What Mercedes Benz is to luxury cars Rolex is to a luxury watch. You know you have to get one when you have made it. But what makes this Swiss watch the darling of collectors, repeat and first-time buyers alike. Franz Rivoira answers.
There are many, many things about Rolex watches which make them “special”, and make us say that without Rolex, the world of horology as we know it today would have been very different.
Rolex has been instrumental not only in developing new trends and concepts in watches per se, but also, in launching new concepts of watch use into the community, as well as revolutionizing the way watches are made, by embracing the concept of bringing industrial production into watchmaking.
There have been very few companies as disruptive as Rolex – ever – and we should remember that the company of the Crown is just a tad over a hundred years old or so. Comparing it with Vacheron or Blancpain, which go back to the mid-1750s, it is a baby in history and tradition. Yet it has surpassed them in size and scope, becoming possibly the most important watchmaker overall in the world.
Regarding the evolution of the horology technique, Rolex has been a pioneer in several main fields:
– development of the centrally mounted automatic movement
– development of the waterproof case
– development of anti-magnetic alloys and devices to improve accuracy
Just these areas would amply testimony its importance. The automatic watches we are using all use (or almost all) evolution of the centrally pointed 360 degrees swiveling rotor invented by Rolex. Before it, watches had a pendulum mechanism with limited swiveling of the oscillating mass (some watches continued to use this so-called “bumper” mechanism).
As you can see here, this is an old automatic movement from Rolex, showing how it is the mechanism. This has been invented in the Twenties, and constantly improved so to become what we know today.
Look at this:
This is a Hans Wilsdorf “Oyster”, from the 1910s. It is exceedingly rare – and moreso because Mr Wilsdorf was one of the founders of Rolex. The Oyster case, aptly named to be closed like an oyster, was originally intended to keep off dust and grime, which were (and are) the main enemies of watches – but then became good to keep off also water, which was another substance that you do not want in a watch, ever – as metal and water seldom mix well.
The quality of Rolex waterproof cases was demonstrated publicly when in 1927, a Rolex Oyster crossed the English Channel on the wrist of a young English swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze. The crossing lasted over 10 hours, during which time the watch remained in excellent condition.
Rolex became so good at manufacturing watertight cases that it has achieved feats like this:
This Rolex Submariner was lost at sea during a fishing expedition. But the owner marked his coordinates and worked out a deal with a local dredging barge to search the area from time to time. What happened is that after 14 months, the watch was found and recovered in an area with a depth of around 100 meters. And after a few turns of the crown, it went ticking and tocking as if nothing had happened.
I could go onwards, and get more3 esoteric as well by outlining some technical feats that Rolex has managed to achieve – but I think that these two already make a good case.
Rolex watches – as I usually say – are not luxury timepieces. They are extremely well done high-end watches.
When you buy one, you pay (handsomely) for their quality, ruggedness and materials, and know that despite all odds, what you are putting at your wrist will probably keep on ticking whatever you throw at them.
More, you also know that, apart from the social acceptance you would get from wearing a timepiece like this, your investment in a Rolex would stay consistent and not decrease in time – with you having the good aspect of wearing a very cool watch in the meanwhile.
So, I think there are enough reasons to justify buying a Rolex. We may opinionate about their real value vs their list price, but we all have to agree, they provide an amazing quality overall.
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