History of Rolex: Why They’re One of the Best

Between athletes, actors, CEOs and everyone in between, it seems like almost every person that has a passion (and is willing to spend the money) for watches is a Rolex owner. It is natural to wonder why this is, and where it all began. You might ask, “Was it just a big marketing scheme, or is the respect that Rolex receives well deserved?” Below, we detail the a brief history of Rolex and get into why this famous Swiss manufacturer deserves every bit of the credit it gets.

History of Rolex Watches

What is the history of Rolex? When did Rolex come out? At the young age of 24, Hans Wilsdorf founded a timepiece company. This business was not Rolex, though. At first, it was only a distributor of watches, not a designer or producer. Still, he had bigger dreams. What he wanted most was to not only dominate, but practically build the wristwatch market from the ground up. The reason he had this opportunity was that, at the time, pocket watches still had supremacy due to style trends and superior function. To counteract this trend, he first targeted the issue of reliability. Where is Rolex made? This entailed him partnering with the Swiss manufacturer Bienne to create an incredibly precise movement that could, unlike his competitors, fit in the small package that is a wristwatch.

vintage rolex watch

When choosing the now iconic name “Rolex,” Rolex founder Wilsdorf spent many hours combining various letters of the alphabet in endless combinations. Instead of selecting an existing word, he wanted to dream one up that would become a powerful, singular brand. Eventually, he came up with the name we all know today. The history of Rolex is one you should know about.

The Rolex brand was not built with just a name, though. What came next was carrying out the task of creating incredibly precise movements for wristwatches, something that had not been done before. Within just a few years, that goal was met, as Rolex watches began receiving certificates of precision from various watch rating organizations. Eventually, Wilsdorf settled his company in the famous watchmaking city of Geneva.

History of Rolex, Creating a Tradition of Excellence

Though waterproof watches are commonplace in the modern age, they were not during the early history of Rolex. This is why the creation of the waterproof “Oyster” model was such an achievement. To prove their point, Rolex outfitted Mercedes Gleitze with one and had her swim across the English Channel. At the end of the 10-hour journey, the watch was still in working condition.

Rolex Datejust

If you have an automatic watch, you likely never wind it by hand. That said, if you lived in the early 1900’s, this would not be the case. That is why when Rolex invented their self-winding mechanism in 1931, which changed the entire wristwatch world. This is now standard in every automatic watch, but it all started with Rolex watches.

Around this time, as a brand, Rolex company also began outfitting race car drivers and pilots with their shockingly versatile timepieces. The result was a further refining of their products and a significant amount of advertising material. One of these drivers was Sir Malcolm Campbell, one of the most famous of all time.

Rolex Explorer

Domination of Land and Sea

The next era of Rolex is defined by its creation of watches that could withstand the elements. That included a trip to Mt. Everest in 1953, deep scuba dive expeditions to places like Marianas Trench, and transcontinental flights. Unlike every other manufacturer in the world, Rolex watches seemed invincible.

This time in the Rolex story is also filled with the creation of some of their most iconic watches. Those included the Explorer, Submariner, GMT-Master, Day-Date, Cosmograph Daytona and Sea-Dweller models. Each of these pieces rose to the top of the watch market due to their aesthetics and capabilities. What happened next was the beginning of distinguished men and women choosing Rolex over every other brand.

Rolex GMT Master II

Separation From Competitors

Starting in the 1970’s, Rolex began to truly dominate the luxury watch market. Not only did they design more famous models, such as the Yacht-Master, but their efforts to distinguish from other manufacturers began to take hold. One change they made at this time was using 904L steel, which is regarded as one of the best watchmaking materials in the world. In this era, Rolex rose above the crowded timepiece market and began to be a true icon.

Widening the Gap

In the modern era, Rolex is furthering their growth and tradition of excellence. First, they continue to improve their technology with innovations like the 4130 movement, cerachrom bezels, parachrom hairsprings, and even greater deep sea capabilities. Next, are innovating old models and creating new ones that dazzle the watch world. Lastly, the legend behind their brand continues to grow with the help of elite endorsements like the US Open, Formula 1, Wimbledon and many more.

History of Rolex Conclusion

Now that you know a bit about Rolex’s background and Rolex’s beginning, you can start to understand why it has perhaps the most esteemed reputation of any watch brand. What is so impressive about Rolex watches is that it never had any significant hiccups or setbacks. Instead, it has been an elite manufacturer since the very beginning and shows no signs of slowing down.

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