Rolex history – 1 page summary

Rolex history, early years

Since 1905, Rolex has been a pioneer of the wristwatch.

For over a century, Rolex watches have been the perfect companion for explorers and achievers. These watches have rubbed shoulders with the greatest explorers. It was worn in the highest mountains to the unexplored depths of the ocean.

In 1905, at the age of 24, Hans Wilsdorf founded a company in London that sold timepieces.

Wristwatches were not very precise in that period. Hans Wilsdorf wanted to make wristwatches which were not only elegant but also precise.

To achieve highest quality standards, these were manufactured by a Swiss watchmaking company.

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What’s in a name?

Hans Wilsdorf wanted a name for the brand that was short and easy to remember. He also wanted it to look stunning as a logo.

He tried a multitude of permutations and combinations of the letters of the alphabet. With more than a 100 names with him, he still wasn’t fully convinced.

One morning, he was riding a horse-drawn omnibus in London. He got a feeling of a genie whispering ‘Rolex’ in his ear!


Precision was the key

In 1910, a Rolex was the first wristwatch in the world to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision.

In 1914, a Rolex wristwatch received a class “A” precision certificate. From that day onwards, the Rolex wristwatch has been synonymous with precision. So, your Rolex watch can’t go wrong!

In 1919, Rolex moved to Geneva and Montres Rolex S.A. was registered in 1920.

1st waterproof watch

In 1926, Rolex created the world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch called the ‘Oyster’.

In 1927, Mercedes Gleitze crossed the English Channel with a Rolex Oyster on her wrist. The tiring swim lasted over 10 hours but the Rolex remained in pristine condition!

1st self-winding watch with a perpetual rotor with a 360-degree rotation

In 1931, Rolex invented the world’s first self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor. It offered a full 360-degree rotation. This movement has inspired most of the automatic movement watches around the world!

1st watch with date window

In 1945, it made the first self‑winding wrist chronometer with a date window on the dial. It was called the ‘Oyster Perpetual DateJust’.

1950 onwards, Rolex started making watches for outdoor and sports activities as well. These included deep-sea diving, aviation, mountain climbing, scientific exploration and more.

Did you know?

The first successful Mount Everest ascent by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary was equipped with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.

1st diver’s 100m watch

In 1953, Rolex came up with the first ever diver’s watch called the ‘Oyster Perpetual Submariner’. It was 100m waterproof. It was also equipped with a rotatable bezel allowing divers to record time underwater.

Pilot watch

In 1955, Rolex developed the ‘Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master’ for pilots. It became the official watch of several airlines including Pan Am.

1st day-date watch

In 1956, the ‘Oyster Perpetual Day-Date’ made its debut. It was made in 18 ct gold or platinum. It was also the first ever to display the date and day in a window on the dial.

Until the late 70s, it made some iconic Oyster Perpetual watches like :

  • Cosmograph Daytona’ which was a speed racing watch
  • Sea-Dweller for divers
  • Explorer II for polar explorers and many more!

Premium quality steel

In 1985, Rolex became the use 904L steel for the cases of all its steel watches. Until then, this material was only used in high‑tech, aerospace and chemical industries. This material is anti-corrosive and could be compared with precious metals. When polished, it offers exceptional sheen.

In 1992, it developed the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master for the sailing world.

Innovation continued

Rolex continued its flair for innovation.

It developed the 4130-chronograph caliber movement which used just 290 components! This was far fewer than a standard chronograph.

Later on, Cerachrom bezel was developed. It was created from an extremely hard ceramic material. Virtually scratch proof but stunning to look at!

The blue Parachrom hairspring was another amazing innovation. It is unaffected by magnetic fields. It was also up to 10 times more resistant to shocks.

In 2012, Rolex presented the Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, a technological masterpiece for world travelers. It offered dual time zone and a very innovative annual calendar.

Deepest Dive

In 2012, filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer‑in‑Residence James Cameron descended into the Mariana Trench. It was the first solo dive into the deepest point on earth. Guess who the other passenger was? A Rolex watch!

If you feel you are missing something in your watch collection, it’s most probably a Rolex!

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