Rolex and 904L Steel


Most Swiss watch companies use 316L steel for their cases, which is five times more durable than standard steel. But Rolex is the only one to use 904L steel, which is corrosion resistant, virtually scratch proof, and far more expensive than 316L.

904L contains chromium, which when mixed with oxygen, forms a thin, virtually impregnable barrier on the surface of the case. This alloy combination is so hard that Rolex had to develop a special 250-ton press capable of stamping a watch case from a block of 904L.

Categories: Rolex, Swiss Watch Tips & Trivia, Watch Tech.

Comments (13)

  1. Todd Punderham

    Very fascinating. I love this information about the chemical, metal composition of watches. Please keep posting more.

  2. Thanks Todd. We will keep it under advisement!

  3. Ron

    I agree with the first commenter, knowing about the physical properties of the watch is particularly interesting! Discussing the price or quality is very good, but to see the watch from an almost scientific perspective is fascinating!

    I especially liked the part about the 250-ton press. Wow!

  4. Swiss Watch Wire

    Thanks Ron! We will include more posts like this in the future.

  5. This rolex steel watch is looking really royal. Its dial is fantastic.

  6. Knowing the composition of watches gives us more information on the things that we buy and spend for. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Discussing the price or quality is very good, but to see the watch from an almost scientific perspective is fascinating!

  8. And that’s the reason they’re #1

  9. Stephen

    Hi Jason,

    Really like your site and stumble upon it from the New York Times article published in 2008.

    Regarding this post, I am allergic to any metals with Nickel when next to my skin for more than 4 hours. Hence I have used Titanium watches for the last 10 years. Is there anything from Rolex (model) that would be possible for me to wear?


  10. Swiss Watch Wire

    Pretty much all Rolex bracelets use 904L steel which is 24-26 percent nickel. Other parts of the watch may contain 316L which is 10-14 percent nickel. So I’m afraid I can’t recommend any Rolex model for you at this time.

  11. paulcohello

    I bought my Rolex in Calgary 34 years ago and this is the first time I’ve ever needed a rolex repair service. You get what you pay for.

  12. Bananabender

    904L costs about $10/Kg. 316L steel costs about $3/Kg. Both materials are very cheap.

    There is only about $2 worth of 904L in a Rolex Submariner.

  13. Pingback: Rewind 2014: Our 6th Annual Look at the Best of Swiss Watch Wire | Swiss Watch Wire

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