Why is Rolex the king of watches?
Rolex is, without a doubt, the most well-known watch brand that has become synonymous with luxury and reliability. The famous crown has innovated the watch industry, grown colossal support, and stood the test of time. You can still find some of the earliest Rolex models in entire working order. Because of their reliability and unrivalled marketing, they have become collectable and even used as investments and stores of value.
How did Rolex start?
Rolex was created in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, a German businessman who had previously sold exported watches from Switzerland and was now living in London, England.
After world war 1 (1919), Hans Wilsdorf moved Rolex to Geneva, Switzerland, to avoid the heavy taxes the British had imposed on imported goods. Hans knew that Rolex would continue to import precious metals such as gold, so it would make better business sense to move the company to Switzerland (the home of watchmaking), where taxes were lower and watchmaking resources were in better supply.
Rolex's inventions, innovations, and marketing genius.
Rolex was a company that wanted to innovate and become the best, and they knew that the best way to do this was to take market share by inventing and improving. They thought innovating the watch industry and bringing new inventions would allow them to take market share and build a strong brand.
Rolex Oyster watch
The first record they wanted to set was to produce the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch. To help them achieve this goal, they created the oyster case, which was successful. Rolex hermetically sealed the case back of the Oyster watch, which made it waterproof and dustproof, the watch was released in 1926, and they called it "the Rolex Oyster watch". Rolex gave the watch to a British swimmer who was swimming the English Channel in 1927, he was to wear the watch for the 10-hour swim and it was still in perfect working order once the swim was complete. This marked the first triumph for Rolex and put the company straight into the limelight as they landed the front page of the Daily Mail newspaper.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a direct descendant of the Oyster Perpetual. Click here to read our Rolex Oyster Perpetual blog.
Rolex Perpetual movement
In 1931 Rolex released the perpetual movement, a groundbreaking system that removed the need for manual watch winding. The system included a rotating plate that swings with physical movement to wind the mainspring. This type of watch movement is now widely used by watchmakers and it's commonly known as an automatic movement.
We have a blog on movements. Click here to read it.
Rolex and its world records
The 1930s was a busy period for Rolex, the company partnered with world record breakers so that its watches were present during these milestones. A Rolex watch was present on the first flight that flew over Mount Everest. Sir Malcolm Campbell wore a Rolex when he broke the world record; both watches worn during these events inspired models we know and love today, such as the Rolex Daytona and the Rolex Air-King.
Rolex Datejust Released in 1945
The Rolex Datejust was the next watch that Rolex released to break another record. The Rolex Datejust was the first self-winding wristwatch to feature a date indicator on the dial, something taken for granted today but a true groundbreaking feat of engineering at the time.
Professional Rolex watches for achievers
Rolex spent the next few decades creating its professional line, including watches for achievers. Rolex made watches for exploration, deep-sea diving, racing, mountain climbing, aviation, science and even presidents. All of these watches were intended for high-achieving men and women that were influential and committed to shaping the future and the one thing that they had in common was a Rolex watch.
Rolex Explorer Released in 1953 Rolex
The Rolex Explorer was released in 1953 and after Sir Edmund Hillary had worn a Rolex when he summitted Mount Everest; at that time, he was the first man (along with his sherpa Tenzing Norgay) to summit Mount Everest. Of course, a Rolex had to be on the expedition.
Rolex Submariner Released in 1953
1953 was a busy year for Rolex; the brand released multiple professional watches, including the Rolex Submariner, which was the first wristwatch able to dive as deep as 100M. It also included a rotatable bezel to allow divers to time their dives.
Rolex GMT Released in 1954
As transcontinental travel started to boom in the 50s, Rolex swiftly became aware that there was a need to know the time in multiple time zones, so they responded with the Rolex GMT. The Rolex GMT became the watch for airlines and pilots, and the famous red and blue bezel was a hit from the word go. To learn more about the Rolex GMT, click here.
Made for Leaders, The Rolex Day-Date was Released in 1956
The Rolex Day-Date was the next professional watch to be released and set a new world record, this time it was the first watch to include a time, date and date (spelt out in full) on the dial. The watch was intended for world leaders and soon became known as the Rolex President.
Rolex Milgauss Released in 1956
The Rolex Milgauss was released in answer to scientists and medical professionals that were operating in magnetic fields. The Rolex Milgauss was designed to withstand magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gausses. Rolex put this model through its paces with CERN engineers, and once it passed the CERN testing, it became the flagship watch for medical and scientific professionals.
The Rolex Milgauss was released in 1956 and enjoyed nearly 70 years of production until it was discontinued in 2023 as watch technology has come on so much since the 50s and all of Rolex's modern watches now feature antimagnetic technology.
Rolex Development in the 1960s
The Rolex Deepsea Special
Rolex started to experiment with ultra deep-sea exploration throughout the 50s, and by 1960 Rolex was ready to test the Deepsea Special watch, which successfully withstood depths of 7 miles when it was taken to the deepest known part of the Ocean, the Mariana Trench.
The Rolex Daytona was Released 1960
Paying Homage to speed and its brand ties to breaking land speed records in Daytona Beach, Florida, Roelx released the Daytona watch, which was made to be the ultimate racing watch. The Rolex Daytona, released in 1963, was a dustproof, waterproof, self-winding chronograph that helped drivers calculate their average speed using the tachymetric scale on the bezel.
Rolex Sea-Dweller was Released in 1967
After the success of the Marina Trench mission, Rolex released the Rolex Sea-Dweller. The Rolex Sea-Dweller was the first watch to feature a helium escape value and be able to dive as deep as 2000ft on a regular basis. The helium escape valve was designed to allow helium to escape from the was without causing damage whilst the watch was under immense pressure at a depth of up to 2000ft or in a decompression chamber.
Why is Rolex the best?
When you read through the above milestones that Rolex reached, and how the company continued to set new records and break boundaries, it starts to become clear as to why Rolex is the king of the watch world.
Rolex was the first watchmaking company to release watches such as the Rolex GMT, a model that almost every watchmaker produces today. This extensive history of groundbreaking engineering, being at the forefront of innovation, and partnering with the world's leading pioneers, sports people and explorers helped Rolex get so far ahead of even the second best.
Rolexes' attitude towards raising the bar and setting new standards is something they share with the industries, companies and people that they have collaborated with, and it is the events that they took part in that automatically gave them credibility and marketing. Still, it was the people they partnered with that helped them gain status and trust.
Rolex continued to innovate
There is a limit to good innovation, and there is only so much you can do before you overcomplicate things and change your direction, business model and client base. Since the 1960s, Rolex hasn't released new models in the same quantities as they did before; however, they have still produced new models such as the Rolex Yacht-Master series and the Rolex Sky-Dweller.
In addition to releasing new models, the company has innovated the production of all current models by adding features such as 904L stainless steel, chromolight, ceramic bezels and the parachrom mainspring. Through improving existing models, Rolex has demonstrated confidence and strength, resulting in a catalogue of unbeatable, solid market winners. It is worth noting that Rolex has managed to make these modern improvements whilst maintaining the heritage of each model and keeping watch enthusiasts engaged and in love with the crown.
Rolexes ongoing commitment to excellent work
Since Hans Wilsdorf gave 100% ownership of Rolex to his non-profit organisation in 1960 the company has been committed to lasting perfection with its watches. Still, they have played a significant role in conservation to help improve the planet and the lives of those that live here.
It appears to be necessary for Rolex to stay relevant both within the watch industry and within the sporting world, too; Rolex has partnered with motorsport events such as F1, tennis events like Wimbledon and various golf tournaments. Rolex has often outspent all other watchmaking brands annually, which is another significant attribute of their success and relevance.
Is Rolex a charity?
Rolex is owned by a non-profit organisation known as the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, the foundation also owns Tudor, so the two companies are closely linked.
Rolex has an initiative called “Mission Blue” which is a non-profit mission to help with marine conservation where the company plans to protect and create marine hot spots and ecosystems around the globe
Science & Health
Rolex donates financial sums to help support science in all fields in a bid to help innovation, ingenuity and excellence with scientific projects. Rolex has built its own watchmaking schools to help train skilled watchmakers and keep the art alive.
Rolex has several health initiatives on its radar, too, including a goal to eradicate malnutrition and other goals, including rapid malaria testing and eyesight testing for third-world countries.
Rolex supports individuals and institutions across the globe who are determined to achieve excellence in their field. Rolex has experienced its journey of excellence, so they are well placed to help support the next generation.
To support, motivate, celebrate and recognise the achievements of those doing good in the world and pushing the boundaries in their chosen field. Rolex believes that anyone can change anything, so they have spent over four decades hosting the Rolex Awards for enterprises to encourage and support projects, including personal challenges, natural preservations and culture.
Why are Rolex watches so hard to find, and why do Rolex watches sell for above RRP?
It is no secret that Rolex watches are tough to acquire at RRP, primarily down to two reasons, in our opinion. The first is supply and demand; the second is placing the watches with the correct people.
When a product is made with longevity and excellence in mind, they become prevalent, and demand outweighs supply; the next thing to happen is for prices to increase; this is a common equation for supply and demand. We believe that it is likely that Rolex has to work hard to find the correct supply and demand balance to maintain its image of excellence. If Rolex watches were readily available for everybody, the crown may lose its appeal, and the watches wouldn’t have the same appeal. We believe that Rolex intends to place its watches on the wrist of excellent people that share some of the values of the company. The problem for Rolex is that they have become so excellent that everyone wants to have a slice of that excellence, and some exploit the situation in a big way to make a profit. This must be unacceptable for Rolex and leaves them with the challenge of selling watches to people who want them for the right reason and not to flip them for a profit. It’s clear to us that this is a considerable challenge, and there are bound to be some difficulties in finding the ideal balance.
Thank you for reading this entire article, I hope that you will agree that nothing worth having comes easy; Rolex aren’t an overnight success, and they aren’t lucky either. Rolex has innovated and carefully partnered with world record-breaking individuals and events; they spend huge sums on marketing and are committed to making watches that last for generations. Through these acts, Rolex has created value for its clients, shareholders, and employees. This value wasn’t created overnight, it's taken the best part of 100 years for Rolex watches to sell for double and even triple the list value. Next time you think of buying a Rolex watch, you should know you’re buying more than just a watch.