Rolex Story

Rolex SA is a Swiss company, based in Geneva, controlled by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation , a charitable and non-profit organisation. The Rolex , according to documents from the time, cannot be sold or traded on the stock market.

Rolex is the largest manufacturer of certified chronometers, all built in Switzerland in the 4 production sites built between 2000 and 2006: more than half of the production of watches certified by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) belongs to the group.

For over a century, Rolex wristwatches have not only been precise, elegant and reliable, but have also accompanied explorers and champions around the world, from the highest mountain peaks to the most remote ocean depths.

The history of Rolex - said GianpaoloMarini - is inextricably linked to the pioneering spirit of its founder, Hans Wilsdorf.

The story began in 1905, when Hans Wilsdorf, at just 24 years old, created Wilsdorf & Davis in London, a company specializing in the marketing of watches (he imported the Swiss mechanisms produced by Hermann Aegler into England and assembled them in luxurious cases created by Dennison and other jewelers of the time who sold the first wristwatches personalizing them with their own brand), imagining ... a timepiece that could be worn on the wrist.

Below we try to summarize the main stages of the technical, commercial and iconographic journey of this great Swiss watchmaking brand.

On July 2, 1908, in Switzerland, Hans Wilsdorf registered his first watch, giving it a short, simple name that was easy to remember and pronounce in all languages ​​and which could be harmoniously placed on the dials and movements. The characteristic 5-pointed crown, the historical symbol of the house, however, was only introduced in 1925.

I tried to combine all the letters of the alphabet, in every way possible. So I had a few hundred names available, but I didn't like any of them. - said Wilsdorf - Until one morning, while I was traveling on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus, along Cheapside Street in the City of London, a little spirit whispered in my ear: Rolex .

In 1910, a Rolex was the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss certificate of chronometric precision, issued by the Official Watch Rating Center in Biel. Four years later, in 1914, the British Kew Observatory awarded a class “A” precision certificate to a Rolex wristwatch, a privilege which, until then, had remained the exclusive prerogative of marine chronometers.

In 1926 Rolex created the first water and dust resistant watch: Oyster , a timepiece equipped with a hermetically sealed case, capable of offering optimal protection to the movement. To prove that the watch was indeed waterproof in 1927 a Rolex Oyster crossed the English Channel unharmed on the wrist of a young English swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze. The crossing lasted approximately 15 hours, during which the watch remained in excellent condition.

Then, in 1931, Rolex patented the first self-winding mechanism in the world with a Perpetual rotor: a true work of art, the progenitor of all modern automatic watches.

From record to record, we arrive after the Second World War, when in 1945 the Oyster Perpetual Datejust was launched, the first waterproof automatic wrist chronometer in the world to indicate the date inside a window on the dial. The Datejust, equipped with a Jubilé bracelet specially created for the occasion, of great elegance and immediately recognizable by its fluted bezel, represents the cornerstone of the Oyster collection. Born as a men's watch, in the decade following its launch it was also available in various women's models.

In the early 1950s, Rolex developed watches capable of serving as true professional tools whose functions went far beyond simply telling the time. They were watches created looking at new professional activities, such as deep diving, aviation, mountaineering and scientific exploration. These instruments met with great enthusiasm and established themselves as the watches of impossible feats. The expedition led by Sir John Hunt, which conquered the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, for example, was equipped with Oyster Perpetual watches, thus transforming it into an icon. Then in 1953, the Submariner was launched, the first diving watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres, whose rotating bezel allows divers to monitor dive times. With the development of intercontinental flights in the 1950s, airliners began to move more and more quickly between time zones. It then became of primary importance to simultaneously know the time in different places in the world. It was the beginning of the so-called "jet age", the era of long-distance flights, and Rolex responded to the challenge of the time with a new model: the GMT-Master, created to meet the specific needs of airline pilots. Its distinctive feature is the two-tone bezel that allows you to distinguish the hours of day from those of night.

In 1956 the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date was born, the first wristwatch to indicate the date and day of the week in full within a window on the dial.

Thus we arrive at the Milgauss , presented in 1956, created to resist magnetic fields up to 1000 gauss and satisfy the needs of the scientific community: an internal bell, made of special ferromagnetic alloys and composed of two parts, one screwed to the movement and the other on the case, protects the Milgauss movement from magnetic interference.

Thanks to a series of extremely rigorous tests carried out during the 1950s, Rolex managed to create a watch capable of withstanding the most extreme external conditions, including those of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the Mariana Trench. In 1960, the experimental bathyscaphe Trieste successfully dived into the Mariana Trench, the world's deepest depression known to man. Led by Lieutenant Don Walsh, accompanied by Jacques Piccard, the bathyscaphe Trieste set a record in the history of deep ocean diving.

In 1963, the Cosmograph , a new generation chronograph, was launched, which was immediately given an iconic name: Daytona . Robust and waterproof, conceived as a cutting-edge instrument available to endurance pilots, the Cosmograph Daytona features, on the bezel, a chronometric scale designed to detect average speed.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Oyster and pay homage to those who have the courage and determination to face the great challenges of contemporary society, Rolex has created the Rolex Awards for Enterprise : a series of awards intended to support new or ongoing projects , carried out in any corner of the earth in order to improve the living conditions of local populations or to protect environmental and cultural heritage. The projects awarded by Rolex touch all aspects of human life and improve the knowledge or living conditions of the planet's inhabitants.

Rolex continues its research, always revealing new and innovative models, such as, for example, the Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, a technological masterpiece intended for great travellers. Inside the imposing 42 mm case, in fact, it offers a second time zone that is as intuitive to read as it is simple to use and a particularly innovative annual calendar called Saros, in reference to the astronomical phenomenon of the same name, from which it is inspired, which requires a Only date correction per year. To allow you to adjust the different functions easily and quickly, the Sky-Dweller also features an innovative interface: the Ring Command rotating bezel.

On March 26, 2012, National Geographic director and explorer James Cameron descended into the Mariana Trench, making the deepest solo dive of all time, the only one since the one made by the two men from the bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960. Only one passenger participated in both trips: a Rolex watch.

Finally, since 2013, Rolex has been the official timekeeper of Formula 1.

Giovanni Scotti