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I don't get it,when Rolex started use the 904L steel ?? From july 2008 till today I owned/sold about 4 Rolexes,3 of them M series and one V series.The last one is my M series SD wich I still own. Now,they should all be made out of the famed 904L steel,right ??
This question comes after I've seen somewhere a Basel 2010 billboard with the new Sub and the 904L thing was really shouted out...:think:

Another boring Rolex marketing trick ???
 

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I don't get it,when Rolex started use the 904L steel ?? From july 2008 till today I owned/sold about 4 Rolexes,3 of them M series and one V series.The last one is my M series SD wich I still own. Now,they should all be made out of the famed 904L steel,right ??
This question comes after I've seen somewhere a Basel 2010 billboard with the new Sub and the 904L thing was really shouted out...:think:

Another boring Rolex marketing trick ???
Rolex changed to 904L in the late '80s. Maybe they are "reminding" the public about their exclusive use of it in watches :roll:. I know it is highlighted on the Rolex website--they call it a "super alloy".
 

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not sure if the bracelets were 904L just the cases. Maybe they have now gone 904L all over?

I suspect we will have a definate answer from an experst soon:-!
 

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not sure if the bracelets were 904L just the cases. Maybe they have now gone 904L all over?
!
There is indeed that . the SDDS was the first Rolex that came with the 904L bracelet . As the new 116610LN is now equipped with the "SDDS" glidelock bracelet in 904L ( but on 20mm ) Rolex will make of course market it that way .
 

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There is indeed that . the SDDS was the first Rolex that came with the 904L bracelet . As the new 116610LN is now equipped with the "SDDS" glidelock bracelet in 904L ( but on 20mm ) Rolex will make of course market it that way .
The new Rolex Submariner does not have the same glidelock bracelet as the Deepsea. It is a much more simplified version. The difference is a lot more than the endlink width.
 

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I don't get it,when Rolex started use the 904L steel ?? From july 2008 till today I owned/sold about 4 Rolexes,3 of them M series and one V series.The last one is my M series SD wich I still own. Now,they should all be made out of the famed 904L steel,right ??
This question comes after I've seen somewhere a Basel 2010 billboard with the new Sub and the 904L thing was really shouted out...:think:

Another boring Rolex marketing trick ???
Yes, another boring Rolex marketing trick...

There's nothing really "famed" about 904L alloy. While there's technically an infinite number of alloy compositions you could arrive at, on the austenitic (non-magnetic stainless steel) scale, there are three that stand out. 316L (the "L" meaning a low carbon content of .03% or less to minimize corrosion), 317LMN (low carbon, 4% molybdenum, and ~.15% nitrogen) noted for its use in desulfurization systems and high salinity transfer system piping applications because it's even better than 316L with more pronounced anti-magnetic properties, and lastly 904L. If you looked at a side-by-side table of the composition and mechanical properties of the three, there are VERY SLIGHT differences. I've read on these forums that 904L is difficult to machine and that's why few others beside Rolex use it. That's a bunch of crap! It's millability being nearly the same as its 316 and 317 counterparts. It's just that it is the far-right stainless alloy on the austenitic scale...barely so, but enough to make uneducated watch buyers fall for it as a selling point. Personally, I don't see why cases are not made with 317LMN.
Les
 

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Yes, another boring Rolex marketing trick...

There's nothing really "famed" about 904L alloy. While there's technically an infinite number of alloy compositions you could arrive at, on the austenitic (non-magnetic stainless steel) scale, there are three that stand out. 316L (the "L" meaning a low carbon content of .03% or less to minimize corrosion), 317LMN (low carbon, 4% molybdenum, and ~.15% nitrogen) noted for its use in desulfurization systems and high salinity transfer system piping applications because it's even better than 316L with more pronounced anti-magnetic properties, and lastly 904L. If you looked at a side-by-side table of the composition and mechanical properties of the three, there are VERY SLIGHT differences. I've read on these forums that 904L is difficult to machine and that's why few others beside Rolex use it. That's a bunch of crap! It's millability being nearly the same as its 316 and 317 counterparts. It's just that it is the far-right stainless alloy on the austenitic scale...barely so, but enough to make uneducated watch buyers fall for it as a selling point. Personally, I don't see why cases are not made with 317LMN.
Les
We've had this conversation on the Sinn Forum here: https://www.watchuseek.com/showthread.php?p=2705295#poststop

Bottom line:

1) Performance-wise 316L and 904L are nearly identical with hardness going to 316L (217 HB vs 150 HB), and strength (220 MPa vs 170 MPa) and corrosion resistance (36 PRE vs 24 PRE) going to 904L.

2) Rolex says they need special equipment to stamp their watch cases. That’s a true statement, but the investment in special equipment is not because of the 904L alloy is harder or more difficult to work with; it’s the higher capital investment to stamp vs. machine the case. Stamping gives them a lower operating cost which pays off when spread over their large production volumes.

3) 904L has a very unique coloring which looks great when highly polished.

Of course when compared to Sinn, their Tegimented Submarine Steel comes out as the superior choice for a true tool watch. ;-)
 

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3) 904L has a very unique coloring which looks great when highly polished.
Agreed.

Besides the claim in the video on the Rolex site that Rolex needed to design new equipment to mill 904L, the main point of that little video is that 904L shines up better than other grades of stainless steel.

That's a lot of trouble to go to for a better shine, but I guess that's part of what makes a Rolex.

I'm no metallurgist, but I've had my share of stainless steel watches, mostly made of 316L, but none of them have the impressive look of the 904L case on my Explorer and I wear that watch like it was a beater, which of course it is.

Looks great for any occasion, though.

904L steel is a selling point, but I don't think that it's as overblown by Rolex as some people insist.
 

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904L steel has a strong resemblance to white gold. Maybe it's the nickel ... :-!
 

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If they were going for shiny then the steel to go for would be 18/8 steel, otherwise known as Staybrite (X10CrNi18-8). A few older Rolex with Dennison cases had this steel and this polishes up (and retains) an intensely high shine. Apparently a new staybrite standard Staybrite 1.4435NCu (X2CrNiMo18-14-3) was patented in 2006 and is meant to be the bee's knees.
 

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I think the shine thing is true and it is good in two regards. First, it simply does look beautiful. Second, once you've gotten to know the shine of a real Rolex, you can spot a fake at 10 ft distance in good light. No need to look for anything else. Weight, markings, etched crown - forget about it. You can tell by the shine. I bet that's the main reason why they use it even if it's about three times more expensive than the other stuff. And of course, they can boast saying that it costs 3x. Nice little Veblen side effect. If it's so expensive it must be much better.

What I find disappointing is that 316L has a 50% better hardness (if that scale is linear). I'd think that would mean that 316L scratches less easily, no? In real world use, the acidic resistance of the watch matters naught. In fact, its higher nickel content might be bad for people with allergies. But scratch resistance is a huge selling point.

But Rolex knows how basic people are. Because when a freshly polished Rollie sparkles it sparkles like nothing else, that's why they use the 904L and the crystal without AR.

AFAIK, the only watches with 904L bracelet are the old and new Sea Dweller. But don't quote me on that.

Till
 
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We've had this conversation on the Sinn Forum here: https://www.watchuseek.com/showthread.php?p=2705295#poststop

Bottom line:

1) Performance-wise 316L and 904L are nearly identical with hardness going to 316L (217 HB vs 150 HB), and strength (220 MPa vs 170 MPa) and corrosion resistance (36 PRE vs 24 PRE) going to 904L.

2) Rolex says they need special equipment to stamp their watch cases. That’s a true statement, but the investment in special equipment is not because of the 904L alloy is harder or more difficult to work with; it’s the higher capital investment to stamp vs. machine the case. Stamping gives them a lower operating cost which pays off when spread over their large production volumes.

3) 904L has a very unique coloring which looks great when highly polished.

Of course when compared to Sinn, their Tegimented Submarine Steel comes out as the superior choice for a true tool watch. ;-)


Don't know it for sure but as far as I know does Rolex mill their cases from a block and not stamped them out. Right? :think:
 

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This topic comes up quite regularly.

Rolex have used 904L in their cases for some time but have only used it on the bracelets of models with the new style clasp - the Daytona or the GMT are the first (but they have made it a major selling point of the DSSD and new Sub).

904L contains more chrome, nickel, copper and molybdenum than 316L and is significantly more corrosion resistant. You may ask what use this is as 316L watches do not appear to corrode - in actual fact sweat acids and salts (and also salts from sea-water) are trapped in the screw back seal and other parts of the watch, particularly when helped by the presents of skin grease and dead cells. Skin temperature and high humidity, caused by sweat, combined with these salts and acids create an environment that is far more corrosive than actual sea-water alone can be. Over some years the result is often crevice corrosion in the form of pitting that compromises the hidden but critical surfaces that the case back, crown and sometimes crystal seal against. 904L is also non-magnetic in all conditions and has superior toughness to 316L (although 316L is marginally harder 90 vs.95 Rockwell - the earlier poster's figures from Sinn are wrong).

As a case metal, 316L is an excellent but 904L does have some notable advantages even though the real world benefits are only noticeable over the long term and in harder use. I cannot however see any benefit in using 904L in bracelets. Many watches are now such a ridiculous price that if I am going to pay for them then they may as well use an exotic steel.
 

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Many watches are now such a ridiculous price that if I am going to pay for them then they may as well use an exotic steel.
What I said, a unique selling proposition.

As far as corrosion from sweat and chemical substances having a negative effect on 316L I only have one case example. My grandmother's ladies' DJ from the 70s. Worn daily, literally as a beater, water, soap, household cleaners, all kind of chemicals, sweat were no strangers to that watch. My mother has it now. I looked at it very carefully. There's nothing wrong with it and it was always waterproof although my grandma had it serviced only twice, IIRC, over the 30+ years she had it.

Rolex mill their cases with a CNC machine out of one block. But I could imagine that they cut or stamp each block from a larger sheet. Not sure, though.

Even if they use the expensive stuff you have to look at the prices for steel.

In May 2010 prices for 316L were around $5800 per tonne.
World Stainless Steel Prices from MEPS, Stainless Steel Price Forecasts, World Stainless Steel Market Trends

Let's be generous the Rolex stuff costs 3x, so $18,000 per tonne. I suppose that's a metric tonne, 1000kg. Average weight of a Rolex case is 100g to be easy. So that's roughly 10,000 watches out of 1000kg of steel. Material cost per watch $1.80 for the case. Be super generous and double that for the new DSSD. Even if Rolex has the special, special, special stuff it is unlikely that the steel cost for any of their watches is more than $5 per piece.

It is good to be clear about that when they start up the marketing machine.

Till
 

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Yes, another boring Rolex marketing trick...

There's nothing really "famed" about 904L alloy. While there's technically an infinite number of alloy compositions you could arrive at, on the austenitic (non-magnetic stainless steel) scale, there are three that stand out. 316L (the "L" meaning a low carbon content of .03% or less to minimize corrosion), 317LMN (low carbon, 4% molybdenum, and ~.15% nitrogen) noted for its use in desulfurization systems and high salinity transfer system piping applications because it's even better than 316L with more pronounced anti-magnetic properties, and lastly 904L. If you looked at a side-by-side table of the composition and mechanical properties of the three, there are VERY SLIGHT differences. I've read on these forums that 904L is difficult to machine and that's why few others beside Rolex use it. That's a bunch of crap! It's millability being nearly the same as its 316 and 317 counterparts. It's just that it is the far-right stainless alloy on the austenitic scale...barely so, but enough to make uneducated watch buyers fall for it as a selling point. Personally, I don't see why cases are not made with 317LMN.
Les
Hi Les,

Do you know any watches made of 317LMN stainless steel? I am curious about it. The higher nitrogen content should also increase its hardness a bit too - although I would need to check that.

Steve
 

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I don't get it,when Rolex started use the 904L steel ?? From july 2008 till today I owned/sold about 4 Rolexes,3 of them M series and one V series.The last one is my M series SD wich I still own. Now,they should all be made out of the famed 904L steel,right ??
This question comes after I've seen somewhere a Basel 2010 billboard with the new Sub and the 904L thing was really shouted out...:think:

Another boring Rolex marketing trick ???
I’ve owned three Submariners, all made from 904L. I wanted to mock it as a gimmick, but the steel has a lustre and holds a finish in a way 316 just doesn’t.

It’s very subtle indeed, but now I’ve experienced it and got used to it, it most certainly sells the alloy to me.
 

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I’ve owned three Submariners, all made from 904L. I wanted to mock it as a gimmick, but the steel has a lustre and holds a finish in a way 316 just doesn’t.

It’s very subtle indeed, but now I’ve experienced it and got used to it, it most certainly sells the alloy to me.
There is no doubt that 904L is superior to 316L on many fronts. Of course, Rolex officially uses "Oystersteel" which is based on 904L. Rolex could make other adjustments in the processing such as case hardening or other heat treatments, and of course, adjust the alloy elements. Interestingly it is the addition of copper to the alloy that improves its pitting resistance and perhaps helps with the luster. The other point is that iron is less than 50% of the alloy by weight. There is more detail in the piece I wrote below.
Steve

 
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