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Rolex and Meteorites

Gibeon Meteorite is a meteorite that was discovered in Namibia and is composed of iron and nickel. It is known for its Widmanstätten structures, which are typical striations and patterns that become evident when the material is subjected to a chemical bath. These structures are created by the extreme temperature changes that the meteorite undergoes upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Gibeon Meteorite is prized by the watch industry for its use in watch dials due to its unique and distinct appearance.

Throughout history, humans have used meteorites to make everything from tools and weapons to cultural objects and jewellery. Meteorites were even found in objects from Tutankhamun’s tomb. However, their use in watches is a more recent phenomenon. Meteorites are named after the places where they are found, and there are two that the watch industry favours: Gibeon and Muonionalusta. Gibeon, believed to have fallen to Earth in prehistoric times, was found in Namibia, while Muonionalusta, found in Sweden in 1906, is estimated to be about one million years old. These iron-nickel-based meteorites are popular for use in watch dials because they exhibit prominent Widmanstätten structures – typical striations and patterns that become evident once the material is subjected to a chemical bath. These striations are named after Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten, director of the Imperial Porcelain works in Vienna in 1808, who found that by heating iron meteorites he could influence and augment the natural colour and lustre of the repeating patterns found in the iron and nickel. The structures themselves are created by the extreme temperature changes that the meteorite undergoes upon entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Rolex was the first watchmaker to use slices of Gibeon Meteorite in its watch dials, initially featuring them in the Cosmograph Daytona and Day-Date models. Today, meteorite dials can also be found on premium versions of the Datejust, Pearlmaster, and GMT-Master II. The material used in these dials is selected according to strict aesthetic criteria, with each fragment having its own unique internal structure, making every watch with a meteorite dial truly one-of-a-kind. Working with meteorite material can be challenging due to its brittleness, and dials often break during production. To improve stability, most dials are secured via a baseplate beneath the meteorite slab and treated with an acid-wash finish to bring out their natural crystalline pattern. The material is also magnetic, so it must be rhodium-plated for use in watches. In addition to its use in the watch industry, meteorites have also been used throughout history to make various objects including tools, weapons, cultural objects, and jewellery. Some of the oldest meteorites on Earth have been dated back 4.56 billion years, with the oldest impact crater, the Vredefort crater in South Africa, estimated to be 2.02 billion years old. It is estimated that about 500 meteorites reach the surface of the Earth every year, but fewer than 10 are actually recovered due to most falling into the sea.

Technically a collection of four watches, the Louis Moinet Meteoris comes with a fittingly astronomical price tag of £3.5 million. Named after the celebrated 18th century ‘father of chronograph watches’, the collection features precious stones and meteorite pieces integrated into the dials. In a collaboration with Luc Labenne, the watches have been made using pieces from the moon, a Mars meteorite and an asteroid. The Tourbillon Mars model, for example, includes a fragment of the Jiddat al Harasis 479 meteorite that dates back 180 million years. Martian meteorites can sell for as much as $1,000 (£790) per gram – more than 15 times the price of gold – so it’s no surprise that the collection commands such a high price.

Gibeon Meteorite is now protected by Namibian law, with the country recognizing the significance of the material both scientifically and culturally. The material’s unique appearance and connection to outer space make it a highly coveted and valuable resource, not just for the watch industry but for various other industries as well. The material is magnetic, so it has to be rhodium-plated for use in watches. For its dials, Rolex works with leading experts in the field and selects only the sections of meteorite with a particularly well-formed surface rich in different shapes and reflections. At Rolex, these models are not just timekeeping instruments but emblems of time. Its use in watches serves as a reminder of the vastness of the universe and the mysteries that it holds.

More here:

The Vintage Rolex Field Manual Chevalier Digital Edition The Essential Collectors Reference By Colin A. White · 2020


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