Sophisticated, high-performing and definitely a status symbol – Rolex has earned itself a place in watchmaking’s Hall of Fame
Think of ‘Rolex’ and your first thought is ‘status symbol’. But this almost century-old watch brand is also synonymous with innovation.
The lofty ambitions of the young Hans Wilsdorf initially propelled the company forward. The 24 year old founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the predecessor of Rolex SA, with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis, in 1905.
A Precise Vision
Based in London, they specialised in distributing timepieces, but Wilsdorf’s heart was elsewhere. Wristwatches fascinated him and he passionately wanted to transform them into something both elegant and reliable.
In 1908, the trademark ‘Rolex’ was registered. Punchy and easy to pronounce, it was ideal for a watch company with global aspirations.
Rolex threw itself into developing high quality movements and in 1910 its tenacity was rewarded, the company made the world’s first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision.
Four years later, in 1914, the Kew Observatory awarded a Rolex wristwatch a class ‘A’ precision certificate. It was a huge achievement as until then, this distinction was reserved exclusively for marine chronometers.
Buoyed by success and continued growth, the company moved to Geneva in 1919, where it was established as The Rolex Watch Company and the relentless pursuit of innovation continued.
In 1926, the company made the first waterproof wristwatch, the ‘Oyster’. The watch gained kudos when the English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze wore it as she completed a 10hr cross-channel swim in 1927.
1931 saw Rolex create another important legacy by inventing the world’s first self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor. Every modern automatic watch has since adopted this system.
Continuing its association with ‘extreme’ sports people, in 1933, the first expedition to fly over Everest was equipped with Rolex Oysters – and the members of the crew boosted the Rolex public relations effort by announcing their satisfaction with the performance of their watches.
In 1935, Sir Malcolm Campbell became another formidable road-tester of Rolex precision when he wore a Rolex watch as he set a land speed record of over 300 miles per hour behind the wheel of the Bluebird.
Campbell wrote the ultimate endorsement,“I have now been using my Rolex watch for a while, and it is keeping perfect time under somewhat strenuous conditions.”
Ahead of the Game
Rolex was on a roll as a visionary, respected and sought-after brand – its stamp of excellence verified by many high-profile people.
A string of ‘firsts’ followed: a wristwatch with an automatically changing date, the ‘Datejust’, in 1945; a wristwatch case waterproof to 100m, the ‘Oyster Perpetual Submariner’, in 1953; and a wristwatch featuring two time zones, the ‘GMT Master’, in 1954.
New Depths of Success
The 1960s saw Rolex begin a quest to conquer the seas. After much experimentation, in 1967, the Oyster Perpetual Sea Dweller was launched, waterproof to a depth of 610 metres. The Sea Dweller 4000 surpassed this in 1978, waterproof to a depth of 1,220 metres (4,000 feet).
But in 2008, Rolex unveiled the ultimate underwater timepiece: the Deepsea. With a Ringlock System that allows the case to withstand water pressure equivalent to three tonnes in weight, this watch can go more than 100 times beyond the depth that any human can physically survive.
Elegance and Style
While unrivalled performance in the male-dominated arenas of aviation, motor racing, yachting and exploration were certainly a major feature of Rolex’s master plan; the sophisticated female market was not neglected.
In 1957, a classic ladies watch débuted at Rolex: the Lady-Datejust. It was the first ladies’ version of the Rolex date chronometer, in a smaller size perfectly suited to a ladies wrist. In 1992, a new interpretation was launched, the Lady Date-Just Pearlmaster.
This timeless style has become a lasting favourite. It was originally available in a 26mm or 31mm case, but a 36mm case was launched to answer the demand for over-sized women’s watches.
Millennium and Beyond
Entering its second century of accomplishment, Rolex continues to pioneer new technical advancements. In 2000, it assembled the 4130 chronograph calibre movement for the Cosmograph Daytona. Much admired for its simplicity, it has just 290 components, far less than a standard chronograph.
Sophisticated, high-performing and definitely a status symbol – Rolex has earned itself a place in watch making’s Hall of Fame.
Rolex remains under the ownership of a private trust and watch-lovers, style leaders and status-seekers will always ‘watch this space’ for its next move.
5 Female Stars Who Love Rolex
Sophia Loren: Screen siren Loren is a Rolex fan and has been wearing her yellow gold Lady-Datejust for at least four decades
Sofia Vergara: Actress and TV presenter Vergara is rather partial to her Gold Rolex Daytona
Caroline Kennedy: Kennedy often attends high-society events wearing a Rolex two-tone Datejust on a Jubilee bracelet
Madonna: The megastar singer has been photographed wearing her stainless steel Rolex Daytona on many occasions
Jennifer Aniston: Has been pictured many times wearing a Rolex Day Date Presidential wristwatch with champagne stick dial
We have video reviewed the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date luxury ladies watch so you can take a closer look at this newly refined classic timepiece. Other Rolex features can be found on the Rolex watch brand page.
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