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What is the Rolex Zephyr?
What is the Rolex Zephyr?

If you’ve been browsing vintage Rolex watches and have come across the term Rolex Zephyr and aren’t sure what that is, read on to find out more.

Brief History of the Rolex Zephyr

The Rolex Zephyr is a particular style of vintage Oyster Perpetual watch that sports a distinct dial design and bezel style. The Zephyr dial features a cross-hair motif that divides the dial into four different sections. Since the Oyster Perpetual is a time-only Rolex model, void of any date windows, the dial is beautifully symmetrical and appealing simple. Another characteristic of the Zephyr dial are the small tritium lume plots that act as hour markers, accompanied by the “T SWISS T” label just above 6 o’clock. Other typical markings on a Rolex Zephyr dial include the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” designation, in addition to the “Oyster Perpetual” label underneath the Rolex name and gold crown logo.

Aside from the instantly recognizable dial, another important detail of a Rolex Zephyr is an engined-turned fluted bezel accented with facets.

Vintage Rolex Zephyr 6582 ad
Vintage Rolex Zephyr 6582 ad (Image: Jake’s Rolex World)

Rolex began producing the Oyster Perpetual Zephyr in the mid-1950s, beginning with the ref. 6582, powered by the Caliber 1030 self-winding movement. Typical of the era, the dial included dauphine-style center hands.

This was followed up with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Zephyr ref. 1008 in the late 1950s. This version was powered by the upgraded Caliber 1560 automatic movement and includes a smaller winding crown.

Finally, in the late 1960s/early 1970s, Rolex introduced the Oyster Perpetual Zephyr ref. 1038, which we will discuss in detail below. Rolex eventually discontinued producing the Zephyr in the 1980s.

It’s also worth noting that Rolex did also produce an Oyster Perpetual Date 1512 with a Zephyr style dial around the same time.

Two-Tone Rolex Zephyr 1038

Rolex Zephyr Oyster Perpetual 1038
Rolex Zephyr Oyster Perpetual 1038

Here we have an example of a vintage two-tone Rolex Oyster Perpetual Zephyr ref. 1038, sporting a 34 mm Oyster case and 14k yellow gold fluted bezel. If you look closely at the fixed bezel, you’ll notice has small square details at each minute interval and a larger rectangular accent at each hour interval. Matching the gold bezel is a 14k winding crown.

Moving onto the dial, the Rolex ref. 1038 Zephyr dial brought about the inclusion of the baton-style hour hands, replacing the daintier dauphine-style ones on preceding models. Around the periphery of the silver dial is a minute track, punctuated by the round tritium hour markers. Accordingly, there’s the also the “T SWISS T” text (where T stands for tritium) at 6 o’clock. As a Zephyr dial, there are the signature cross-hair lines sectioning the face of the watch into four parts.

Two-Tone Vintage Oyster Perpetual Zephyr 1038
Two-Tone Vintage Oyster Perpetual Zephyr 1038

Matching the two-tone case of the Rolex Zephyr ref. 1038 is a two-tone gold and steel Oyster bracelet. However, due to the age of the watch, there are visible lug holes on the Oyster case, making it simple to switch out the metal bracelet for a leather band for a different way to the Rolex Zephyr.

Beneath the caseback of the Zephyr ref. 1038 sits the Rolex Caliber 1570, which as the dial confirms is a “Superlative Chronometer Official Certified” perpetual movement.

The Rolex Zephyr Dial
The Rolex Zephyr Dial

Although the Rolex Zephyr was not a massive hit during its era, there is plenty of interest in this particular vintage model in watch collecting circles thanks to its unusual design and relative rarity. A straightforward three-hander Rolex watch that offers plenty of design intrigue, the Oyster Perpetual Zephyr is an excellent vintage Rolex watch to add to any collection.



Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.