Origins of Rolex watches

The idea of the Rolex brand was born in the mind of the visionary Hans Wilsdorf, a German orphan with a passion for watchmaking, who moved to England and decided to found the Rolex brand. Hans Wilsdorf was a passionate man but above all someone who paid attention to the smallest details.

Hans Wilsdorf Rolex

Originally, in 1905, year of the beginnings of the brand called Wilsdorf & Davis, the fashion was for pocket watches, however Hans Wilsdorf wanted to try a bet and position himself on the market of wrist watches, which, in the start of the 20th century, were very little appreciated by watchmaking fans because the products were fragile and not very precise, very few of this kind of model were sold at that time

Wildsorf & Davis

Hans registered the name Rolex for his company in 1908 and so began the adventure of a visionary and, above all, a man who wanted to change his time. 

In1910, the Rolex brand obtained the very first chronometry bulletin granted to a wristwatch in the world by the Biel control office. This first mark of recognition was followed, 4 years later, by the class A certification obtained this time from the Kew Observatory, reputed to be the most severe of all those of the time in terms of precision testing. This famous certificate was originally granted only to marine chronometers, the most accurate devices sold at the time.

In order to keep his company perennial, the founder exports his brand through the sleeve to land in Switzerland in 1920, some will surely think that it is to get closer to the manufacturers of the parts of watch of the brand, in reality it is above all in order not to have to pay any more the tax of 33% applied to the foreign imports and also to benefit from several financial advantages granted by Switzerland to the companies. This move will however have allowed the brand to get closer to the Aegler manufacture in Bienne with which it still works today.

A man's dream

Our visionary Hans declared that the biggest problems of our time for watches were humidity and dust. In response to this problem, he decided to create a waterproof watch, and in 1926 the brand released the model that revolutionised the era: theRolex Oyster (a reference to oysters being perfectly waterproof). First waterproof collection of the brand.

In order to promote the watch model, the brand will take advantage of Mercedes Gleitze's achievement to praise the fantastic capabilities of its product. 

Rolex Oyster 1926

Indeed, the young woman was the first English woman to cross the Channel and she wore a Rolex Oyster around her neck, which, on her arrival, was still working perfectly and had not gone out of adjustment. The front cover of the Daily Mail newspaper featured the young woman with the following inscription: "Rolex Oyster defies the elements".The model is no longer available and will have left its mark on history. 

However, the main remaining weakness was the fact that the watch mechanism had to be reassembled to ensure that it worked, as the multiple disassemblies of the crown resulted in the water resistance of the watch being damaged. As the dial became less water resistant, the watch lost its effectiveness.

In order to solve this problem andto finish imposing the brand in the watchmaking world, Hans Wilsdorf bought many patents allowing him to create the mechanism now used by many watch models: The Rotor Perpetual, this system is self-powered by the energy produced by the movements of the wrist which avoids having towind the mechanism every day, thus allowing the model of watch of Rolex to gain even more notoriety.

Rolex Oyster pepetual

Hans having bought the patent as well as the exclusivity concerning its use during 15 years, this detail allowed the Rolex brand to take a terrible advantage on its competitors, nowadays it is this type of system which is used by a majority of the automatic watches collections. 

In 1933, a Rolex watch will be on the wrist of the first expedition to fly over the EVEREST without losing reliability.

The innovations of Rolex do not stop there, nearly 145 models of watches equipped with 136 different movements will profit from the famous certificate of KEW.

In addition, in1945, the brand will release an innovative model: the Datejust which is at the time the first model to be able to indicate the time and the day at the same time in an automatic way. Rolex watches are no longer vintage and are becoming more and more distinctive.

Rolex Datejust

The race for innovation, the Submariner 

Submariner xhithout date 6204

The brand wished to impose it self in the watchmaking world, and the innovations it proposed were to follow one another. In 1953, Rolex proposes a new model of watch: The Submariner without date (ref:6204), it is the first model waterproof up to 100 M, always in the optics to propose a product adapted in all the situations, that they are extreme or not.

Rolex will make of this model THE iconic collection by producing numerous Submariner, Submariner with date, Submariner without date. The brand will associate this model with many actors and movie charactersJamesBond will be one of its main muses

Rolex will be present at many sporting events. On the wrist of pilot Sir Malcolm Campbell, a Rolex broke the sound barrier without incident. It will even be present during the first ascent of Everestin 1953 with a Rolex Oyster Explorer on the wrist of Sir Edmund HillaryThe Rolex Oyster Explorer will be the first model sold to have resisted the highest summit and being waterproof.

ROlex Oyster Explorer
Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex will never stop surprising us with, in 1954, there lease of the Rolex GMT-Master allowing the reading of 2 different time zones on the same dial. This model of watch was highly appreciated by airline pilots who could keep permanently a time zone of their choice. The possibility of displaying 2 time zones on the same dial was very practical because they often had to move between several time zones

This model is of course water resistant, like the Submariner. Nowadays, the references of GMT-Master are numerous, but each one draws its origin from the1954 collection. We can quote the GMT-Master BLNR or the GMT master BLRO which both take their origin from the original GMT-Master.

In 1956, Rolex scored a major coup in the watchmaking world by proposing a revolutionary watch model: the Day date, also called the President's watch, this nickname comes from President Lyndon Johnson who was the first to wear a Day date on his wrist in 1966 (ref: 4467).

The story goes that he even gave some of his friends or guests Rolex es as gifts. The brand sold this collection model only in gold or platinum, the watch model representing luxury par excellence.

Moreover, when promoting this Rolex watch, the choice of using the red telephone associated with the President of the United States and a wrist where one could see the famous Rolex watch, synonymous that thewatch belonged to the powerful.

A year later, Rolex released a new collection in 1957, the first wristwatch model dedicated to women, the Lady Datejust, a watch with a much smaller diameter, but just as precise as the other models of the brand. The Lady Datejust is an adaptation of the men's collection, the Daydate.

André Heiniger

The year 1960 was a year full of surprises but also of disappointments for the Rolex brand. Its founder Hans Wilsdorf died that year, and the management was handed over to André Heiniger, a man who shared the same convictions as the founder and was just as much a philanthropist as he was. 

Rolex Deep Sea

However, this year also saw a record-breaking dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which is equivalent to more than 10,000m in a bathyscaphe. A specially modified Rolex Deep Sea reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench and returned safely to the surface. The dive team it self reassured Rolex that the Deep Sea had held up perfectly.

In addition to proposing an innovative model, the GMT master, the brand also proposes a watch which is adapted to the magnetic field, being able to resist to fields reaching 1000gauss. The average of the other watches then being included between 50 and100 gauss it is the Rolex Milgauss (ref:6541). 

This watch will be highly appreciated by scientists, often having to work in particular conditions. And a manufacturer thinking about details only for a small part of his clientele, the Milgauss collection not being the most popular. 

Rolex Milgauss


Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

This model ofRolex is the first model equipped with a helium valve, that facilitates decompression without causing damage to the watch. This allows the diver to return to the surface without risk, respecting his own decompression stops, the watch will not suffer any damage.


In 1963, the brand released the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona,a watch capable of measuring time intervals, making a stopwatch and also calculating an average speed between these two points.

In 1967, Rolex continues its adventure in the deep sea with the release of the Sea-Dweller. A watch waterproof to 600 M (in 1967), but which will see its maximum depth increased to 1220 M in 1978

This model of Rolex is the first model equipped with a helium valve, that facilitates decompression without causing damage to the watch. This allows the diver to return to the surface without risk, respecting his own decompression stops, the watch will not suffer any damage.

Rolex Sea-Dweller
Rolex Explorer 2

The 70's and 80's will witness the appearance of the 2nd generation watches, or new collection, for the brand. In 1971, Rolex released the Rolex Explorer 2 dedicated to polar explorers, speleologists, volcanologists and others who had to move in terrain often hostile to man. It features a 2nd time zone display on the 24-hour dial with an orange arrow-shaped hand, the signature of this model.  

During the decade, André Heiniger launched the Rolex Awardsan award for highly innovative and visionary personal and corporate projects. 5 major categories are represented: science & medicine, technology & innovation, exploration & discovery, cultural heritage and environment.

In 1982 the GMT master 2 appeared. There was the will to rework the style and to make it evolve in order to make it more cosmopolitan, but by keeping its functionalities dedicated to the pilot, a detail strongly appreciated by this population. It still has a 2nd time zone display on the same dial. In addition, airline pilots had to cross more and more long time zones, as trade and passenger exchanges developed over the years. The two-tone bezel allows to distinguish between day and night time.

Rolex GMT master 2
Rolex Yacht-Master

In 1992 a new collection appeared with the release of the Rolex Yacht-Master watch, a model developed for the open sea and existing in 3 sizes, 40, 35 and 29 millimeters. These 3 variations allow Rolex to increase the number of models available. This watch is mainly aimed at people who own a yacht and sail for pleasure on the open sea.

However, as everything neverhappens alone, 1992 also corresponds to the death of André Heiniger. The second head of the franchise gave way to his son Philippe Heiniger in 1992, who created the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. This program aims to associate artists inpairs for a year in order to exchange, stimulate and transmit creativity. 

Rolex Datejust

1992 will also be the year to honor women with the release of the Rolex Lady-Datejust Pearlmaster, a revisited version of an old collection, a watch model adapted from the Rolex Lady Datejust. But this time, proposed with a case of 29 millimeters and set with precious stones, it will only be available in yellow gold, white gold or Everose 18 carats. It is part of the collections of exceptions intended to be sold at high prices.

The year 2000will be synonymous with a new Millennium and for Rolex, it will be synonymous with revolutionary innovations. Indeed, this year will see the appearance of the first generation of Daytona watches equipped with a new movement caliber, the 4130, a Rolex patented  innovation reducing by 60% the number of components necessary for the operation of a chronograph. 

This innovation increases the autonomy of the movement to 72 hours. The second innovation is the use of the Parachrom balance spring, a balance spring that is 10times more resistant than normal balance springs and is also insensitive to magnetic fields. These two innovations will allow the Daytona collection to become even more appreciated by fans.

rolex caliber 4130
Rolex YAtch-Master 2

Always in a race to innovation, that Rolex dominates well, 15 years after the first model comes out the 2nd collection of  Yatch-Master. This time it will be equipped with a chronograph reminiscent of the Daytona as well as a patented ring command bezel, the bezel is dependent on the mechanism of the watch. It plays a major role in the functioning of the chronometer.

Day-Date 2 Gold

In 2007, Rolex proposes us a new watch of 2nd generation. This time, it attacks the Day-date and thus proposes there Day-Date 2, this collection of watch will be exclusively realized in platinum 950 or in Gold 18 carats. It benefits from an improvement of its case, it will be this time of 41 millimeters. While keeping the display of days and dates in several languages, the bezel will be available this time, fluted, domed or set with precious stones. The watch will keep its distinctive dial. 

Day-Date 2 Gold
Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea

One year later, in 2008, Rolex took a major step forward with the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea, a watch equipped with the Ringlock system, (a ring placed inside the case middle, allowing to support the pressure exerted on the crystal and the case back). It will also be sold equipped with a Glidelock clasp, allowing to adjust the size of the strap, thus allowing to wear it over a diving suit, the watch being able to go up to 3900 M deep.

Barely a year later. A new interpretation of the Datejust, this time with a larger case measuring41 millimeters. It will however keep a recognizable look via its date window located at 3 o'clock on the dial. 

Rolex DateJust 41

Finally, in 2012, the brand launches the marketing of its most beautiful innovation, the Rolex Sky Dweller. Protected by no less than 14 patents, Rolex sign, this watch is equipped with a very intuitive dual time zone, but also an annual calendar called Saros. It allows to have to make only one date correction per year, which is unthinkable at the time, the Dweller being the first watch to allow it. A red triangle placed under the Rolex logo on the dial indicates the first time zone, the second being set via the hour hand. The annual calendar is composed of a reading window at 3 o'clock and a display of the current month via one of the 12 windows located around the dial.

Rolex Sky-Dweller
Rolex Cellini

Among the collections of the company rolex, it is important not to forget the Rolex Cellini, a collection of high-end watches, sold with the most prestigious materials. The Cellini collection is based on an ancestral watch making know-how, bringing noble virtues to the time pieces. The name of the Cellini collection comes from Benvenuto Cellini, a Renaissance artist. The cases are available only in Gold or Everose, elaborated only by the Rolex company. 

In addition, in order to streng then the prestige of the company, Rolex launched the Cellini Moonphase collection, watches having the particularity of being sold with a piece of meteorite embedded in the dial to represent the moon

Rolex Cellini
Rolex Air king

Another major collection of the brand is the Air King collection, watches often related to the Submariner because of their sleek appearance it will also remindus of an Explorer or a Millgauss. You will have understood, the Rolex Air King is distinguished by a timeless look paying tribute to the pioneers of aviation, the Rolex Air King has the distinction of being quite affordable in terms of price. The Air King is part of the iconic models.

To be able to buy a Rolex, it is necessary to have a certain social class or to have a certain budget, as Rolexes are quite expensive. This price depends nowadays, on the time needed to make a Rolex, the reputation of the company, the precision of its products, but it is mainly the result of an excellent choice of materials from the brand.


Until 1980, a Rolex watch could be considered affordable. The materials uses then allowed to propose a selling price around 900$. But during the decade a detail changed, the brand decide in 1985 to use only exceptional and quality materials. This detail in the change of materials changed everything and allowed Rolex to propel itself to the top of the watchmaking world

It therefore decided to design all its products with an alloy of its own design, Oystersteel, which belongs to the 904L steel family. Used today in the high-tech and chemical sectors, this steel alloy is highly resistant to corrosion and therefore makes it possible to offer watches that can with stand all climatic conditions and which, once polished, display an exceptional brilliance. The steel used by Rolex is considered the most qualitative on the market, because it contains a little nickel and chromium, which makes it special. 

The choice of excellent materials does not only apply to the steel chosen by Rolex, the brand also uses gold or platinum for the design of its products. The brand has its own gold and platinum foundry, which allows it to manage the design of all its materials. The Rolex company has invested heavily in research and development to develop color variations unique to the brand.

Originally, it is made of 24-carat gold and, after a skilful transformation in its foundry, it obtains a yellow gold, a white gold or a pink gold (Everose) specially developed by Rolex and composed of gold and a mixture of copper and silver. These 3 exclusive variations of the brand give it an intergenerational influence.

Rolex will register in 1933 the name Rolesor, corresponding to yellow gold, or b placed on the bezel and crown of the watch, as well as on the links of the center of the bracelet; while the case middle and the links on the outside are made of steel alloy Oystersteel.

One of the most prestigious materials used by Rolex is undoubtedly platinum, considered by many to be the noblest of metals, it embellishes the gemstones used on the set models bringing a bright luminosity thanks to its silvery white.

The precious stones used by Rolex are carefully selected by a team of expert gemologists and patiently assembled by hand on the models provided for this purpose. A large number of people work on the search for the stone for the brand because each diamond is chosen individually with great attention to color.
Only diamonds ranging from D to G hues closest to pure white, there will also be attention paid to the purity of each diamond, only IF certified diamonds are retained, each stone will then be reworked by hand before being integrated. 

Rolex Cerachrom

Rolex pays attention to every detail and has invested in research and development to develop a new model of glasses, the Cerachrom. 

The particularity of this bezel is that it is almost scratch proof and unalterable, even under the sun's ultraviolet rays, thanks to the polishing of the ceramic with diamondRolex will coat the numbers on the dial of this bezel with a thin layer of platinum to make them more readable.

It is now clear that Rolex has been at the origin of many innovations and improvements in the watchmaking world, whether it is from a design point of view, communication, choice of materials, its experience, everything allows Rolex to be considered as a reference and to benefit from such a reputation for generations. With 110 years of experience, the brand can boast of being considered as the first reference of luxury watches in the world.

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