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Old 5 July 2020, 01:21 AM   #1
powerfunk
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Every type of wood used for a Rolex dial

Rolex made a few types of wood dials over the years (5 that I know of), and here's my attempt to showcase them all. Thanks to Clay (miamiclay), David (crowncollection) and Bas (searchart) for all their helpful info in this thread.

The first wood dials appeared in the early 1970's on Day-Date 1800 series models. According to Amsterdam Watch Co, "wood dials in the 1803 reference Day-dates are extremely rare...In addition, these wood dials were unlacquered and very prone to cracking."

Usually, dials for 1800 Day-Dates are "pie pan" dials with a step down around the minute track; that's not the case with these. While the wood type isn't known for sure, it's sometimes listed as sequoia:


The straight-grain-maybe-sequoia dial was the only wood option on the 180x Day-Date, and the only wood dial Rolex ever made that wasn't burlwood.

The burlwood dials began with the 18000 series of Day-Dates. Burlwood isn't a specific type of wood/tree; it refers to wood from burls (knots near the trunk) of any tree. The pattern of each burlwood dial is unique. Rolex used 4 kinds of burlwood:

Birch:


African mahogany:


Walnut:


Madrona (a.k.a. "madrone"):


Madrona may have replaced mahogany in the 1980's. Mahogany, birch, and walnut are all known to be mentioned in official Rolex catalogs but this ad only mentions madrona, birch, and walnut. According to Bas, those three are all still available from RSC, so Rolex likely ran out of mahogany at some point.

I've seen a couple Rolexes listed with supposed "oak dials" but I think it's likely those are actually walnut or mahogany. If you ever see a "briar root" dial, it's probably just a birch dial that's mis-labeled.

Vilicich Watch asserts that this pressed wood dial is original but I think it's likely aftermarket:


Some collectors are under the impression that wood dials ended in the 1980's, but this catalog pic proves that the final wood dial, walnut, lasted into the early 2000's:


If I've gotten any of this wrong or forgotten any kinds of wood dials, please let me know.
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Old 5 July 2020, 03:17 PM   #2
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Old 7 July 2020, 04:47 PM   #3
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Oak




Last edited by chocopeluche; 7 July 2020 at 04:48 PM.. Reason: add second image
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Old 7 July 2020, 04:49 PM   #4
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also, thank you for this thread ... wood w/ yellow gold is my favorite dial combination by far.
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Old 8 July 2020, 08:09 PM   #5
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also, thank you for this thread ... wood w/ yellow gold is my favorite dial combination by far.
You're welcome! Nice wood OQ there! Do you have any paperwork stating that the dial is oak btw?
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Old 8 July 2020, 08:15 PM   #6
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No, found it here - https://watch-fever.blogspot.com/201...e-ref.html?m=1


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Old 8 July 2020, 08:24 PM   #7
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Oh, that's the same watch shown in the oak pic in my first post. I assume he's simply mistaken about the wood.
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Old 12 July 2020, 07:46 PM   #8
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Great thread


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Old 12 July 2020, 07:57 PM   #9
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This is so educating. Great thread and thanks for sharing.
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Old 12 July 2020, 10:25 PM   #10
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also, thank you for this thread
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Great thread
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This is so educating. Great thread and thanks for sharing.
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Old 12 July 2020, 10:49 PM   #11
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Thanks Rob, for yet another great public service thread!

Two minor wood-pedantry notes -

Burls aren’t like knots. Knots are an internal indication of where there was once a tree branch, while burls are the roughly hemispherical ‘lumps’ which grow directly on tree trunks, often at the base. I’ll attach a pic below.

“African mahogany” - Ummmmm ... yeah. Like “Bulgarian Champagne,” the name alone reveals the falsity. There are only two generally accepted “real” mahoganies - Cuban mahogany (swietenia mahagoni, the original, the good stuff) and Honduran or Bigleaf mahogany (swietenia macrophylla); both are native only to the West Indies and South FL. I think both types are now considered “commercially extinct” and are protected by the CITES treaties (like elephant ivory), which I expect was the reason for the change by Rolex. Beyond those, you do find “mahoganies” described as Philippine, African, Indonesian, etc., whose wood or burls may somewhat resemble real mahogany, but which may come from any species.

NB - I am neither a botanist nor a dealer in tropical hardwoods, but the above is my understanding.

Burls, in place on a tree trunk -
.
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Old 14 July 2020, 02:34 AM   #12
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Thanks Rob, for yet another great public service thread!


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Knots are an internal indication of where there was once a tree branch, while burls are the roughly hemispherical ‘lumps’ which grow directly on tree trunks
Ah, thanks for the clarification!

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“African mahogany"...the name alone reveals the falsity. There are only two generally accepted “real” mahoganies - Cuban mahogany (swietenia mahagoni, the original, the good stuff) and Honduran or Bigleaf mahogany (swietenia macrophylla); both are native only to the West Indies and South FL.
Good point, there is definitely a mahogany rabbit hole to dive into:

Quote:
Depending on who you talk to, African Mahogany in the Khaya genus may or not be considered the real deal. For most, it’s close enough in appearance and characteristics to carry the mahogany label without controversy, but purists will be quick to draw a distinction between the mahoganies of the New World and those from Africa. African Mahogany is comprised of a handful of species in the Khaya genus, such as K. anthotheca, K. grandifoliola, K. ivorensis, and K. senegalensis. While these species are from an entirely different genus (and continent) than the wood classed as “genuine mahogany,” taking a step up the botanical ladder from genus to family, both fall into the Meliaceae family
I think Rolex's mahogany was always the so-called "African mahogany." I think the only ads I've seen mentioning it always specify "African" as below:

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Old 14 July 2020, 03:11 AM   #13
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Every type of wood used for a Rolex dial

Regarding the Amsterdam Watch Co statement about no lacquer on the wood - those slices of wood might have been shellacked or lightly oil-stained.

On painted metal, lacquer would be a typical clear coat - but wouldn’t be appropriate on wood.

In the macro shots you can see that the surface wasn’t sealed well and the ink is missing in spots. Just a very difficult material to properly finish before printing.





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