Nobody knows what Rolex actually means. There’s a story that the name comes from the French for exquisite clockwork (horlogerie exquise, where the H is silent). Neither the company nor the founders have ever commented on this, however one of the founders have admitted the name was picked because it was short and looked good on a watch face, and could be pronounced in any language.
Even though Rolex is indeed a Swiss Company, it was founded in London by a German and a Brit. Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis originally started by putting movements into cases for jewelers under the pseudonym “Wilsdorf and Davis”.
World War II
During World War II, Britain’s Royal Air Force officers preferred Rolex and when they were shot down, Nazis took their Rolex. Wilsdorf, upon finding this out, gave a statement that any Rolexes that have been lost by the British prisoners shall be replaced based on their word only. This confidence of victory along with the quality of the watches resulted in Rolex becoming the word of the day and a status symbol not in the British Air Force but also at American Air Force.
1910 – First Wristwatch To Be Chronometer Certified
Obervatoire de Montres Suisse, to become COSC. Based on a reliable movement from Aegler, Rolex was indeed the first manufacture to meet with the standards of COSC for a wristwatch. Back then, only pocket watches could achieve such precision, and it is only because of the expertise of Aegler in terms of miniaturization that Rolex could achieve this.
1926 – First Waterproof Wristwatch
The 1926 Rolex Oyster was the first-ever completely hermetic and waterproof wristwatch, protecting it not only from water projections but also from dust and humidity (and thus from rust). What sounds like now a standard feature was at that time a profound revolution.
1931 – First Wristwatch With Perpetual Rotor
Oyster Perpetual, were the first to introduce the automatic winding with a perpetual rotor on a wristwatch (meaning rotating freely and not having a bumper style).
1945 – First Watch With An Automatically Changing Date On The Dial
Datejust, featured what sounds standard, however, Rolex were the first to introduce a date displayed in a window (and not displayed by a hand in a sub-dial) and to automatically jump at precisely midnight.
1953 – First Watch Waterproof To 100m
1954 – First Watch With Two Time-Zone At Once
1956 – First Watch With An Automatically Changing Day And Date On The Dial
With the day entirely written in letters and in 26 languages (Day-Date, 1956)
The company seems more set on evolution as opposed to revolution. Simply, Rolex would rather focus on making their own models better than adapting what they do to the latest trends and markets. This is reinforced by the amount of II models it releases, e.g Yacht-Master II, Datejust II etc. There is definitely a look Rolex has associated itself with, this could be why the company has done so well and continues to be such an iconic brand.
Rolex have an in-house foundry that makes all of their gold. Rolex are the only watchmakers to make their own gold, or even have an in-house foundry.
Most steel watches are made from a type of stainless steel called 316L, whereas the steel in Rolex is made from 904L steel. No one else uses this steel as far as I know. If you ever compare a steel Rolex with another steel watch, you will be able to see it looks different. The 904L steel is more expensive and much more complicated to machine, which is why it seems exclusive to Rolex. It is said to be rust and corrosion resistant.
Rolex employ a team of gemologists to ensure the highest quality of gemstones in their products. The watchmaker sets its standards of rare gems and precious metals that it buys from suppliers at an astronomical level. The gemologist department has the job of buying, testing, arranging and setting diamonds and other precious stones in a variety of models.
Number Of Watches
Rolex have never released information about how many watches produced a year, however it is estimated to be between 800,000 to a million.
It’s Taking A Year
It takes about a year to make just one Rolex watch according to an advert Rolex released long ago. As far-fetched as it may sound, it is true.
Impressively, Rolex set all of their hour markers by hand. The majority of the time, other rival companies use machines, however Rolex have realized that the human eye is better trained to spot mistakes.
Rolex have four sites in Switzerland where they employ more than 6,000 members of staff.
Although machinery is employed but all the important tasks are still carried out by human Swiss fingers that do all the hard work to deliver that classy watch you have always wanted!
Hand Assembled Movements
All movements created by Rolex are hand assembled. It is genuinely hard to believe due to the sheer volume of watches made. But this attention to detail and quest for perfection really is emphasized by the quality in the product.
The Perpetual Movement
The Perpetual movement is hidden away and invisible to the wearer. Only Rolex-certified watchmakers are able to access it with special tools.
Placement in a sensitive air pressure chamber is carried out to ascertain if there are any air leaks in the case.
The Rolexes that are dive rated then go through a test of water-pressure that tests them to 300 meters depth pressure. This is followed by a condensation test where a drop of water is placed on the crystal of the watch and if optica
The Winding Crown
The winding crown is actually made up of 10 different parts and is screwed hermetically onto the watchcase.
Roman Numeral Dials
On their Roman numeral dials, Rolex still use IIII rather than IV. IIII is known as the “Clockmaker’s four”. There is not a single reason that has been found to explain this.
Face Up Or Face Down
Rolex say you can make your watch run a few seconds fast or slow by the way you leave the watch at night. They say if you leave the watch’s dial face up at night, it can cause the watch to gain up to a few seconds per day. On the other hand, if you were to leave the watch face down, it could cause the watch to lose a few seconds a day.
Biggest Luxury Watch Company
Rolex is the single largest luxury watch company, retailing in over 100 countries and is estimated to produce 2,000 pieces per day.
The Most Expensive Rolex Sold
Known for its Hollywood pedigree, the 1968 Reference 6239 Daytona, made from stainless steel and leather, is one of the most iconic Rolex models. It sold for nearly $18 Million at the October 2017 at Phillips’ inaugural watch auction in New York City.
Rolex watches in pictures always display 10:10:31, and models that also show day and date always advertise Monday the 28th.
The Top Of The World
In 1953, Rolex was among the sponsors of the expedition that saw Kiwi mountaineer Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay conquer the highest peak on earth. The company supplied the team with prototype Oyster Perpetuals. Also the team understood that they would return these prototypes for testing, when, or if, they made a safe descent. Incredibly, the watches performed perfectly throughout the climb. And the men who conquered Everest did, indeed, send them back to Geneva for analysis. Nobody quite knows what testing Rolex carried out. However, those pieces from the top of the world formed the basis for the first of the Rolex Explorer series.
The Deepest Point Of The Ocean
In 2012, James Cameron descended into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. For this expedition, Cameron sported a Rolex Deepsea Challenge, which was guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres (39,370 feet). The watch was affixed to the hydraulic manipulator arm of the submersible and kept time perfectly throughout the almost 7 hour underwater adventure.
A Charitable Organization
Rolex was founded in 1905 by German watchmaker named Hans Wilsdorf and his brother in law Alfred Davis. The company actually moved to Switzerland during World War 1 to avoid British taxes. In 1944, Wilsdorf founded the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, which is treated as a charitable foundation and is granted some tax exemptions. The foundation stills holds the shares of Rolex, however a spokesperson for the company, declined to provide evidence of any charitable donations made by the company.