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**NEW** The Perfect Rolex 6538 GILT Handset for various Movements [Gen-Spec]


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Since I know there are a lot of big Rolex 6538 Big Crown fans among you, I wanted to share some pictures of the 6538 GILT Hands that I've been working on for almost 3 years now. They come with Big Lollipop Seconds and are for sale in two different Lume Colors and for three different Movements. Most important information first, followed by a few paragraphs for those interested in the details :)

Perfect / Gen-Spec for Rolex 6538 / 6538A Big Crown

Will also work for a few other references and are better than anything else available for the following references: 5508, 6536, 6536/1, Gilt 5512 & 5513, 6200 (partially)

 

(high-res pics at the end of the post!)

Handset-6538gilt-detail-1-small.jpgJjto-PYm-small.jpg

 

Lume Colors: 

  • LEFT: Eggshell (Tritium-like, light beige)
  • RIGHT: Old Radium Light (light Yellow-ish)
Movements:
  • Rolex Cal. 1030 / 1035 / 1570 / 1520 etc.
  • ETA 2846 / 2836 / 2824 (and a few others)
  • Asian 2813 (aka Asian 21J)

 

Price (including shipping): (15% discount for each additional handset within the same order).

 

  • Rolex Cal. 1030: 85$
  • ETA 2846: 50$
  • Asian 2813: 30$

 

Only available while supplies last. There won't be a re-run once a certain movement size or color is sold out.

Please note: that I will probably never recoup my investment on these, because the market for these hands is quite limited and the tooling & setup cost were astronomical. I would be insulting your intelligence if I told you that the unit production costs (or marginal cost) are higher for 1030 hands vs. 2813 hands - but in order to make it fair for everyone, I'm charging more for the Rolex 1030 hands, because whoever can put down 4-5k on a Franken, can justify 85$ on a perfect set of Gilt Hands, but for those of you on a budget who are using a super cheap 2813, every $ counts. Even at 85$, the Cal. 1030 hands are cheaper than hands from Michael Young or Phong, which are nowhere near as accurate as these. 

 

How to Order: 

Please send me a Private Message with the following info:

  1. Quantity, Movement and Color
  2. Your Shipping Address (need to know the country before I can send you PayPal instructions!)

 

Vintagizing Service:
For those interested in Vintagizing service (some pics below showing the oxidation), I might consider a limited run of Vintagized Hands. These will be 100$ more expensive for each handset and I will do them in batches. This is not a 24hour service, don't message me about this if you are generally impatient. It's a very time consuming process that requires full attention throughout the entire process, involves several different toxic/dangerous chemicals, safety gear, patience and an experience that is acquired by damaging a lot of handsets in the learning process. Even with practice, there is still a big risk for me of damaging the hands that I'm vintagizing, which means I have to start from scratch with a new handset. 

If you are interested in this service, please send me a PM and let me know!

 

Details of the design process I went through to make real 6538 Hands:

Almost every Gilt 6538 you can find on the internet has hands that look different, so it was extremely difficult to get a real original sample to work off. It was hard enough to even determine which hands are truly "original" 6538 hands and which are actually hands made for other watches like the 6536, 6536/1 or 5508 and either carelessly used by Rolex or mounted by some watchmaker later on. After 100s of hours of research over the years, I was confident that I found the real original 6538 hands on a handful of different watches, which provided me with sufficiently good resolutions and angles to reverse-engineer the hands dimensions with the help of a few mathematical approximations down to the 100th of a millimeter. Very complex process, because no photo was shot 100% perpendicular to the dial surface and there is always some perspective distortion and at 0.01mm even a small change in perspective will affect measurements. I have numerous reasons for my confidence and if you have the time to bear with me for a bit, you will know how much thought and effort I put into designing these hands

 

1) every part of the watches I used appeared to be original and untouched:
- the red triangle bezel inserts on the watches I used as samples were in incredibly pristine condition, while showing all of the characteristics of genuine inserts from that era (if the hands had been replaced, surely the bezel insert would have been too; additionally, nobody would “waste” these pristine red triangle bezel insert on a watch that was cobbled together)
- the chamfers/bevels on the case appeared to be the unpolished original chamfers 
- the bracelets had the same clasp code as the caseback (e.g. 1956)


2) The Dials are early "radium" dials - early dials had the lume plot @6 made of radium (and the other lume plots tritium):
- Radium glows brighter than tritium; so having one bright(er) lume plot (and knowing that it was @6 o'clock) allowed them to tell the time quickly because they didn't have to guesstimate where top and bottom of the dial was located while diving in the dark. Due to the level of radiation emitted by radium/zinc-sulfide luminous material, many of these dials were changed over the years. Changed dial also likely involves a change of radium hands. So finding a 6538 with radium dial is also a good indication that the hands are also still the same as they were when the watch was originally assembled. 


3) The Minute Hand on all my examples perfectly hit the chapter ring:
- If you research 6538 pictures on the Web, you will see that the length of the minute hand is all over the place, depending on which example you look at. From a designers perspective, it would make sense that Rolex would pick the length of the minute hand so that the tip of the hand either hits the chapter ring itself, or at least hits the end of the tick-mark of the chapter ring. Many other early big-crowns (e.g. 6200) have hands that hit the chapter ring, I concluded that it should be the same for the 6538.


4) Big Lollipop Seconds Hand:
- Early 6538s came with both Gilt and White Big Lollipop Seconds hand. They taper off towards the and the tip hits the outside of the chapter ring. Plain Gilt Second Hands come without the curvature at the edges of the added white enamel coat, so there is more contrast/definition between the hand and the background. This made it easier to get more data for my calculations.

So in combination, all these signs of evidence are making me extremely confident that this is how unaltered, original 6538 Gilt hands should look like and that my measurements are pretty much identical to Genuine & Actual 6538 Hands.


So what makes 6538 hands unique compared to other handsets? 
Minute Hand:

- The Sidewalls of the Minute Hand are very thin (significantly thinner) than on other gilt hands, resulting in a wider lume area. Most other aftermarket Handsets use the same sidewall width on the hour and minute hand - which is wrong.
- Tip of the Minute Hand should hit the chapter ring.
Hour Hand:
- The Mercedes Star has very thin lines, thinner than the mercedes star of later 5512/5513 hands
- The sidewalls of the small "inner" triangle on top of the mercedes star should be thinner than the sidewalls at the base of the hour hand (most aftermarket hands use the same width for the inside of the Mercedes star and all side-walls - e.g. Michael Young)
- The sidewalls of the small triangle should also taper off as they run towards the round mercedes star and not be the same width. The result of tapered triangle side-walls is that the small "inside" triangle looks more like an Equilateral triangle, while the outside triangle is much taller and looks more like an Isosceles triangle
Seconds Hand:
- The diameter of all 3 circles or "balls" on the seconds hand are proportional to each other. Each circle is almost exactly 3/4 in diameter than the next bigger circle, i.e. the medium circle around the tube is 3/4 of the diameter of the Big Lollipop Circle at the tip of the hand, while the small circle at the end of the Seconds hand is 3/4 of the medium circle (or 1/2 of the Big Lollipop). 
- The tip of the Seconds hands tapers off above the big Lollipop circle. 

 

A big issue with watch hands is that you have to work with such tight tolerances, that there will always be a difference between the CAD drawing and the mass-produced product. So the CAD design has to compensate for the "deviations" of the machine that's being used to cut the hands. Molding Costs for watch hands are very expensive (up to 1200$ for each one of the 3 hands!) and each time you make a change, you have to buy a new mold... so experimenting is definitely not cheap ;) Because the hands are so small, 0.01mm difference can alter the look significantly under a loupe (or at full screen in AutoCAD), depending on where width is being added or subtracted on the hand. 

 

The only small detail that I’m still a bit bummed over is that no watch hands manufacturer whatsoever was able or willing to produce the minute hand with the slight chamfer around the base (where the hole is). The chamfer is also present on non-rolex hands from the same era - I have many vintage handsets with chamfer in my collection, from various different swiss hands manufacturers (most of them don’t exist anymore). 

Let me know what you think! 

 

Pictures below show the handset with the two different Lume Color Options under two different light sources. Stock hands on the left, compared to oxidized hands:

 

Handset-6538gilt-Stock-vs-Vintage-1.jpg

Handset-6538gilt-Stock-vs-Vintage-2.jpg

Handset-6538gilt-detail-1.jpg

6538-color-coded.jpg

 


...and finally a few pics of my custom 6538 hands, which I Vintagized by hand:

JjtoPYm.jpg
IxfwHZ1.jpg
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RoV1SOP.jpg
9vOn0xb.jpg
phQD7LL.jpg

2l3P0kr.jpg

 

 

 

Before you call out the base:
I realize that the base around the hole on the hour hand is slightly larger in diameter as on Gen hands; the reason is that the base must be large enough for ETA-Sized holes (which are bigger than Cal. 1030 holes). This slightly bigger base diameter is not visible when assembled! The Lume Plot of the Hour hand is still the correct length! Old Gen Hour Hand superimposed over mine illustrates this: 

 

 

Handset-6538-ETA-Base-detail.png

 

@dbane883 @Kime @Bart Cordell @Nanuq @rolojack

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Well done, Slay.  I know this took a LOT of time and expense, and we're honored to support your sales of these beauties.

 

My favorite part?  Look at the hours hands.  He even recreated the microscopic bevel around all the cutouts.    :notworthy:

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Dang, I wonder if I could get away with these on a 1680 Red Sub?    :Jumpy:

 

.....except for the seconds that is.

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2 hours ago, Nanuq said:

Dang, I wonder if I could get away with these on a 1680 Red Sub?    :Jumpy:

 

.....except for the seconds that is.


why not just use service hands? I get it on early 5512/3.. but 1680?! ☺️

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@slay

 

As cool as the white seconds hand is, I kind of prefer gold :)

 

I see that it's gold on the underside.. do you think removing the white with some paint thinner would reveal a gold matching the other hands? 

 

I've found seconds hands hard to polish because of the little rivet holding the post so I'd rather not try unless you know what's underneath.

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On 10/3/2020 at 8:19 AM, jimcon11 said:

@slay

 

As cool as the white seconds hand is, I kind of prefer gold :)

 

I see that it's gold on the underside.. do you think removing the white with some paint thinner would reveal a gold matching the other hands? 

 

I've found seconds hands hard to polish because of the little rivet holding the post so I'd rather not try unless you know what's underneath.

I’m planning to do the same for my project.  I ordered two handsets from Slay. I plan to remove the white paint on one of the seconds hand. Thinner except for the lollipop, I’ll likely do some light sanding to try to retain the lume. 

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On 10/4/2020 at 12:03 AM, mir36 said:

I’m planning to do the same for my project.  I ordered two handsets from Slay. I plan to remove the white paint on one of the seconds hand. Thinner except for the lollipop, I’ll likely do some light sanding to try to retain the lume. 

Please report your findings :thumbs:

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On 9/13/2020 at 9:18 PM, Bart Cordell said:

New hands, new dial…

Theses hands are perfect, thanks again for your great work @slay 

IMG_8246.png

 

 

 

Damn, very very nice. Where did you find that dial?

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