When Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in London in 1905 he wanted to coin a name that could be pronounced in any European language & one that would elegantly grace the dial of a watch. His plan worked, and what he created has risen to become arguably the most iconic and recognised timepiece brand in the world today. But Rolex’s reputation does not stand, by any measure, on its name alone. It is a brand built by Wilsdorf on a principle of quality and excellence.
In 1910 a Rolex wristwatch was the first to be granted the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision and four years later one was awarded a class “A” precision certificate by Kew Observatory in London. Never one to rest on his laurels, Wilsdorf continued to forge ahead with innovations. It is for these pioneering innovations that the company is celebrated both for its men’s watches and women’s watches. Not for showy rebellions but quietly and meticulously creating mechanisms which, once created, have little changed or improved, only in areas which enhance the timepiece’s abilities and longevity such as material and manufacture techniques.
In 1926, the ‘Oyster’ was launched as the first dust and waterproof watch. The following year, Wilsdorf sponsored the English Channel swim of Mercedes Gleitze and pinned an Oyster watch to her swimsuit, where it remained for the full 10 hour crossing, and still kept perfect time. In 1931 came the Oyster Perpetual, the mechanism of which proved that Rolex had perfected the self-winding mechanism. These watches, strapped to wrists of explorers and racing drivers, were given the toughest quality tests imaginable and still kept perfect time. In 1945 came the Datejust, a self-winding watch with the first a separate date window, and with it the first Jubilee bracelet strap.
It was with Rolex that Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary’s team equipped themselves for their ascent of Everest and the iconic Oyster Perpetual Explorer was created in celebration. This was also the year of The Submariner, a watch waterproof to a depth of 100 meters and with a numbered bezel to allow a diver to keep track of their immersion time. This watch, admired by Ian Fleming, was worn by his most famous spy creation and is sometimes better known as the James Bond Submariner. The 1950s also brought three of the most popular and collected Rolex models: the GMT-Master in 1955, designed for transcontinental pilots with a two-tone red and blue bezel for day and night time hours and known as the ‘Pepsi watch’, and in 1956 the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date and the Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, the latter adopted by the scientific community at CERN for its ability to withstand strong magnetic fields and keep perfect time.
These classic pieces of the 1950s established the inimitable look of a Rolex watch and, continuing to chart man’s progression in science, sport and exploration the 1960’s brought further innovations. The 1963 Daytona Cosmograph was created for those speedway racing drivers with its a tachymetric scale on the bezel for calculating average speed. And the 1967 came the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, waterproof and tested to a depth of 600m. Since this diving watch, Rolex has taken timepieces to deeper depths and their production is just one way that Rolex’s manufacturing methods prove their worth: while most manufactures test by air pressure chambers, Rolex take sits watches through full water testing. Other ways in which their manufacture, sets Rolex watches apart is in the fact that almost every piece of every watch is manufactured in house even down to the 18 carat yellow and white golds and their Everlast rose gold. When it comes to their womens watches and mens watches embellished with diamonds, they test every single stone despite their estimation that only 2 in 20 million are discarded. It is the quality of production which means that a Rolex is a true investment. From these classic models, to the more unusual and limited edition design such as the Kermit Submariner and the Hulk Submariner, there are plenty to chose from. Take a look at the Open for Vintage Rolex collection to find your perfect timepiece and.
To find out more, read 5 facts you should know about this iconic brand on The Journal.