning off the rivet within the lathe or hammering out the prevailing rivet. It is a nice fashionable characteristic that can serve the business effectively. It gained’t be the final friction-fit steadiness workers we see.
Now it’s 2-1 to the 3235.
Axle vs. ball-bearing, the good debate. Rolex now claims it has “accelerated self-winding.” There are two most important variations between the 32x and 31x rotors, the primary being ball bearing versus axle, and the second is monobloc (one piece) versus a riveted two-piece rotor.
A monobloc rotor is a pleasant characteristic; on very uncommon events two-piece rotor assemblies do come aside, so this solely eliminates the potential of that.
Ball-bearing rotors have their benefits and so do their axle counterparts. A rotor with ball bearings requires little or no lubrication; in reality if an excessive amount of lubricant is added to the ball bearings, automated winding will grow to be sluggish pretty shortly.
Axles then again require bigger quantities of lubrication to operate longer. The primary situation with axles is that they consistently come again dry and worn out, a grinding paste having fashioned, your entire motion is roofed in a powdery mess and in determined want of an overhaul.
Rolex has now eradicated this situation, however let’s have a look at the price. I like a ball-bearing rotor and I feel it really works effectively however over time a ball bearing can grow to be sloppy and wish changing.
Changing a ball bearing meeting is a breeze in an ETA Caliber 7750 or 2892. The truth is, it might take about the identical period of time and be the identical value as an axle in a Rolex, however sadly that isn’t an choice within the new 3235.
It can’t be modified, it isn’t an element you may order, neither is it one thing that may be eliminated with out damaging the rotor. A rotor in a mechanical watch works laborious; it takes a beating and due to that ball bearings want changing usually, however that gained’t be the case in your shiny new Datejust 41. You’ll be altering the entire thing.
So which is healthier? An axle that turns to grinding paste is dangerous. It could trigger chaos in a watch; the unfastened rotor can harm the within of a case again and even grind away at most important plates. However so can a ball-bearing rotor that has worn out and been uncared for.
The primary trigger for concern is prepare wheel pivots being minimize and ending up like mushrooms. With a ball-bearing meeting this wouldn’t be an issue. I’ll argue, although, that on the subject of longevity, it’s simpler to re-pivot a prepare wheel than to manufacture an entire rotor meeting.
If the ball bearing had been replaceable, I must go along with the 32x on this one, however I actually suppose Rolex missed the boat right here. 2-2.
Conclusion: which is greatest, Caliber 3235 or Caliber 3135?
Now we’re in extra time: it’s 2-2. After inspecting the 2 calibers in some depth, which comes out on high?
There is no such thing as a denying the 3235 is a ravishing, aesthetically pleasing piece of horology. Rolex has carried out effectively and must be proud. Anybody buying a watch geared up with stated motion can have made a smart selection and will be happy with the motor underneath the bonnet.
The advances within the 3235 are in keeping with the horological panorama as we speak, which makes use of recent manufacturing methods to attain advances in escapement engineering, supplies which can be lighter, extra antimagnetic, and extra environment friendly.
However the place does it stand subsequent to its massive brother? Is he quicker, stronger, extra clever, and higher trying? Nicely, he’s higher trying. I’d even say he’s quicker, however on the subject of energy and intelligence the 3135 takes it each time.
Although the rating was 2-2, for my part the 3135 nonetheless comes out on high. It’s long-lasting, it’s confirmed, and it may be repaired for many years to return even when elements provide is discontinued. It doesn’t require extreme substitute of expensive elements, which makes it watchmaker and buyer pleasant.
The 3235 is a good motion, there is no such thing as a denying that. However its pace and appears can’t evaluate with the energy and intelligence of its older brother. Energy and intelligence are the qualities of an excellent king, thus for me the 3135 reigns supreme.
Fast Info Rolex Caliber 3135
Diameter: 28.5 mm
Energy reserve: 48 hours
Frequency: four Hz/28,800 vph
Escapement: Swiss lever
Certification: C.O.S.C. chronometer
Fast Info Rolex Caliber 3235
Diameter: 28.5 mm
Energy reserve: 70 hours
Frequency: four Hz/28,800 vph
Certification: C.O.S.C. chronometer
* This story was initially printed within the April 2018 version of Horological Journal. It has been reprinted with permission.