Most people will tell you that the way to tell if a Rolex is fake is by looking at the second hand, if it tracks smoothly then it is real if it ticks, one second at a time, then it is a quartz watch and Rolex don’t make them.
This is only half true. Rolex made several quartz models between 1978 and 2000 the most common being the Oysterquartz, which came in various models and some small cocktail watches.
However there is one other non quartz Rolex that has a ticking second hand, or dead second, the Tru Beat. Launched in 1954 alongside the Milgauss the Tru Beat was made in very small numbers and phased out in 1961.
One thing to remember is that the Tru Beat is a true mechanical watch. It has a normal Rolex 1030 calibre, as used in a normal Oyster watch of the time, with an added escapement that adds the jumping to the second hand. Because of this escapement the back of a tru beat is slightly deeper than a regular watch, something it shares with the Milgauss of the era.
The idea behind creating a dead second watch was to appeal to people who have to count off time. It is easier to count a dead second hand than a sweeping one. Mostly the watch was aimed at medical professionals. It was priced in the same bracket as Rolex’s other professional watches of the time. It is worth remembering that before a restructuring in the 1980s Rolex offered watches that were mid priced, and the Tru Beat was one of these.
A dead second escapement wasn’t new. Rolex themselves and many others used them for pocket watches and in 1950 Timex launched a small fob watch with a dead second. This is the classic Nurses watch. However there were few wrist watches that featured the dead second. Most of those that were available were large pilots watches. In effect a pocket watch movement in a large case that a pilot would wear over his Jacket at altitude in a un-pressurised cockpit.
But while nurses had a fob watch pinned to their tunic most doctors used pocket watches, it is noticeable in films of the era that doctors all wear a waist coat and watch. It was the younger generation who Rolex were targeting with the Tru Beat, those who wore two piece suits and didn’t want to be seen with something as old fashioned as a pocket watch.
It was a flop. The Tru Beat never found a market and very few were sold. Timex and Tissot both offered cheaper alternatives, while many doctors who did embrace the Rolex brand opted for the more expensive, sweeping hour, Datejust that had also launced in 1954.The Datejust’s date jumps forward on the stroke of midnight and was popular with people working long shifts, something many in the medical profession do. The Datejust was also the first Rolex to feature the 2½x Magnifier for the date.
The Tru Beat is now one of the rarest of all Rolex models, however it isn’t that valuable unlike other rare models this one hasn’t even caught on with Rolex collectors. The only place where the Tru Beat sold well was France. Although many were also were sold in the USA. Most of these would have been sold through Tiffany and feature the words Tiffany&Co under the model name on the dial. These examples tend to cost more as they appeal to Tiffany collectors.
While the Tru Beat’s sister watch the Milgauss sold only slightly better it stayed in production till 1981 before being revived in 2007 with a new case. The Tru Beat fetches around half the price of a similar vintage Milgauss and it is highly unlikely that Rolex will revive it. If however you are looking for a unique watch the Tru Beat is well worth looking for. The added bonus is that due to its dead second muggers will assume it’s a fake and not bother you.