Monday, September 29, 2008

Hello again Rolex and Tudor collectors. Today the Bakelite GMT is in the spotlight..

The reference model 6542 GMT Bakelite is my favorite variation from the GMT line. The famous Bakelite bezel was made from an acrylic type of material called Bakelite that had a terrible shortcoming in it's design. Rolex used this plastic or acrylic material because it was easy to mold into many forms by heating. Acrylic found it's way into industry utilization in the early 1930's in kitchen appliances and were engineers need a light material to replace clay or light metal.

A Bakelite product did crack with hard hits or when dropped severely.
In retrospect it was a bad idea to design a watch bezel for a sport's watch which took most of it's initial hits from hard activities. But it was easy to work with and this plastic was the only means to add radium to the numbers. I also suspect that it a cheaper product then metal.

From what I observed the design looks to be of a double inlay process. A base was made in a mold then the numbers were added by a die which pressed these numbers onto the base. Then the famous slightly radioactive radium material was applied to the numbers and a top acrylic coat was added and pressed together and baked by heat.

The result, was a fantastic glistening looking bezel in which the numbers glowed in the dark.
To this day many true Bakelite bezel's numbers still glow in the dark.
When one looks at a Bakelite bezel you get the appearance that the numbers are suspended in the bezel. That is because of the double inlay method that the manufacture used. It was a very ingenious method that Rolex used, but unfortunately this concept of the GMT bezel numbers glowing in the dark as do the dial markers and hands, never was manufactured again and was discontinued with the 6542 GMT model. Most Bakelite bezels were replaced with the more sturdy flat in appearance metallic version.

The problem that faced the Bakelite GMT bezel was that some how a radiation scare transpired regarding this Bakelite radium filled numbers GMT bezel. My guess that in the 1950's with the advent of the atomic bomb, the world population was on radiation fear alert. This fear compounded onto the bezel being retroactive and detrimental to the person wearing the GMT watch model. Rolex sent out reassurance letters to customers that these bezels where safe, and even offered to change to a new metal type of bezel.

To compound to the Bakelite bezel troubles, a pattern of cracking and paint fading started to occur on parts of the Bakelite bezel because of bezel tension stress from heat temperature differential and improper bezel removal at service. Many cracked Bakelite bezels started to appear after a service because of the side deflection and stress from the bezel removing tool used to pull the bezel from the crystal retaining ring. The tenacious grip from the inlayed thin wire on the inside track of the bezel to the crystal retaining would cause an imminent crack to parts of the bezel. Sometimes no matter what a watchmaker did the only way to remove a Bakelite bezel from the crystal retaining was to apply so much pressure on the bezel removal tool that a crack was bound to occur and unavoidable.

I believe that from the year 1955 to the late 1950's every 6542 GMT was outfitted with a true Bakelite bezel and a red and black roulette type date wheel. A short production run of four years and a quite recall by Rolex makes this Bakelite bezel even more rare to find in any condition. These early Bakelite GMT'S are truly an important piece of Rolex history. Sadly not many Bakelite bezels survived the test of time.
I am genuinely lucky to own a piece of Rolex GMT history.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More Tudor Monte Carlo information ........
Click on picture to get a full view of the collection

Click on picture to get a full view of the collection

Click on picture to get a full view of the collection

Hello Rolex and Tudor fans ...My name is Arthur AKA (AAKVIPER) and I would like to..
introduce the exotic dialed Tudor Monte Carlo. Some call it a poor man's PN.
A little brief history first.

The Tudor Monte Carlo, not unlike it's corporate cousin the Rolex Daytona with a plastic crystal and 727 Valjoux movement became a very desirable watch to collect. In my opinion the iconic and popular watch the Daytona was and still is a Rolex best the Tudor Monte Carlo was created to fill in the lower entry level chronograph market. Both the plastic Daytona and Tudor Monte Carlo had cases constructed by Rolex and both were powered by a similar Valjoux caliber

The popularity of the two register Tudor is due to the strong lineage to the Rolex chronograph in general. The Daytona and Tudor have a similar Valjoux caliber..the Tudor is minus a register and a micro Stella balance set up. But the 234 and 727 calibers share 85% of common parts and movement size. In fact the early 23 Valjoux calibers powered Rolex two register Chronographs from the 1940-1950.
The second series reference # 7159, 7169, and 7149 was the two register 234 Valjoux powered Tudor chronograph (1974-1978).

Below is the model 7159 with box and 1970's Rolex/Tudor service and origianl papers

One of the hardest Monte Carlos to find in the 71xx series would be this blue based dailed 7169.

Close up scan of the 7169 dial.

The last Monte Carlo model configuration is the 7149 with the same type of bezel as on the Daytona 6263. The 7149 had a black as in the picture or a blue bezel with a blue background dial.

Below a complete set of the Monte Carlo home plate I own.

The first Monte Carlo series was a two register reference
#7031-7032 with a 7734 caliber was produced only for four years(1970-1974).
The other nick name for this watch is the home plate dialed Monte Carlo. The makers resembles baseball diamond plates.

The Tudor Monte Carlo received this nick name because of the resemblance of the dial to a roulette wheel in the gambling halls in the famous casino town in the south of France.

By the early 1980's the Tudor chronograph no longer was powered by a Valjoux 234 caliber. The Tudor Chronograph now with a referance #94xxx had three registers and was powered by the 7750 caliber. Some early versions had the exotic Monte Carlo dial in matte black or gray background with the outer roulette wheel and orange outside number markers.

Two of my 7159 MC's on straps.

A family group scan of some of the Monte Carlos on bracelets.

Stay tuned for a deeper look at the the Monte Carlo.
Untill then, enjoy Arthur. ;)

The Monte Carlo two register chronograph..why is it different then most other Tudors?

During the 1970's through early 1980's Tudor chronograph once deemed the best entry Rolex affiliated chronograph for the money has moved up nowadays into the highly collectable chronograph market.

The Tudor Submariner for a while also mimicked the Submariner case, bezel insert, bezel, crown and the successfully good looks of the Rolex Submariner reference model 5513, 5512 and 1680. But unlike the (MC) 234 and (Daytona) 737 Valjoux chronograph calibers the Tudor Submariner movement had no similarities with the 1520 or 1570 Rolex calibers. Of course these 15xx calibers were produced by Rolex in house while the movement firms of ETA and Valjoux supplied and powered the Tudor Submariner.
See the picture below and notice how the Tudor and Rolex Submariner are alike from the outside.
Remember the early Monte Carlo Tudor two register chronograph was powered by the 234 caliber, the same basic 23 caliber that early Rolex two register chronographs form the 1950's had and then later the three register 1960-1980 Valjoux 72-727. The 234 and 727 shared over 65% of the same Valjoux parts.

With this strong linage that the Tudor two register Monte Carlo had with it's bigger brother Daytona 6263-6265 in the 1970's, Daytona collectors were among the fist to start collecting the Tudor 70xx and 71xx models.

Finding any information regarding the Tudor chronograph from any year is a quite coup nowadays. I believe that Rolex in spite of common perception did advertise the Tudor line in a diligent manner.

It appears to me that The Tudor model 70xx and 71xx chronographs having been produced in much smaller numbers when compared to the production of the Daytona 6263 and 6265 that by this ratio, manuals, boxes, brochures and other Monte Carlo accessories are not very common.

Just in the past six years I have noticed that the exotic dialed Tudor Monte Carlo has started to peck serious interest among firstly the Chronograph collectors and now among Rolex collectors. Many vintage Rolex fans have come to know about these exotic dialed Monte Carlo dialed watches from Internet watch forums from across the world.

Now most Rolex vintage collectors are actively looking to add these Monte Carlo Tudor chronographs to one's collection.

With this new found interest for the Tudor chronograph, the Tudor three registered 7750 movement caliber with the case being produced by Rolex as it has in the past is being sought after by newer collectors. The three register Monte Carlo dial is the rarest version to find in the 92xx models. See example below of the harder to find black MC dial version in a 9421 model. I have seen more of the gray background MC dials in the 92xx models.

From the three register thick case Monte Carlo to the Tiger Woods chronograph, the new found popularity among collectors seems to be infectious, and with a lower cost of ownership then it's 1970's two register predecessor. Many Rolex collectors are discovering the joy of owning a three register Tudor chronograph with the good looks of a Daytona, but with a date feature.

More watch talk to come in my next installment, cheers Arthur

Still the best "bang for the buck".

This rare cream dial Tiger in the scan below was never in any catalogues or factory brochures..To add to the mystery, the Tudor service reference books never had a cream or off white dial described, only white was the only option. So no dial number was ever given to a cream Tiger dial.

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