In an stunning move during the 89th Academy Awards last week, Rolex took the spotlight for themselves- at least until the Moonlight-La La Land saga, with one of the most awesome, and appropriate, advertisements of all time. In a minute long video, Rolex highlighted its longevity and classical appeal, showcasing Rolexes in films as far back as the 1960s and as recent as 2013, gracing the wrists of luminaries such as Paul Newman and Harrison Ford. Today, we will be taking a closer look at Rolex, seeking to understand what makes the brand with the crown so special.
If there ever was a brand that has come to epitomise horology for the outside observer, it would be Rolex. However, despite its esteemed reputation, Rolex does not operate like a typical watch brand. For one, it remains till this day privately held, and independent, in many ways that Hublot (LVMH) and Omega (Swatch Group) are not. Founded in London in 1902 by Hans and Davis Wilsdorf, Rolex actually began life as a distributor of sorts- importing Hermann Aegler’s movements and placing them into Dennison watch cases. It was only in 1908, when the Rolex trademark came to being and the brothers opened their first Switzerland office in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Through the years, the brand has had many first, including having the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision in 1910 and the first waterproof wristwatch, the famous Oyster collection in 1926. Indeed, from propelling James Cameron's deep sea expedition with the Deep Sea Dweller and Sir Edmund Hillary's historic climb up Everest with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer, Rolex has played a critical role not just in movies, but in forming the world around us as well.
Fast forward over a hundred years, and Rolex today produces an estimated 700,000 watches each year. Despite this, all Rolex movements continue to be hand-assembled and tested. No shortcuts are taken in the manufacturing process, and it is estimated that it takes about a year to make one Rolex watch. All dials continue to be made in-house, and all of the applied hour markers are set individually by hand- an increasingly rare phenomenon in the watch world, where machines have slowly replaced humans. In fact, Rolex makes virtually everything in-house. It is a totally vertically integrated manufacturer, producing their own cases, bracelets, dials, bezels and movements. The famous Everose gold is not a gimmick as well- Rolex owns an in-house foundry that makes all the gold for Rolex watches.
For a more in-depth review understanding of Rolex, take a look at the work of our friends over at Hodinkee, who never fail to cover more than we can ever hope in a short blog post. Suffice it to say, Rolex watches are among the most reliable, no-fuss mechanical watches in the world. From the Oyster Perpetual, to the Milgauss, Submariner and Daytona, Rolex does not add or subtract models regularly, and it safe to say that the brand, existing long before you were born, will continue to be here and thriving when you leave this earth. Rolex has come a long way from the Wilsdorf brothers, and buying a Rolex today, particularly if it is your first, is something monumental. Need proof? Check out this article of a man who paid $120 for his Rolex GMT Master in 1960, discovering the value of it today.