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The Golden Ticket to Tour the Factory: The Rolex 5100 Beta-21

The Golden Ticket to Tour the Factory: The Rolex 5100 Beta-21

Rolex 5100 with a Quartz Beta 21 Caliber. Credit to: Haute Horlogerie

While many individuals are familiar with Rolex’s concise endeavor into the quartz watch market with the Oysterquartz line of watches, less are aware of the absolute first quartz watch to bear the Rolex name: the reference 5100 Beta-21.

Rolex 5100 Beta-21 First Ever Quartz. Credit to: Bachmann-Scher

Rolex 5100

In 1962, Rolex and twenty other Swiss watch manufacturers framed the Center Electronique Horologer. The motivation behind this gathering was to build up a quartz development that could be utilized in wristwatches. In 1966, the first model, known as the Beta-1 was delivered, and by 1969, its final incarnation, the Beta-21 was ready for production.

Rolex 5100 Sapphire Crystal Shot. Credit to: Catawiki auctioner’s Berry Harleman & Joaquin Fernandez Cebrian


Sixteen diverse watchmaking companies utilized this development in their watches, and among these was Rolex, who utilized it to control the reference 5100 Beta-21. Uncovered at Baselworld 1970, the reference 5100 was released in a special restricted arrangement of 1,000 pieces – all made from strong, 18-karat gold – and each with its restricted version number engraved on the case.

Rolex 5100 Beta 21 Fashion Shot. Credit to: Honolulu Time Company


Feature astute, the reference 5100 Beta-21 was ahead of now is the right time. In addition to being one of the first Swiss quartz wristwatches, while there are other sorts of developments available, the Rolex 5100 Beta 21 was a first of its sort. It was also the first Rolex to feature a synthetic sapphire crystal, a hacking feature, and a quickset date work. The reference 5100 was the most costly watch in the Rolex catalog at the time, and Rolex did a great deal to showcase its selectiveness and restricted numbers. The accompanying statement is from early promotional materials for the reference 5100:

“At our central headquarters in Geneva there is a Golden Register, a’s Who of our customers who gladly consider a Rolex Quartz as a part of their most valuable belongings. They structure the Rolex Quartz Club, quite possibly the best clubs imaginable… Members of the Club are always welcome at Rolex Geneva. On their first visit, they are welcome to sign the Golden Register and can appreciate a personal visit through the Geneva world Headquarters.”

The Beta-21 development was rather large and awkwardly shaped, so the reference 5100 had to utilize a thick, 40mm case to house the development. This was especially large for the time; however purchasers adored its striking style, and the large measurements earned the reference 5100 the nickname, the “Texan”. All 1,000 watches were presold before creation even began.

Rolex 5100 The Texan. Credit to: Bachman-Scher

Although the reference 5100 was Rolex’s generally costly, most advanced watch; it was a serious deviation from their usual traditions.  The Beta-21 development was not built by Rolex, yet rather by one of their Swiss competitors. All the more importantly, its measurements made it incomprehensible for Rolex to utilize their famous Oyster case – the very thing that the company had fabricated its reputation upon.

First Ever Quartz Rolex. Credit to: Pushkin Antique

In 1972, Rolex ceased creation of the reference 5100, and withdrew from the Center Electronique Horologer to seek after the advancement of their own, in-house quartz development that would later be found in the Oysterquartz line of watches. Because of the top notch materials and restricted creation run, the reference 5100 Beta-21 is exceptionally valued by authorities, and embodies the development of watchmaking during the 1970’s.

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