Rolex is the king. Plain and simple. Regardless of whether you’re a watch fanatic or you barely know what a watch is, you have heard of Rolex. Even outside of the horological community, Rolex stands for quality… Precision… Luxury…
Rolex has risen to a place of fame in the watch game but not many know of the brand’s relatively humble origin. Rolex’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf, originally started the company in England, as a watch distribution company. Founded just under 120 years ago in 1905, the master of the wristwatch actually began during the heyday of the pocket watch. But Wilsdorf dreamt of a new world – one where wristwatches ruled the horological community and had impressive levels of precision.
To that end, when Wilsdorf’s company began making watches, he insisted on using movements from a Swiss watchmaker instead of local British parts. That use of Swiss quality parts allowed him to take Rolex from inception in 1905 to winning multiple awards for precision within 10 years. Early on in its existence, in 1920, Wilsdorf moved Rolex’s headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland.
How Did Rolex Rise to the Top?
Rolex had several key moments that served to cement its position of watchmaking prowess. Ultimately, the theme of them was emphasizing the rugged reliability of Rolex watches. In a span of less than 30 years, a Rolex traveled across the English Channel on a swimmer (1927, on the wrist of Mercedes Gleitze), flew over Mount Everest (1933), drove at a record land speed of over 300 mph (1935, on the wrist of Sir Malcolm Campbell), and climbed to the peak of Mount Everest (1953, with Sir John Hunt’s expedition).
There was one key that unlocked the door to all those incredible accompaniments – Rolex’s release of the Oyster in 1926. The Oyster was one of the world’s first waterproof and dustproof watches, which ushered in a new era of watchmaking. It was made with a hermetically sealed case, which was just one of the “King’s” contributions to watchmaking. No study of Rolex would be complete without paying homage to some of the massive technological advances the brand gave to the horological community. Other technological advances included those in the same waterproof niche, those in the vein of durability, and those that changed the mechanical makeup of the watchmaking craft.
In the Water
No stranger to the seas, Rolex did more than just give the watchmaking world the Oyster. 1953 brought the Oyster’s upgraded cousin, the Submariner. This was the first watch to be waterproof to 100 meters. Then in 1967, Rolex also released the architype of all modern-day dive watches – the Sea-Dweller. This watch was waterproof to 610 meters and had a helium release valve on the watch to compensate for the pressure associated with diving to those depths. In addition, Rolex finished a new timepiece called the Rolex Deepsea Challenge in 2012. The timepiece was waterproof to 12,000 meters – a then-world record for the deepest dive rating on a watch.
If Rolex has a “genre” of watch most often associated with it, that type would be waterproof, diving watches. Is it any wonder why they continue to reinvent the game?
Durability Unlike You’ve Ever Seen
Aside from the durability granted by the waterproof technology used in the Oyster, Rolex created other technical advancements in the vein of durability. One such advancement was in anti-magnetism; in 1956, Rolex perfected a magnetic-resistant watch called the Milgauss. The Milgauss was engineered to withstand large amounts of magnetism – up to 1,000 gauss (as the name literally means “1,000 gauss”). In 1985, Rolex reached another advancement by becoming the first watchmaking company to produce a watch case made of 904L stainless steel as opposed to the normal 316L used previously and by others. 904L, while more expensive than its counterpart, is more resistant to corrosion.
Changing the World Just Because
Rolex created the above technological advancements to increase durability, thereby maintaining the overall mechanical precision of its products. But Rolex changed the world with cosmetic or mechanical advancements not related to durability as well. It started in 1931, when Rolex created the perpetual movement. This movement was the first to include a rotor to automatically wind the watch. As you can imagine, this has had a massive impact on watchmaking and has given rise to the automatic watch movement.
Rolex’s next advancement came with regard to the date and days of the week, with the invention of the Datejust in 1945 and the Day-Date in 1956. The Datejust was the first timepiece to include a date window on the dial and Rolex shortly thereafter improved upon it with the prestigious Day-Date. A recent technological change worth noting came with the release of the Yachtmaster II in 2007. That became the first watch with a countdown one can program due to its mechanical memory.
You may also recall another advancement discussed in a previous post – the creation of the world’s first GMT watch movement.
Looking for a Rolex? Contact Grand Caliber
Let’s face facts – Rolex is no stranger to innovation. Whether you’re looking for a timepiece from the monumental collections noted above or simply want a watch with immense precision yet rugged durability, Grand Caliber is your guide to all things Rolex. Reach out to us and let us help you add your first (or your fiftieth) Rolex to your collection.