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904L on rolex reps in the future ?

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I wouldn't get too excited. Rolex used to use 316 like everyone else including the reps. Rolex has it's own foundry works and makes it's own 904L to it's own formula, which is chemically a little different from commercially available 904L. If Noob does start using 904L it is likely doing so for marketing reasons rather than any real World improvement on the replication. To the human eye there is precious little difference between any of the three metals and I would rather see effort going into other aspects of the replication.

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Hmmm this whole 904L debate is getting old... Rolex most likely does not have its own foundry and likely buys in ingots.  904L is an ISO standard so the composition will be the same as any other 904L it is not their own formula, its a austenic low carbon stainless with higher levels of copper and molybdenum than other stainless alloys and the percentages are the same or they would not be able to call it a 904L . The major difference of 904L vs. 316 is its resistance to corrosion. This property will never be fully taken advantage of in use on a watch, it is intended for highly acidic environments.  Even in constant diving conditions with acidic skin you will not see pitting in your rep Rolie for quite a while (I mean years)  the major reason Rolex swapped to 904L in the 80's is because of 904's polish ability and its exclusiveness. I doubt it was any more than that. I can tell you if brushed correctly the 904L and the 316L will look the same and the only reason you will even guess as to what is the 904L is because someone is telling you one is and naturally you will look for the shiny one lol  But in all honesty you will never see this used in reps, 904L is very hard to work with and hard to machine correctly in small components like a watch.

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I've read many times that Rolex has it's own foundry, including here

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/inside-rolex

but thinking it over, your view that they buy in ingots makes sense and I suppose they could still reasonably claim to have a foundry for PR purposes. You explained the techical differences much better than I could have,  As you said the major down side of 904L that it isn't as easy to machine. Also I think that it is less scratch resistant? I believe Rolex and others use a combination of surface heat treatment and coating. So the only real result of using 904L for reps is that the price will increase, perhaps quite a lot.

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Yea the composition of 904L will not change and there are less than 30 foundry's world wide producing the alloy as its hard to work with, expensive to machine and with many other less costly materials out there that can do the same job better then why use it ? .  I don't know if you ever see the older Rolexes and the pitting under the caseback around the oring etc.. that pitting is from the acidic reactions that can take place in 316L from salt water and your skin over time. My background in Mechanical engineering has taken me into the metallurgy field quite deeply and I have even been involved as a professional consultant in court for issues of corrosion on sea vessels that let to death or serious harm to individuals, so its somewhat of a passion of my previous career and still very much an interest. 

Rolex doesn't use surface hardening as they don't need to with 904, its pretty resilient to minor scratches much more so than 316 due to the higher nickel and chromium content, this also allows it to shine nicer in different angles of light. to be honest the pros of it do not offset the added cost.  it seems to be a marketing thing with rolex now and well for a professional diver who is constantly saturated at depth then in 20-25 years it will be of benefit because he wont have the minor pitting on the caseback and caseback threads, but other than that its just pure marketing and prestige.

and yes if reps used it then they would have to buy all new tooling to cut and machine as its hard to work with and even rolex uses a 250 ton press to get the basic shape of the watch case even before finishing as just machining will be too costly and time consuming.

As for heat treating or surface treating the only manufactures I see doing this is well the obvious ones using true PVD and well Sinn and its tigimentation process that I still feel is a little bit of marketing smoke screen :p 

 

Cheers !

C.

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Every day is a school day, I am constantly amazed by the depth of knowledge and skills here. My background is Robotics, I have had some education in basic metal working skills, a basic competence in welding, machining, properties of metal and so on, more so I am informed when dealing with outside contractors than for the practical application of the skills. I use 316 constantly as a lot of our machinery is for food or pharmaceutical use. Never to my knowledge have we used 904L.

I was aware of the cause of the pitting on old Rolex and other diver watches. You will know for sure, but I doubt many professional divers, actually dive regularly in a 10-20,000 Dollar watch when modern dive computers are cheaper, more robust, more reliable and I think mandatory for some work. Rolex long left the tool watch market, the whole thing is a legacy now, divers watches, pilot watches, motorsports chronometers. All have a fascinating history, but are no longer the tool of choice for their original job.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, we may not think much of using 904L in reps, but the OP's original question has opened an interesting thread.

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"Hmmm this whole 904L debate is getting old..."

+1

"Rolex has it's own foundry works and makes it's own 904L to it's own formula..."

The Hodinkee article says :  "Rolex owns its own foundry, where it creates its very own formulas for three different kinds of gold, and a proprietary steel compound – 904L."  Key words = 'where it creates its own formulas'

"Rolex most likely does not have its own foundry and likely buys in ingots." 

Some of their ads used to brag about them getting the steel from Sweden.  I can not see a dainty, sissified, snobby, PC little watch company with a big, ugly, dirty, noisy steel foundry out back.  Melting and mixing gold is one thing...steel is another.  After all, their entire yearly production uses less steel than a truck load of lawnmowers.   :pimp:

'Famous 904L' is everywhere, I bought some scrap seamless 904L steam pipe to make bezels out of for a few bucks a couple years ago.

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There is no meaningful or tangible benefit of using 904L grade steel on reps, or even most gens. 316L/F steel is enough to last a lifetime if properly cared for. Dive watches can be made out of higher grade steel to better resist corrosion, but most watches do not need anything more than 316 grade steel. It is a marketing hype and yes I agree with one of the above opinions, that this move by the rep makers is mostly to enable them to milk more money out of buyers, period.


I tread softly along the fine line separating raving insanity and lucid moments of ingenuity. The issue is I've no idea which is which mostly.

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Wow, been gone for awhile but see that 904L reps are here! I'm excited to try one and compare with my gens. I can tell you for a fact that 904L and 316L are different with the naked eye. I have both gens and reps and one of the easiest things to catch on reps. 904L is silkier and has grey tones like a aluminum Mac where 316L is more silver and shinier.

 

Cheers

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Can‘t believe this. I’m sure if you treat the surface in a similar way you won’t be able to differ the two metals. Reps are not brushed with the same tools and grits as gens. That’s the point making the difference for your eyes.


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On 12/9/2017 at 12:27 PM, citidon said:

Wow, been gone for awhile but see that 904L reps are here! I'm excited to try one and compare with my gens. I can tell you for a fact that 904L and 316L are different with the naked eye. I have both gens and reps and one of the easiest things to catch on reps. 904L is silkier and has grey tones like a aluminum Mac where 316L is more silver and shinier.

 

Cheers

 

While what you say is correct with a rolex watch that is made of 904L it isnt the metal that is making it look different, it is the working of the metal and polishing that makes it look that way.  904 and 316 look the same if worked the same.  If they take the time to brush and polish and work on finishing that would make a huge difference.

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Simply no, this will never happened.
So, I'm completely wrong. Never thought this happen.

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