Summer is the season for steel belts.
When the steel is soaked in the air-conditioning all night, and the moment it is put on your wrist in the morning, the coldness makes people come alive.
Among Rolex’s flagship Oyster and five-bead bracelets, watchers have repeatedly mentioned their preference for the Oyster. I thought it was time to look into this iconic strap.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Oyster strap plays an essential role in the history of Rolex, even comparable to the Oyster case. Today, it has a history of more than 70 years.
The current Oyster strap perfectly combines with the famous Submariner and Greenwich. The strap is comfortable and snug but also relies on the Oyster safety buckle, which is stable, reliable, and reassuring.
Today’s Oyster strap didn’t happen overnight. Rolex has continuously improved it over the years, accumulating bits and pieces of progress yearly to ensure it becomes the most reliable and durable among competing products.
For collectors of antique watches, it is a watch strap and a clue. An antique watch can be more thoroughly evaluated through this clue, and the case may only partially display these details, lugs, and letters. Collectors can “find out by the strap.”
As we all know, today’s Rolex is an A-Z brand. However, Rolex did not produce the first Oyster strap, nor was it included as standard in its product catalog.
In the 1930s, the watch strap was still an optional product. At that time, Rolex needed to produce bracelets independently. At that time, the famous supplier Gay Frères (from now on referred to as GF) produced Bonklip straps for Rolex. Foreign watch friends named it Bamboo, so let’s call it “bamboo belt.” In the picture below, you can appreciate the elegant beauty of this 1930s doctor’s watch (DOCTOR’S WATCH).
Interestingly, this bamboo strap was easy to mold and produce, and it was popular then, so other companies supplied Rolex with the same strap style. Fortunately, Rolex favors the quality of GF factory products.
This ad highlights one of the advantages of bamboo tape,
That is, it is suitable for people with different wrist sizes.
Why can GF stand out among many competitors? We could get a glimpse of its strength from its origins.
This company has never defined itself as a “strap manufacturer.” Its history can be traced back to 1835 when no one knew what a watch was. At this time, GF was still a chauvinist, a French term that refers to a company that specializes in producing pocket watch chains and dabbles in jewelry to a small extent. Since there is no official translation and no conventional name, we will temporarily call it “chain merchant.” We can appreciate the fantastic strength of this chain merchant from the works in the pictures below.
In addition, as a watch strap manufacturer, GF does not only provide services for Rolex. There is no need to go into details. Look at the brand watches in the picture below; you will know its significant customers. Imitation luxury watches.
Patek Philippe Ref.1518
Royal Oak and the Nautilus
Zenith El Primero
As of 1976, GF’s scale had far exceeded the two watch factories of PP and AP. As a family business run by brothers, it was the largest and most professional manufacturer in Geneva, employing more than 500 experts.
In 1998, Rolex acquired the supplier that originally produced watch straps. Since then, the legendary watch strap factory has been owned by a watch brand worthy of wearing a crown.
Vintage advertising from GF factory,
The product in the picture looks very much like an Oyster strap
Of course, acquiring its suppliers is also Rolex’s consistent approach to optimizing its production lines.
This industrial strategy works quite well; look at Rolex’s production. Some people even say that Rolex has considerable cash reserves because of this, but we need something else to delve into.
The picture above is a brief history of the evolution of the Oyster strap. From left to right, although only the first two swiss models (Bonklip on the far left) look different, the Oyster straps on the right are also different. And they are the predecessors of the current Oyster strap.
Band Length: 18cm
Case Thickness: 15mm
Engine: Rolex Calibre 2836/2813
Case Color: Silver-tone