Rolex Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird

SKU AS02450
SKU AS02450

Why We Love it

While there are many vintage watches that have bonafide aviation pedigrees, very few are associated with an elite flying unit like the Thunderbirds.

Except this watch: the Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph.

Launched the year before the Submariner, the Turn-O-Graph was, in many ways, the manufacture’s first tool watch. Rolex intended for it to be a substitute for a chronograph, which—as a wristwatch with a complication—was generally more expensive than a time-only watch. In lieu of a chronograph, Rolex intended for the bezel (which Rolex called the "time-recording rim") to be used to record elapsed time; by aligning the arrow of the turning bezel with the minute hand, the wearer could quickly keep a count of the passing minutes.

Understandably, Rolex marketed the Turn-O-Graph to business travelers and pilots. At the time the Turn-O-Graph was released, the GMT Master—that epitome of a pilot’s watch—was still a few years from existence. Therefore, in lieu of a dedicated pilot’s watch, many pilots turned to the Turn-O-Graph as a solid alternative.

In fact, the next reference of Turn-O-Graph would be worn by the Thunderbirds themselves.

In 1956, Rolex released a new reference of Turn-O-Graph: Reference 6609. This model would differ drastically from its predecessors. Unlike the previous models, which but for the bezel would be virtually indistinguishable from the Submariner, the Reference 6609 was built around the 36mm Oyster case used in the Rolex Datejust.

Rolex would offer this new reference of Turn-O-Graph to the Thunderbirds, a squadron of the U.S. Air Force known for acrobatic demonstrations and experimental flying techniques. Formed following the Second World War, the Thunderbirds were unquestionably one of the most elite units in the Air Force. Its pilots were the best of the best, and their planes—the F100 Super Sabre, the first fighter used by the United States that was capable of supersonic speed—were the creme de la creme.

For the pilots of such an elite unit, they needed an elite watch. Accordingly, they were equipped with solid 18K gold versions of the Reference 6609. Rolex touted that fact in an ad campaign, showing the new Rolex 'Thunderbird'—complete with the Thunderbirds’ logo—on a blue background while F100s soared above.

So iconic was this association that Rolex used the name Thunderbird to designate all subsequent Turn-O-Graphs sold on the American market; such is the case with the Reference that followed it, the 1625.

Introduced in 1959, the Reference 1625 was the first Turn-O-Graph offered in two variants. Like the Reference 6609, the Reference 1625 was offered with a steel case and a white gold bezel. But it was also offered with a steel case and a yellow gold bezel, like the one featured here.

While two-tone watches can be somewhat polarizing, there’s something about the Reference 1625 that speaks to the elegance that’s inherent in this watch. Not bulky like the Submariner, the 1625—like all two-tone Datejusts—has a more rarified air than a mere tool watch. On a two-tone Jubilee bracelet like the 1625 offered here, it makes a great addition to any get up, even an olive-drab flight suit. 

A:S Guarantee


Our Pledge

Analog:Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.


Since our pieces are vintage or pre-owned, please expect wear & patina from usage and age. Please read each item description and examine all product images.


We back each Analog:Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.

International Buyers

Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

Shipping & Returns


All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states.

Most of our products are on hand and will ship directly from our headquarters in New York City. In some cases, watches will be shipped directly from one of our authorized partners.

We generally ship our products via FedEx, fully insured, within 5 business days of purchase. An adult signature is required for receipt of all packages for insurance purposes. Expedited shipping is available at an additional cost. We are also happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.

Returns must be sent overnight or by priority international delivery, fully insured and paid for by the customer. A restocking fee may apply. Watches must be returned in the same condition as initially shipped.

We welcome international buyers, please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

Rolex Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird

Rolex Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird

Rolex Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird


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