Popularly known as the king of watches – Rolex is a sign of prestige and horological innovation. Its timepieces are regarded as the very pinnacle of watchmaking excellence and the ultimate status symbol. Unsurprisingly sought after by affluent individuals all over the world, Rolex is ‘The International Mark of Success’.
The industry giant which currently produces almost a million watches per year, was founded in London in 1902 by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. Until 1908 the company was known as Wilsdorf & Davies.
In 1908, following an arduous search for a memorable brand name, ‘Rolex S.A’ came into being. Rumour has it, that after fruitless months of coming up with arbitrary letter rearrangements, Wilsdorf finally settled on ‘Rolex’ because it is not only easily pronounced in every language, but it is also said to resemble the sound of winding a watch.
From the company’s early days, Rolex has been an inarguable forerunner in the industry, producing watches of truly outstanding quality. In 1910, a Rolex watch was the first wristwatch in the world to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. Four years later, Kew Observatory in Great Britain awarded a Rolex wristwatch a class ‘A’ precision certificate. Until that time, such a distinction was only awarded for marine chronometers. This was an important milestone for Rolex, as it established the company’s international reputation as synonymous with precision and excellence.
In 1919 Wilsdorf moved the company to Geneva, where the Rolex headquarters remains to this day.
Continuing the tradition of remarkable craftsmanship and first-rate performance, Wilsdorf was driven by passion for watchmaking and a wild ambition for unparalleled excellence. In the 1920s, Wilsdorf set his technicians the task of designing a truly waterproof and dustproof case. By 1926 the brand had finally assembled a prototype, which would soon become the famous Rolex Oyster watch.
In 1927 the Oyster officially won its public acclaim as the most advanced timepiece, following the crossing of the English Channel on the wrist the English swimmer – Mercedes Gleitze, who also became the brand’s first ambassador. The swim served as a bold test of quality. Remaining in perfect working order, Oyster became synonymous with precision and remarkable durability.
In 1931 the brand achieved another milestone in the craft of watchmaking, by inventing and patenting the world’s first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor. This was the very first time that a wristwatch could automatically wind itself, every time the wearer moved his wrist. This was a truly incredible achievement in the watchmaking industry, paving the way for a new standard in advanced horology.
In subsequent years the Oyster watch remained tested in a variety of different terrains, and weather conditions to further prove the brand’s durable design and resistance. In 1933, Rolex Oyster accompanied Edmund Hillary in the first successful Everest expedition.
Later in that decade, Rolex began to be increasingly associated with motor sports. It produced a watch for Sir Malcolm Campbell – the ‘king of speed’ in 1935. Because of this, the brand is commonly credited for creating the first driving chronographs.
Another important development of the company came in 1945, when the brand launched the Oyster Datejust. This watch was unlike any other to that date. It had a small, embedded date aperture window, to which a Cyclops magnifier lens was soon added to ease readability. Through this development, Rolex had once again distinguished itself as a successful innovator in the field.
Following this, Rolex had soon broadened its watch collection, introducing a range of specialised wristwatches made specifically for professional activities including deep sea diving, aviation, mountain climbing, and scientific exploration. While maintaining the Rolex standard of timekeeping, these watches could withstand the most challenging conditions.
Arguably, Hans Wilsdorf’s crowning achievement came in 1956, with the launch of a new Day-Date model – the ‘Rolex President’. Ever since its premiere, the model has made a clear statement about its possessor. Known as the ‘presidents’ watch’, it is instantly recognisable on the wrist, distinguishing his wearer as a member of the elite.
For almost a century, Rolex had maintained a vivid presence at many prestigious sports events, including golf, sailing, tennis, and equestrian tournaments. In addition, in 2013 Rolex entered into a partnership with Formula 1 Racing, becoming the Official Timekeeper and Official Timepiece of the event.
Today the Oyster maintains its reputation as one of the very best watch families on the market, guaranteeing not only reliability but also prestige to its possessor. It is available in 10 ranges of models which make up the classic and professional lines of watches. Classic watches include models such as Datejust, Day-Date and Sky-Dweller. Professional on the other hand include models such as the Submariner, Cosmograph Daytona, and Yacht-Master.
The Perpetual Datejust is the flagship collection in Rolex’s comprehensive line. It is a self-winding certified chronometer, offered in steel or 18 karat gold. It is water resistant to 330 feet, and is available on a variety of bracelets.
The Perpetual Day-Date, the first watch to display the date and day of the week, is available only in 18 karat gold or platinum. It is matched with the President bracelet, originally created especially for it. This watch continues to be the ultimate symbol of success and achievement.
The Sky-Dweller is a model for those seeking simplicity, yet who wish to retain the instantly recognisable Rolex shape. Launched in 2012, it is one of the most beautiful watches in the Rolex family. It is made of gold and steel, which perfectly complements the champagne-coloured dial.
The Submariner is characterised by its durable and functional design. Featuring the Rolex signature style, it is also made of gold and steel, which stands out beside a distinctive blue dial with large luminescent hour markers.
The Cosmograph Daytona blends functionality with a striking design. Fitted with a highly reliable chronograph and bezel with tachymetric scale, this is a high-performance watch allowing drivers to measure speed up to 400 kilometres per hour. It features a black dial and the classic gold and steel oyster bracelet.
The Yacht-Master reinforces the ties between Rolex and the sailing world. One of the most popular Rolex watches, it has the most advanced technology, enabling it to be an indispensable sailing tool. It is a regatta chronograph built specifically for yachting competitions. Its plain white dial provides easy readability, while its case made entirely out of stainless steel provides maximum resistance to corrosion.
Another noteworthy watch in the Rolex family is the Cellini Time line. Rolex created the Cellini collection in homage to the 16th century sculptor and goldsmith, Benvenuto Cellini. It is unique amongst the traditional Rolex watches, for its understated classic look. It features an elegant design consisting of a white dial, pink gold case, and a stitched alligator leather strap.
Innovation, exceptional performance, and use of finest materials – those are the distinguishing traits of Rolex. Seen as a mark of success, every Rolex is a dignified accessory and essential tool in the fast paced world of successful individuals. Merging style, and comfort, Rolex creates truly universal timepieces, always guaranteeing prestige to their owners.