1] Why mark those watches with a lume dot? Surely there is an easier way? Like and additional letter/numeral on the reference number? Or a tiny stamp on the underside of a lug? I remember Jacek had one watch for sale that was so marked.
2] Why did these markings appear for only a short period, say 59 to 63, and then disappear, just as T Swiss T and "Swiss T appeared?
3] What was the tax regime at that time that will explain this as a import tax mark? This will be easily verified by asking the proper tax consultants or the Inland Revenue Department. I was a tax consultant in my previous job life, and we had comprehensive records of all legislation from the day tax was legislated. No information/archival gap here.
4] I would suggest that many other countries had different import tax regimes ( all countries have their own; in fact find me two countries that haave exactly the same regime), but why was there no special markings for the watches for those countries? For example, some Rolexes imported into the US at one time had lower jewels count in their movements, to circumvent higher taxes, but were these watches marked on their dials?
Not trying to give anyboday a hard time, but I feel these are legitimate questions arising from the new import tax hypothesis.
Well the tax regime was interesting
February 15 2012 at 5:21 AM
fatboyharris (Login fatboyharris) VRF Member from IP address 220.127.116.11
From 1960 there was a series of World trade conventions, in which the Common Market and European Free Trade had not been previous included, and as these bodies reduced import duties between member states it was seen as unfair to the rest of the world and especially the USA.
Personal Imports into the USA to avoid duties had become a major problem and revenue loss, so much so they eventually introduced an ancient european custom called the Dane law, which meant you could only bring in duty free literally what you could carry.
In the US import duties to protect domestic industry were 4 times greater than those levied by most of the world on imported watches. From 1960 onwards but intensifying from 63 onwards over 4000 commodities and their respective duties were individually agreed, in the main the Common Market took on the USA in the negotiations. In 1964 the US lost the justification for the excessive duties on imported watches but it wasn't till 1967 they reduced them, to still twice the norm in the ROW.
So what has this to do with dial markings and taxation/market
May I use a slightly different analogy to illustrate how change may be denoted but not made visible outside the trade in question. In the UK prior to the introduction of VAT in 1973 we had Purchase Tax (PT) the rates varied enormously overtime and some rates were effective for very short periods of time, in some instances only for a few months. So to denote the tax paid the record labels ie background and lettering had different colour schemes to denote tax rate paid. This enable shopkeepers who had returned unsold records to the record company eg EMI to be credited back the correct PT amount originally paid on that specific returned record
This was a very prescriptive practice, as it fixed the colour of the label background and text to the PT rate in force at the time in a very competitive 'artistic and creative' industry, all bands had to have the same background colour and lettering etc according to what PT rate was in force at that time.
The only reason for this practice was to differentiate between the PT rate paid on records returned to the EMI etc for correct rebate of PT paid. It seems very extreme, when a simple code eg A=10%, B = 15% PT could have been printed on the label, but it does at a glance make it very visible to people in the industry but leaves the general public possibly absolutely none the wiser.
It just seems so co-incidental in a period of extreme change in the use of dial paint materials, work place restrictions and trade disharmony and trade protectionism that for a very short time frame, very visible dial markings are introduced and just as quickly disappear.
I dont have the answer but do believe there is some correlation with the introduction of those dial markings and major change or market segmentation. I am also not convinced that there is a straight forward transition from radium to tritium, I believe there may have been a spell when strontium 90 may have been in use. Achim made a very astute observation over the 6542 GMT that started this recent debate off, the lumi did not look like aged radium or aged tritium.
By way of background, Switzerland had its own source of strontium 90, by mid 1950's the tradition market in medicine was drying up and a major shipment of strontium 90 was returned to Switzerland I believe in 1957, so what are the Swiss going to do with this stuff and get rid of it.....what Swiss manufacturing industry needs a luminescent material.
Strontium had three major advantages over radium: a greater variety of luminescent colors were possible with strontium than radium, the gradual decrease in luminous intensity was minimal because strontium's beta particles did less damage to the zinc sulfide crystals that radium's alpha particles, and the photon (bremsstrahlung) emissions from strontium were less of a safety concern than the gamma rays from radium.
With regards to the introduction of tritium, these documents are very telling, Kodak Eastman 1957 letter and AEC response- standards already set by 1957.
In essence, apply for licence for the paint an get it from US Radium, so back in 57, you could get tritium paint under licence.
Post Jan 1961 when AEC released trtium for use with dials just meant you nolonger needed specific licences for tritium, you just applied for an exemption from licensing for holding and distribution to the general public in the USA the exemption licence lasting 2 to 3 years subject to the maximum tritium limit T25.
So tritium may have been used prior to January 1961, difference being you had to get a specific licence. The development and patenting of Tritiated paint may set the earliest starting point from which to focus potential tritium paint usage dates. So Tritium could be sourced pre 1961 but on an individual licence basis.
However, Merz and Benteli the lumi appliers to Rolex dials and hands, with the exception of the AEC inpection 65 report in particular and the 68 AEC Rolex supporting papers there is absolutely no other reference to M&B in all the databases I've searched to-date. I would have expected them to have applied for the tritium paint licences pre 61 as they were using the stuff at some point in time, but they didn't have a US Office until after 1968 with the formation of MB Microtec, so may not have been eligible to be licenced by AEC prior to that and theres no reference to Rolex Ive found to date applying for any pre 61 licences.....hmmmmm its a bugger, so to speak.
We also know from an AEC inspection in August 1961 of the US Radium subsidiary Safety Light under licence 37-30-6 that the application of tritiated paint had not been undertaken as yet at that plant to watch dials or hands.
Just an interesting observation It appears that when zinc sulfide is used in the lumi binding material it has 2 effects as it decays
1. It discolours the lumi 2. drastically reduces the luminescence life, so much so for Strontium 90 the half life is 2.5 years.
Didn't someone once remark or observe that late 50's watches lumi had lost all its luminescence compare with slightly later watches.....so do we have strontium 90 use........till the USA bezel scare!
So should we also be looking not only at the exclamation mark, the underline, the changes in the colour of the 'Swiss' mark on the dial but also the colour, composition and luminescence of the lumi from the late 50's onwards...........and ask yourself why were some tests done on dials at that time?
Hope it helps.......................probably not, but doesnt pay to look at one thing in isolation to another, but conversely all these matters may be totally independent of each other.
When do we start to see the introdution of matt dials ..................what do they signify if anything? Interesting times..........was it about the time the US duties start to tumble and why do they switch from metres to feet first very quickly afterwards, interestingly after the US excessive import duites were halfed.
Feet is an Imperial measure on the wane but still used in USA, metric measures was the rising star, maybe growing market opportunity in the US caused the switch following import duties reduction. Another interesting thought when did Rolex introduce the Trade Mark/Patent restriction on watches coming into the USA and how would you know a USA sold watches?
Who knows for certain..
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The "lum dot " is an easy way to add to a dial and..
February 15 2012, 6:23 AM
... Identify it as a symbol without taking away from the dial appearance.
I agree that majority of the lum dots are 100% original to the dial..I own a few myself and have analized them till my eyes hurt.
But, in my opinion...as a watchmaker, I have worked on a handful of watches with lum dot dials which appeared to be added on having a slightly different lum color and being applied off center form the bottom hash mark ...but now with this "import or export tax' concept or theory it might explain as to hastily added lum dot was exercised for this purpose.
All it takes is dab of lum paint on the dial and you have a symbol. Even Rolex service centers in that respected country could have administered this task.
One other notion which I cannot prove is..maybe the underline dial was an import symbol for Europe. I have NO evidence of this..just a thought.
Here is the question I have, which was raised by Roger's post below re: the Ex Point being an indicator of export to Canada:
When Rolex exported their materials to North America for assembly and sale, did they do separate shipments to the US & Canada or was the NA market treated as a whole, with all watches destined for New York first and then shipped up to Toronto from the US?
If someone knows the answer to that, it might help narrow things down a bit.
I'm not sure Tom, but a clue might come from the boxes
February 15 2012, 8:33 AM
My experience with vintage Rolexes originally purchased here in Toronto that had complete box sets is that the boxes were of the same type and style as those I've seen in the UK and Australia. I have not analyzed bands of the same period, but would not be surprised to see a "commonwealth" trend for Canadian distributed Rolexes.
I would find it surprising if Toronto shipments were routed through the US, specifically where there is a long and documented history of Canadian market rolexes that suggest a unique and dedicated distribution relationship with Canada.
But I could be wrong, it has happened once or twice before
thank you for sharing your research and presenting your finding in a non biased format...
February 15 2012, 10:55 AM
Want to thank you for sharing your research and presenting your finding in a non biased format.
My out take with questions below. Please respond if incorrect and to questions.
1) "I believe there may have been a spell when strontium 90 may have been in use."
2) "strontium 90 : It appears that when zinc sulfide is used in the lumi binding material it has 2 effects as it decays
. 1. It discolors the lumi
. 2. Drastically reduces the luminescence life, so much so for Strontium 90 the half life is 2.5 years."
3) Rolex Tritium license prior to 1961 in US
"AEC inspection 65 report in particular and the 68 AEC Rolex supporting papers there is absolutely no other reference to M&B
in all the databases I've searched to-date."
1 and 2: If Strontium 90 with zinc sulfide was used by Rolex prior to 1961 and it reduces the half like from 30 years to 2.5 years,
this could explain "if "dot" dial is a service dial then why would so many dials be replaced so early in life".
Maybe the loss of lumi can explain why so many 58 era watches are seen with the dot dial. It would be nice to see if any service marks exist for these time frames on case backs. So maybe the early change of the dial had nothing to do with radiation or taxes, but more likely quality of materials.
3: Was the AEC monitoring luminous on watch dials prior to 1961 for US watches/rest of the world?
Was your tritium license search only including the US AEC? If so, how could a US 58 5508 for example come into the US with a tritium dial?
Now to address this document from Stefano Mazzariol's Blog:
It would be nice to know the year of publish, can it be conclude it not from before 1961-62?
Also notice the dot is not centered, which seems odd, but as another pointed out they have seen dials where the dot is not centered. So, could these dials have been factory on post 61 watches and service on prior watches do to the reduction of luminous life?
Again, thanks for a wonderful non biased discussion.
First you have to find who has Tritium in the 50's and 60's
February 15 2012, 1:36 PM
My research to date has identified so far, only the US had commercial quantities of tritium back then. Russian hadnt enough for its military programme, Canada came on line in the mid 60s ( I beleive), UK relied on US tritium until Sellafield came on line in 67. Switzerlands reactors are later and didnt produce commercial quantities of tritium, Italian reactors are much later. France got its tritium from the US and part of that supply went from France to Switzerland.
Strontium 90 see my response to Bernhard.
The US AEC controlled all nuclear fission and fusion material for the US including Tritium and Strontium 90. Radium didnt come under AEC/NRC control till 2005, prior to that it was under the control of State Health Boards.
The AEC had total control and regulation in the US of Tritium and Strontium 90 including application of its uses, its licensing and distribution.
The Tritium supplied to Switzerland was all via USA it wasn't until 1988 when the US closed it Savannah Plant and stopped selling tritium that Canada took over from 1990 in supplying Switzerland.
and on occassions it is necessary to explain these matters more fully with historical reference to key events around the world. The availability of tritium today is very different place when compared to the 50's, back in the 50 and early 60's only the US had commercial quantites of tritium.
Today, because of the shut down of the US tritium producing plant in 1988, it currently nolonger produces it, but that is about to change shortly when their new plant comes on line.
Bernhard (Login bullibeer) VRF Contributing Member 18.104.22.168
Almost getting lost... but wondering...... John...
February 15 2012, 12:00 PM
again big thanks for all your help and research in this.
Sorry if this might already be answered .. i get lost in all the post and details...
What makes me wonder about all of this is the following:
Here you see my EX-6538.... late series. 1959.. the greenish Lumious.
Which still shines real bright when hit with light. Greenish.
No re-lume!!! But the typical greenish lump we see on also early 5512 and 6542 GMT's.
And what i have seen till now... lower radiation. Mine was low... and this one 5512 (my tropical one)... has the same kind of lump. Greenish (more creme patina) but when hit with sub... shining bright and strong.
As said.. i have seen the greenish lump on many '59 dials..... but often with wayyyy lower radiation then '56/'57.. watches. I don't know the exact numbers.. but my 5512 was not higher on the geiger then a tritium or '63 one.
So we have a mixture with relative low geiger value... but still high luminous quality (short very bright and about 3-5 minutes of brighter light).
Here another greenish material..
Then we have my 5510.
Which has higher ratings on the Geiger.... but is dead in luminous quality. No shining at all.
Also about the same time then the 6538 .. a bit earlier.
What is your thought on material. And especially on the greenish material.
To understand and to be sure lab tests need to be done
February 15 2012, 12:38 PM
to analysis these dials. One property strontium had over radium was the range of colours that could be developed and used, is this why we see the green colour as its Strontium 90 being used? Secondly, its not clear whether M&B used zinc sulfide in their mix they had developed some synthetic binders, and from when was M&B used by Rolex?
IMHO it is not a case of measuring absolute radiativity but also what type of radiactivity that is being measured of the 4 types i.e. Xray, alpha, beta and gamma as I believe strontium and tritum give off beta rays and to radium is alpha and x-ray, but there is also some commonality with other factors like zinc sulphide giving off their own spectrum which changes as it decays. Also not all geigers measure all types of radiation, many commercial geigers tend to read 2 of the 4 I think beta and gamma ( but dont quote me on that). So you need to ensure the geiger measures the spectrum applicable to the lumi materials. The geigers used may well have read the entire sprectrun.
The Rolex advertising material (I've seen todate) at that time had green lumi on the dial..................................................
We need to analysis some scrap dials and only then can we be certain.
I hope this helps, I'm not a chemist just what I've read todate.
Especially as there are newspapers reports from the mid 50's that Switzerland had considerable stockpiles of strontium 90 as a resullt of the traditional use in medicine was in decline. It was a reported as a result of this decline in traditional markets that in 1957 a shipment of Sr90 was returned to Switzerland from somewhere in Europe ( I just forget which country).
I think we are starting to see a relevant timeline emerging...
February 15 2012, 2:25 PM
Late 1958-1959: Rolex forced to recall the 6542 GMT-Master by the US AEC for possibly using Strontium 90 as luminous material in the bezel.
Late 1958 into 1959: The appearance of the Exclamation Point on some non-Crown Guard models along with "radiation safe" sticker.
1961-62: The re-appearance of the Exclamation point on Crown Guards models & early 1016 Explorer which was not on the first generation dials.
Late 1962 into all of 1963 and perhaps early 1964: The Underline appears on many Rolex models across all lines, Dress & Sport & Chrono.
Mid-1964 at the latest and on: The disappearance of all these extraneous markings and the standardization of "T" markings down by the SWISS on all Rolex dials across all models, "T SWISS T" for lower luminous models and "SWISS T-25" for the Tool watches with super luminous dials.
Connected? Not connected? And why no Ex Point on the first 1675 and 5512, ca. 1959-60?
These are the so-called "Old Fonts" dials, so maybe they actually previous generation dials fitted into the first models of CG GMT & Sub as well as the 1016?
And of course, this Rolex-only timeline can be cross referenced with all of John Harris's wonderful research into what was happening in the world at large vis a vis radioactivity and the attempt to control its use in civilian applications such as, for example, watch dials.
Has this been established?
"Late 1958 into 1959: The appearance of the Exclamation Point on some non-Crown Guard models along with "radiation safe" sticker."
Maybe I missed it.. Do you have a picture of the watch to go with this picture?
One other observation I would make on the timelines
February 15 2012, 4:02 PM
Late 66 early 67 Matt dials start to appear around the time the US reduced its import duties. Could be entirely coinciental but with a slight overlap with the Bart Simoson gilt from around serial number 1.5m onwards.
Whats the source and does that apply to when they started to supply Rolex?
The company split to create mb-microtec AG in 1968. Before then, the production of luminous colors were mainly supplied to Swiss watch making industries, and even to renowned scientists such as Marie Curie. The usage of tritium rather than glow paint was put into consideration for producing military-certified watches under the subsidy traser, and various other military components under glotac.
From their own web site
'In 1918 the company founders, Walter Merz and Albert Benteli, developed luminous substances for the watch industry. With a mixture of a synthetic resin and cellulose a new adhesive to fix the phosphorus on the dials was born'.
From 65 onwards they started to develope tritium gas for watches which lead to the formation of MB Microtec in 1968
M&B are highlighted by Rolex USA in their supporting evidence to the AEC
February 16 2012, 7:49 AM
in the 1965 inspection states Merz&Benteli of Bienne ( I believe Bienne from memory) are appliers of lumi material to Rolex watch dial and hands and in 1968 report highlights M&B produced QC adherence and rejection reports. I think that qualifies as a M&B being connected with and a supplier to Rolex.
M&B own home web page details the development of Lumi paint in 1918
February 17 2012, 7:58 PM
So I'm slightly at a loss as to where you are coming from, its US public record and their current website has reference to their history in this area with luminescent material in 1918.
I'm sure if you read lots of registry many will not always relate to what they currently do or have done in the past.
I haven't alluded to them 'watchmaking' just the dial and hand painting with lumi material in the 60's.
Are we trying to create misinformation here. Why your persistent questioning of these particular element....................do you have vested interests....................you are trying to protect? Did the company not split in 1968 and MB Microtech was formed which developed tritium gas for use in watches etc with brand mark tazer...................... any current company may not reflect the company structure or histrical business undetaken back in the 60's