THE ROLEX STORY
Rolex proves that time is money. What is the Rolex story? You have to go back to 1905 to discover the origins of an iconic name that dominates the Forbes list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands. This is a story of limitless ingenuity and relentless precision. Of course, most of us simply know them as the most prestigious watch brand in the world. They are also linked with popular culture that it is the first watch brand that springs to mind for most people.
What makes a world-class brand like Rolex tick? Lido Watch Club is taking a look at the history and collections of Rolex to celebrate what many consider to be the most important timepiece brand of all time. The story of how the obsession with excellence is behind some of the best racing watches, military watches, dive watches and everyday watches in existence today began more than a century ago.
Rolex, a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer, based in Geneva, Switzerland, was originally founded as Wilsdorf and Davis by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905. Obviously, the brand grew to become the leading producer of luxury timepieces on the globe in the century that followed. Demand for their watches is as high as it’s ever been. In fact, Rolex produces nearly a million watches annually. It’s easy to spot one. A Rolex design showcases precision, beauty and quality in ways that competitors and imitators are incapable of touching. The mood simply changes when a person walks into a room wearing a Rolex. There is no stronger symbol for success and achievement than wearing one.
They dominate when it comes to both professional and sport watches. In fact, used Rolex collectors are seeing nearly unprecedented appreciation and demand levels. Lido Watch Club is proud to be a part of the enduring Rolex tradition by serving as a leading marketplace for these beautifully crafted timepieces.
The Rolex Legacy
Hans Wilsdorf was just 24 when he started the Rolex company in London. Wilsdorf’s initial focus was on the distribution of timepieces. However, he quickly became dissatisfied over the fact that the timepieces he encountered on the market were not very precise. Wilsdorf began to envision attractive watches that could be worn on the wrist that also happened to be highly precise. You could say that the Rolex company began with the pursuit of perfection.
Hans Wilsdorf’s vision for Rolex immediately focused on quality of movement. This vision began a pursuit for unprecedented chronometric precision. Success came quickly. The Rolex watch had become the first wristwatch to ever receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision by 1910. It was just four years later when the Kew Observatory in Great Britain awarded a Rolex watch a “Class A” precision certificate. This is significant because this very exclusive distinction had been reserved for marine chronometers up until this point. While the bar was set high based on these early successes, Rolex surpassed it at every turn in the decades to come.
How Did London-based Rolex Become a Swiss Watch Company?
Rolex moved to Geneva in 1920. The Rolex timeline becomes filled with record-breaking, industry-defying achievements from that point on.
Here’s a rundown of other industry-defying top achievements:
- Rolex created the first waterproof and dustproof watch called the Oyster in 1926.
- Mercedes Gleitze crossed the English Channel wearing the Rolex Oyster in 1927. The watch was in perfect working order by the end of the journey.
- Rolex invented and patented the first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor in 1931. This invention remains at the core of every automatic watch to this day.
- Rolex Oysters were worn by members of the crew of the first expedition to ever fly over Everest in 1933.
- Rolex began testing the technical performance of the Oyster in the realms of sport, racing, aviation and expedition in 1935.
- Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the record for speed while wearing a Rolex watch at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
- Rolex introduced the first self‑winding wrist chronometer to indicate the date on a window in 1945.
- Rolex began focusing on the development of watches that could be used for diving, aviation, mountain climbing and scientific discovery in 1953.
- Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest with Oyster watches in 1953.
- The Oyster Perpetual Explorer was launched in 1953 to celebrate the Everest expedition.
- The Submariner was launched as the first waterproof diver’s watch in 1953.
- The GMT-Master was launched to meet the needs of airline pilots in 1955.
- The Oyster Perpetual Day-Date was launched as the first wristwatch to display the date and day of the week in a full-window text.
- The Milgauss was introduced as a watch that could withstand magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss in 1956.
- The claim was confirmed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
- The Lady-Datejust was introduced as the first version of the Rolex dated chronometer for women.
- The Cosmograph was launched as a next-generation chronograph in 1963.
- The Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller was launched in 1967 to meet the needs of professional deep-sea divers.
- The Oyster Perpetual Explorer II was launched in 1971.
- The Sea-Dweller 4000 was launched in 1978 to offer waterproof performance to a depth of 4,000 feet.
- Rolex became the first watchmaking brand to use steel from the 904L family in 1985.
- The Pearlmaster for women was launched in 1992.
- The sailing-inspired Perpetual Yacht-Master was introduced in 1992.
- The 4130 chronograph calibre movement was created and assembled exclusively for Rolex in 2000.
- The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative was formally founded in 2002.
- Rolex developed and patented the Cerachrom bezel for specific models in 2002.
- Rolex created the blue Parachrom hairspring to be up to 10 times more resistant to shocks in 2005.
- The Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II became the first watch built using a programmable countdown with a mechanical memory in 2007.
- The Rolex Deepsea was released to serve underwater exploration in 2008.
- The Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller was released in 2012 with special features designed for world travelers.
- James Cameron and National Geographic sent a vessel into the Mariana Trench with a Rolex as the only passenger in 2012.
- The pressure-resistant Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Challenge was released in 2012.
- Rolex entered into an agreement with Formula 1 Racing to become the institution’s official timekeeper and timepiece in 2013.
These accomplishments have helped Rolex to achieve the level of prestige that it enjoys today. However, achievements are only part of the story. It’s necessary to look closely at the dynamic models that have been worn on the wrists of some of the most influential people of the last century.
The Most Iconic Rolex Models of All Time
Rolex watches weave into world history like no other timepieces! Their collection has featured many special releases that many vintage collectors love to admire and chase down. Here’s a look at the watches that changed the world:
- The Submariner is a diving watch that can reach a depth of 300 meters. It has been famously worn by the character of James Bond in various movies.
- The Sea-Dweller is a watch for professional divers that is credited with offering a higher degree of water resistance than any other watch on the market. This is the famous James Cameron watch.
- The President Day-Date is the first watch to display date and day fully. The first recipient of this model was President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- The Oyster Perpetual Date GMT-Master was designed as part of a collaboration with PanAm Airways. This is a true pilot’s watch that displays two time zones simultaneously.
- The Cellini is a dress watch named for a famous papal sculptor from the Italian Renaissance named Benvenuto Cellini.
- The Air King is credited with being more of an “everyman” watch due to its affordability. The Air King is considered to be the most affordable Rolex watch. Those who wear the Air King today are wearing the same model that was used by the British Royal Air Force during the 1930s. In addition, this watch was worn by Senator John McCain.
- The Daytona is a sport watch that is beloved by racing drivers. This is the watch that Paul Newman wore every day of his life after receiving it as a gift from his wife in 1972.
- The Oyster Perpetual Milgauss is an anti-magnetic watch that can be used by professionals working in environments where electromagnetic fields could disrupt a watch’s function. It is popularly used by workers and researchers at research labs and power plants around the world.
- The Yacht-Master is a Rolex women’s sport watch that offers the same precision as other Rolex models using smaller dimensions.
- The Sky-Dweller is a Rolex watch from 2012 that offers dual time zones and an annual calendar.
Those are some of the show-stopping models that get a lot of attention. However, they don’t represent the full catalog. Here’s a look at some other notable models:
- The Explorer.
- The Space Dweller.
- The Bubbleback.
- The Tudor.
These handsome watch models are considered to be among the best in history. This places them in very high demand among new and used Rolex fans. Of course, knowing the story behind the materials and methods used in designs only amplifies the desire to own one of these treasures
Some Notes on the Rolex Style
Rolex typically uses stainless steel as its main material. However, luxurious styles are often fashioned using luxury metals like white gold, rose gold and yellow gold. That means that those looking for used designs have a variety to choose from. Rolex bezels and dials can be found in a variety of colors. Collectors will note that black, blue, green, white and silver are the most common colors seen. The size of these watches can vary depending on the style you choose. The size of a men’s Rolex can range from 34 millimeters to 45 millimeters. Weight will depend on the type of materials used in the design of a particular model. Luxury models are often given weight by the use of elements like diamond and gold.
While they are known for being a streamlined brand stylistically, we do see some embellishments pop up in certain models. Rolex is famed for its use of crystals in its watch designs. Most watch crystals used in vintage Rolex designs are actually acrylic. Some rare models feature crystals that are made from elements like mineral glass or sapphire.
Rolex straps and bracelets are easily identifiable and set apart from the designs of competitors and imitators. Rolex actually only utilizes a total of five strap and bracelet designs within its entire collection. Here is the list:
The Oyster bracelet is by far the most popular bracelet design. The Oyster’s three-piece links help to prevent stretching to create unmatched durability. Jubilee bracelets have been designed to resemble fine jewelry. Rolex actually offers several different colors to choose from when opting for a leather strap. While many people associate Rolex with its stately bracelets, the first Rolex wristwatches produced by Hans Wilsdorf at the dawn of the brand actually used leather straps.
Rolex’s incredible bracelets and straps cannot be discussed without mention of the brand’s iconic clasps. Rolex understands that the clasp is a vital element in a watch’s design. In fact, the clasp actually experiences the most pressure and wear among all parts of a watch. Rolex uses just three different clasps for its entire collection. Here they are:
- Regular clasp.
- Crownclasp/concealed clasp.
- Oyster-lock clasp.
Rolex has simply chosen to perfect its limited clasp selection instead of branching out in a way that could compromise quality. Rolex wearers know that their highly valuable timepieces will stay securely on their wrists due to the stellar reputation of the Rolex clasp. In addition, the lack of variety makes it much easier for both seasoned watch appreciators and novices to recognize authentic Rolex watches out in the wild.
The Durability of Rolex
Rolex marries luxury and technology like no other brand. Many owners are highly satisfied by the fact that they do not have to handle their valuable timepieces delicately or wear them sparingly. Rolex watches are designed to be durable and rugged even when they look like pure money.
The water resistance that’s offered is really what attracts so many to the brand. They offer unmatched resistance to water pressure. In fact, every single model offered is waterproof up to a certain amount of water pressure. What’s more, Rolex is continually improving its technology to increase pressure resistance for divers. While most people who wear one may never dive to great depths, all can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing a valuable timepiece won’t be destroyed by exposure to water. The premium sport watches in the Rolex family can reach extreme depths. However, most of the mainstream models can only maintain water resistance up to a maximum depth of 300 meters.
The tennis world embraces Rolex. This is proven by the fact that Rolex is the official timekeeper of Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the U.S. Open and the French Open. In the world of golf, they are the official timekeeper for the Open Championship, the U.S. Open and the Senior Open Championship. They are the official sponsor of the Women’s World Golf Rankings. Rolex also holds the distinction of being the title sponsor of the 24 Hours of Daytona. The brand also serves as the official timekeeper for both the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Rolex enjoys iconic partnerships beyond the world of sports. The brand is currently partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Additionally, an run a philanthropic arm that works to make positive movements in the worlds of art, science and the environment.
The Celebrities, Sports Stars, and People of Influence Who Love Rolex
No brand attracts celebrities like Rolex attracts celebrities. This brand is unforgettably intertwined with legends like Paul Newman. In addition, modern movers and shakers want to be a part of the picture. Major stars like David Beckham, Bono, Jay-Z and Mark Wahlberg are all known fans. Roger Federer, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth have all recently served as official ambassadors.
Investing in a Rolex Watch
Many people choose Rolex because they hold value better than products from every other timepiece manufacturer on a nearly universal basis. All Rolex models hold their value. Of course, you’re going to see much higher appreciation levels when it comes to specialty models. The bottom line is that people take notice when you show up wearing a Rolex. Lido Watch Club is here to help you find the perfect fit for the image you want to get across. Let us help you source a timepiece that signals prestige and confidence.
– By Mark Fotohabadi