History of Rolex

No watch brand is less in need of an introduction than Rolex. Founded in 1905, Rolex is the brainchild of Hans Wilsdorf, who had a vision to see a watch worn on the wrist. At the time, wristwatches were not very precise nor very common. To convince his customers that a wristwatch could be reliable, he equipped his watches with tiny, extremely precise movements manufactured in Switzerland. He now needed a name, and he tried hundreds combining the letters in the alphabet every which way he could think of, but none felt right. The story has it that one morning while he was in London, a genie whispered “Rolex” in his ear.

Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex

Precision and the quality of his wristwatches were of utmost importance to Wilsdorf. His relentless pursuit of chronometric precision quickly led to success. In 1910, a Rolex watch became the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. By 1914 Rolex had also scooped up the class “A” precision certificate, a recognition that had previously only been bestowed upon marine chronometers. Rolex cemented its name as the highest quality in precision. Rolex moved to Geneva in 1919, and the brand Montres Rolex S.A. was registered in 1920.

The first waterproof watch

The Rolex Oyster watch was launched in 1926 and was the first-ever waterproof and dustproof wristwatch. It featured a hermetically sealed case, which was a revolution in the watch industry at the time. Rolex not only introduced the first waterproof watch but was the first to put it on the wrist of, as we know them today, influencers. A young swimmer Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster. After over 10 hours in the water, the watch remained in perfect working order. Upon her success, Rolex took out a full-page ad in the Daily Mail touting her and their achievement, marking the birth of the testimonial ad. The Oyster collection is still today one of Rolex’s bestsellers.

Rolex oyster watch 1926
Rolex Oyster, 1926

The first Perpetual movement

In 1931 Rolex invented the worlds first automatic or as it is also known self-winding movement. By incorporating a perpetual rotor, the watch could wind itself with the movement of the wrist. A real watchmaking breakthrough that is at the heart of every modern automatic watch movement today.

Rolex On the wrists of adventurers since 1935

Rolex came up with an ingenious way to test their watches while at the same time ensuring a global showcase. Following the success of the Mercedes Gleitze swim across the English Channel, they equipped the first expedition to fly over Everest with Rolex Oysters. A full-page ad was also dedicated to the success of the team’s mission and the team’s satisfaction with the performance of their Rolex wristwatches. A Rolex watch was on the wrist of Sir Malcolm Campbell, one of the fastest drivers in the world, when he achieved a speed of over 300 miles per hour in 1935. Rolex continues to test its watches in sports, aviation, motor racing, and far-flung expeditions.

Rolex Sir malcolm Campbell
Rolex and Sir Malcolm Campbell testimonial

The first Rolex Datejust

The first Rolex Datejust launched in 1945 and was the first automatic wristwatch to feature a date window. The Datejust was fitted with a Jubilee bracelet and a fluted bezel, which both remain the hallmarks of Rolex today. The Lady-Datejust came out about a decade after, in 1957.

Rolex Tool watches

In the early 1950s, Rolex evolved to manufacturing watches for professionals or tool watches as they are known today, a watch that does more than just telling the time. The watches were for professional activities like mountaineering, scuba diving, scientific expeditions, and aviation. The year 1953 saw the launch of two Iconic Rolex models, the Rolex Explorer and the Rolex Submariner. The Submariner was the first divers watch with a rotating bezel and a water resistance of 100 meters. 1956 brought us the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, tested at CERN, the world-famous particle physics laboratory, confirming that the Milgauss watch could resist magnetic fields up to 1,000 gausses.

The Rolex Deep Sea Special

The Rolex Deep Sea Special was an experimental model launched in 1960, that forever changed the standards for dive watches. The Deep Sea Special was attached to the outside of the Trieste bathyscaphe when it descended to 10,916 meters in the Mariana Trench. Both the bathyscaphe and the Rolex Deep Sea Special emerging unscathed. On the 26th of March, 2012, filmmaker James Cameron, descended into the Marina Trench, the only dive since the initial Trieste bathyscaphe with as his passenger a Rolex watch. The Oyster Perpetual Roley Deepsea Challenge was introduced the same year with a water resistance of 12,000 meters setting the world record for the deepest dive watch.

Rolex Deepsea Challenge Expedition 2012 James Cameron
James Cameron gets congratulations from the Deepsea Challenger crew after the dive to 11,000 meters

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

The birth of an icon definitely applies to the 1963 launch of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. It takes its name from the famous Daytona International Speedway, where Rolex still hosts the annual Rolex 24 at Daytona. A new take on a chronograph with the endurance racing driver in mind, the Daytona features a tachymetric scale on the bezel for calculating average speed.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 1963

The Rolex Sea-Dweller

The Rolex Sea-Dweller was launched in 1967 and impressed the diving community with a staggering 610 meters water resistance and a helium escape valve to release the gas without damaging the watch. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 came out in 1976 with a record-breaking depth of 1,220 meters.

Rolex Awards for Enterprise

To celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1976, Rolex decided to create the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. Each year they honor outstanding individuals whose projects are destined to expanding knowledge or improving life on our planet.

Rolex OysterSteel & Everose Gold

Since 1985, Rolex manufactures its own 904L steel alloy, known as Oystersteel, since 2018. Usually reserved for the aeronautical and chemical industries, 904L steel is exceptionally resistant to corrosion and possesses an amazing shine once polished. In 2005, Rolex introduced its proprietary mix of 18-carat pink gold, Everose Gold, which combines pure gold, copper, and platinum, resulting in a rose gold alloy that will never lose its color.

Rolex & Yachting

Rolex sponsors many of the world’s most renowned yachting competitions. Their Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master was launched in 1992, fortifying their link to yachting. The Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II regatta chronograph, launched in 2007, is the first watch in the world with a programmable countdown with a mechanical memory.

The Rolex two-color Cerachrom Bezel

Rolex introduced the Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master with a two-color Cerachrom insert in black and blue in 2013, followed in 2014 with the blue and red ceramic. Both versions are highly sought-after. Each two-color bezel is created from one piece of ceramic, a milestone in the watch industry.

The Rolex two-color Cerachrom insert in blue and red, history of Rolex
The Rolex two-color Cerachrom insert in blue and red

The Rolex Superlative Chronometer Certification

Rolex has been about precision since its launch in 1905. So much so that in 2015 they redefined their Superlative Chronometer certification to surpass the current watchmaking norms and standards. All Rolex watches come with the certification and a five-year international guarantee.

Rolex Day-Date 40, history of Rolex
Rolex Superlative Chronometer certification

Rolex and the Movies

Rolex has appeared in many movies over the years, Paul Newman in The Color of Money, Dennis Hopper in Speed, Bill Paxton in Titanic, and many others. Rolex is also the official watch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2017 and is the founding supporter of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Rolex Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

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