Rolex Company Information
Rolex is by far the most well known luxury watch brand on the market, and that has been the case for many decades. Though they are a leader in the watchmaking industry today, the company started out in 1905 as a small two-man operation called “Wilsdorf & Davis” which was named after the founders; Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis.
Initially, Davis and Wilsdorf started manufacturing their own watches by hand and selling them in London, England. It wasn’t until 1919 when they officially relocated their small company’s operation to Switzerland and re-branded as Rolex. Wilsdorf and Davis didn’t know it at the time, but their watch designs, the quality of their work and the legacy of their brand would carry on well after they left.
Today Rolex is still based in Switzerland, operating under the same name (Rolex SA), and it is among the most influential global brands across all major industries worldwide. They even received the 64th spot on Forbes’ Most Valuable Brands list in 2016 with a value of $8.7 billion.
Rolex: From Humble Beginnings to Global Brand
The Rolex brand we all know today was started based on the vision of a man named Hans Wilsdorf. Though the details are not totally clear, he was born in Germany on March 22, 1881 and was orphaned as a young child. Sometime between the 1890’s and early 1900’s Wilsdorf moved to Switzerland where began working for a local watch manufacturer in La Chaux-de-Fonds. It wasn’t util 1905 when he moved to London and decided to start his own watch business with his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis.
Davis and Wilsdorf began their watch empire in a very humble way – by importing movements from Switzerland and placing them inside of high-end watch cases using only the best quality bands. Even though Rolex is one of the most expensive watch brands on the market today, their initial goal was to manufacture high-quality wrist watches at affordable prices.
The two would hallmark the back of the watch cases and sell them under the brand name Wilsdorf & Davis. Their watches would have a Wilsdorf & Davis hallmark or would simply feature an engraving of their initials (“W&D”). They would sell these watches to local jewelers who would often put the brand name of their shop on the face of each watch.
During World War II, Rolex received a lot of notoriety among Royal Air Force pilots in Britain. RAF pilots began purchasing Rolex watches to replace their standard-issue timepieces, which were inferior in terms of quality and reliability.
Where Does the Name Come From?
After just a few years of making their own wrist watches, business was going well so the two decided to officially start their own watch brand. In 1908, they started the process by applying for a trademark in Switzerland, with the new name being Rolex. The rumor is (though it has never been confirmed by neither Davis nor Wilsdorf) that the name was inspired by the phrase “horlogerie exquise” which in French translates to “exquisite clockwork.”
Other sources suggest that the name was simply made up out of thin air, or that it was derived from the English phrase “horological excellence” so that it could be easily pronounced in any language. The truth is, however, that no one will ever know the real answer and we can only speculate. Whatever the true meaning behind the name was, it definitely caught on.
It took nearly a decade for their original trademark filing to be approved by the Swiss government, but in 1915 it was finally granted. Once approved, the two men utilized the trademark as a new brand name for all of their products, moved their entire operation to Geneva, Switzerland and decided to pursue watchmaking full-time under the name Rolex.
Current Status of Rolex SA
Today, Rolex is a household name and their products have become a status symbol; owning a Rolex watch often signifies success. Rolex SA is still a privately owned company, and is held under the Hans Wildorf Foundation. As of 2018, the CEO is Gian Riccardo Marini. The company’s products transcend both language and culture, and they are sought after by people from all over the world.
Rolex SA employs well over 5,000 people around the world via Rolex SA and its subsidiary, Montres Tudor SA. Some sources even suggest that the two companies employ as many as 10,000+ people in total. Across both brands (but primarily through Rolex), it is estimated that the company does over $5 billion (USD) in sales each year on average. The company is able to employ thousands of workers through their four massive watchmaking facilities as well as the hundreds of retail stores located around the world that Rolex SA operates.
Sports & Sponsorships
Throughout its long and storied history, Rolex has become synonymous with sports by sponsoring a wide range of professional sporting events. This has included professional golf, Formula 1 Racing and various other motor sport events, tennis, yachting and equestrian sports. By only sponsoring the best teams and individuals in a specific sport, they believe it associates their brand with excellence.
Rolex Watch Models
Since 1915, Rolex has made quite a few wrist watch models. They offer three main lines of watches; Oyster Perpetual, Professional and Cellini. Within each of their watch lines, there are several different varieties. Some Rolex models have stood the test of time and are still being manufactured up until this day, while others were only made as limited edition runs. Additionally, some other models were simply discontinued after a few short years. The company has also even made custom watches for big clients, such as Pan American Airlines.
Rolex manufactures only the highest quality wrist watches, most of which are made for either fashion, a niche profession or hobby, or for a specific sport. Most of these varieties are available in men’s, women’s and unisex, and they are built specifically for different applications – from pilots to race car drivers and explorers. Below we have compiled a list of every Rolex wrist watch model ever made.
The Air-King is part of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual line of wrist watches and was designed by Hans Wilsdorf himself. This line was created to honor the RAF pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain during World War II and can be found by reference numbers 4499, 6552, 5500, 14000, 14000m and 114200. It was first released to the public during WWII and it was the least expensive Rolex wrist watch model for most of the company’s history, until they stopped manufacturing them in 2014.
Just a few years after they stopped making Air-Kings (in 2016), Rolex began manufacturing the watches again. The newer model Air-King is now only offered in 1 variation which includes a larger 40mm case and consists of a stainless steel band, face and bezel. The newest model Air-King watch features the perpetual, mechanical, self-winding movement which is one of Rolex’s most recent technological advancements. The current options feature a 904L stainless steel band and case with a black face. The suggested retail price for the new Air-King is $6,200 USD.
The Rolex Datejust was first introduced in 1945, and is still being manufactured to this day. Back in 1945, it made history as being the first wrist watch to feature an automatically changing date function on the watch face. The original model (REF: 4467) was available in just one men’s style that consisted of an 18k gold / stainless steel band, 18k gold bezel and dials. Since the 1940’s it has underwent a number of subtle, yet important improvements and changes to its functionality, design and the options that are available for the model.
The original Datejust was probably one of the most recognizable Rolex products due to its 18 karat gold bracelet, bubble back winder, deeply domed back, Oyster case, fluted bezel, and Jubilee bracelet. The model is now offered in both men and women varieties with a number of different configuration options for each watch. The suggested retail price for a brand new Rolex Datejust can range from as little as $6,350 (for a basic women’s watch with limited configuration) all the way up to $12,000 or more.
The Daytona (officially named the “Cosmograph Daytona”) is a Rolex model that was introduced in 1963 and manufactured well through the 1980’s. As the name suggests, the watches were popular among racing fans and even race car drivers during this time, most notably, Paul Newman. The Daytona is still highly sought after by watch collectors to this day, and was made in three different series since 1963. The Daytona is a manual, self-winding wrist watch that was offered in Stainless Steel.
After stopping production in the late 1980’s, the Cosmograph Daytona was in short supply, but there was still a healthy demand. For this reason, Rolex began manufacturing the Daytona watch again starting in 1988 until 2000. Known as the second series, these watches were only made in limited quantities. In 2000 a third series was introduced in larger numbers, and these are still being produced to this day. The current suggested retail price for a new Rolex Daytona wrist watch is $12,400 USD.
The Day-Date was first introduced by Rolex in 1956 as part of the Oyster Perpetual line. It made history as the first wrist watch to feature the date as well as the day of the week, spelled out in full length. It is still being produced today, and is currently available in 18k yellow gold, 18k white gold, 18k rose gold and 0.950 platinum (PT950).
The Day-Date is the only Rolex model to have the option of adding a “Presidential” band which features an exclusive bracelet taht was made popular by Lyndon B. Johnson during his time as president of the United States. The “Presidential Rolex”, as it is often referred to as, is one of the company’s most iconic pieces ever made. The Presidential band is still offered today, and it can also be found in used condition from certified Rolex dealers.
The Rolex Explorer is a popular model that was initially introduced in 1953. All Explorer watches produced between 1953 and 1971 are now known as the “Explorer I” series and can be found in pre-owned condition. As its name suggests, this model was designed specifically for “explorers” who often venture into uncharted areas of the world. One of the most iconic instances of the Explorer being used is for navigating Mt. Everest during the early days of exploration.
In 1971 a new line of the model was introduced, which is now referred to as the Explorer II line. The modern-day Explorer II model features Rolex’s signature 904L stainless steel, and is built to stand up to the toughest environments in the world. It is only available in a single variety, unlike other models. It is still possible to customize, though this can only be done through someone like a local jeweler, and not by Rolex.
The GMT Master is part of the Oyster Perpetual class and was first manufactured in 1954. The watch was designed in collaboration with one of the largest commercial airline companies of the period, Pan American Airways. The Rolex GMT Master was issued to Pan Am flight crews who were assigned to long flights.
The GMT time zone, or UTC time zone as it is also referred to as, is the universal time zone used by pilots and navigators. To accommodate the needs of airline pilots, the GMT Master has a 24-hour fourth hand that is linked to the normal 12-hour hand. It is still being manufactured today, and is available in six primary varieties which consist of white gold, steel, yellow gold or a steel/yellow gold combination. The suggested retail price starts at rouglhy $9,000 but can range much higher depending on customization.
The Rolex Milgauss is part of the Oyster Perpetual line and was first introduced in 1956. It is made using only anti-magnetic materials, because they are meant to be used specifically by people who work in places such as power plants, medical facilities and research labs where electromagnetic fields could be an issue. These types of facilities often use magnetic machines which can throw off the time-keeping capabilities of more basic wrist watches.
For this reason, the Rolex Milgauss consists of only non-magnetic metals, such as Parachrom-Blu. Even small mechanical pieces, like the watch’s hairspring, are made from non-magnetic materials. Aside from the differences with its metallic makeup, the Milgauss is most comparable to the Rolex Submariner, at least as far as appearances go. It is available solely in stainless steel and features a 40mm case.
The Oysterquartz model was first conceptualized in the early 1970’s but didn’t see production until the late 1970’s. It was meant to spark interest in Swiss luxury watches from Asian markets, which were dominated by Japanese quartz movements at the time.
The Oysterquartz model was manufactured for roughly 30 years, until Rolex took it out of production in 2001. It is still sought after by collectors, but it’s only available on the secondary market.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller watch was part of the Oyster Perpetual line and was introduced in 1967. During that period in time, there was a growing need for a reliable, quality wrist watch that could be used by professional divers at great depths.
The original Sea-Dweller had a depth rating of 610 meters, or approximately 2,000 ft and is commonly known as the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000. Newer models, however, such as the DEEPSEA are rated for up to 3,900 meters. Both the Sea-Dweller 2000 and the DEEPSEA models are still being produced today.
Similar to the Sea-Dweller, the Sky-Dweller was made for one specific set of clientele; those who frequently travel across the globe through different time zones. The Sky-Dweller was first introduced very recently, in 2012, and it provides a number of different functionalities that provide the user with the information they need to seamlessly keep track of time in multiple time zones.
The Sky-Dweller is one of the most mechanically sophisticated timepieces the company has to offer and each model has anywhere from 11 to 14 patents. Pricing for this model can range from approximately $14,000 to $20,000 or more depending on the band material and other customizations.
The Submariner, properly known as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner, was built specifically for professional divers. In the 1950’s there was a need for a precision watch that was water proof and could withstand the pressure caused by deep-water diving.
Each Rolex Submariner watch is water proof and made with corrosion-resistant materials. The model was first introduced in 1953, and it is still being manufactured today with a suggested retail price ranging from $9,400 for the Submariner Date base model up to $13,400 or more.
The Yacht-Master was first introduced in 1992, initially offered in only one style featuring 18k yellow gold. Since then, they have expanded their offering to include a number of variations that consist of different types of precious metals and sizes.
The Yacht-Master is still being produced today in its original design, as well as 11 other variations. This includes the Yacht-Master I (original model) and a newer model, the Yacht-Master II.
As a premiere luxury watch brand that has been around for over 100 years, Rolex has achieved several groundbreaking accomplishments since 1905. Most notably, Rolex created the first waterproof wrist watch in 1926, known simply as the Oyster. They have also achieved the following:
- Rolex made the first wrist watch with an automatically changing date on the dial (Rolex Datejust)
- In 1953, Rolex made the first case for a wrist watch that was waterproof up to 100 meters (the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner)
- In 1954, Rolex worked with Pan American Airways to design and manufacture the GMT-Master. This was the first wrist watch capable of showing two different time zones at once
- In 1956, Rolex made the Day-Date model, which was the first wrist watch to have a day and date display that was able to change automatically.
Rolex Watchmaking Facilities
Rolex has four primary watchmaking facilities which are located right at home in Switzerland – and more specifically, in or near the city of Geneva. At each of these facilities, Rolex handles everything from the careful production of the watch movements, to the assembly of complete wrist watches from beginning to end. One of the core benefits of having 4 of their own customized watchmaking facilities (all of which are located in Switzerland) is that Rolex is able to control the quality of their end products.
One of Rolex’s primary manufacturing facilities, named “Plan-Les-Ouates” is even home to a gold foundry that was designed to produce custom gold-based materials for Rolex watches. This gives Rolex a significant competitive advantage, as they have much greater control over their end product since they are 100% responsible for each individual piece and mechanism that goes into every single watch with the Rolex name on it.
Rolex Retail Stores and Authorized Dealers
As a leading global brand, Rolex has retail stores as well as certified Rolex dealers (or authorized dealers) within just about every country in the world. Whether you are in North America, South America, Australia, Asia or Europe you will likely be able to find a Rolex dealer in every major city.
Rolex is notorious for having extremely strict policies for third-party stores who want to become an authorized dealer to sell their watches. For a retailer to be approved to sell certified, authentic new watches, Rolex assesses everything from the layout of the store, its square footage and even the current products they sell. If a dealer is approved, Rolex charges an application fee, which is rumored to be hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a strict and comprehensive process that can take years to be granted, and many applicants do not get approved.
Reputation in the Watch Industry
Rolex has one of the best reputations in the industry when it comes to quality, reliability, precision and beauty. Since the early 1900’s they have always turned out the highest quality timepieces in the world. When you buy a Rolex, you are not simply buying a watch, you are investing in a piece of art, made with care by one of the most premiere luxury brands in the world.
As is the case with some “gimmicky” luxury brands, Rolex watches are not priced the way they are just because of the brand name behind the product. A great deal of time, care and precision goes into the manufacturing of each individual timepiece. Some watches can even take well over a year to build. For example, Rolex states on their website that some of their movements can take up to a year to manufacture. On top of that, they have to build the band, case, and all other pieces of the watch before assembling them.
Buying a Rolex
You can buy Rolex’s in new or pre-owned condition. It is always recommended that you purchase a Rolex from an authorized dealer or an official Rolex retail store to ensure authenticity. You can also find collectible, used or pre-owned watches at non-certified watch dealers, such as local jewelry shops.
Rolex wacthes can even be bought online through sites like eBay, but it goes without saying that this is probably one of the riskiest places to do so. If you are buying a Rolex on eBay, the chance of fraud or purchasing a fake Rolex knockoff is exponentially greater than buying from a local Jeweler or an authorized Rolex dealer.
Rolex watches are some of the most expensive that money can buy. Currently, when looking at brand new “in the box” Rolex’s, the most inexpensive model is the Oyster Perpetual 39 which is priced at $5,700. The most expensive base model is the GMT-Master Ice, which was only made in limited quantities. In general, however, a Rolex will run you anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000 depending on the model.
Most Expensive Rolex
One of the main selling points when it comes to buying and owning a Rolex watch is that it’s a well-made piece of machinery that is meant to last a lifetime or more. The notoriety of the brand, and the quality of its products means that there will likely be a market for decades to come. On top of that, a large number of Rolex models are made with rare, valuable metals and jewels. The worst case scenario is, if your band wears out, you can sell it for its melt value.
Buying Rolex Watches as an Investment
Even though most Rolex owners purchase them simply to wear, some people buy them as an investment. Generally, this includes the vintage watch models, which are much more collectible than brand new watches. Buying a new Rolex with the idea of “buying low and selling high” most likely won’t work out in your favor. People often admire watch designs, much like they do with art, wine and other assets. On the other hand, if you’re looking to purchase a watch that simply holds its value well, Rolex watches are actually one of the best brands to buy. Generally speaking, Rolex watches hold their value over time the best of all luxury watch brands.
This comes with a cost, however, as you’ll have to take good care of the watch while you own it. That means having it cleaned by a professional jeweler and getting it fixed if need be to ensure it’s in perfect working order. The cost of maintenance with Rolex and other luxury watch brands can add up over the years. In 2015 Rolex began offering a 5 year warranty on all new watches. The warranty is still available to this day.
As one of the most well-known and sought after luxury watch brands in the world, Rolex’s are one of the most commonly faked watches. The best way to avoid unknowingly purchasing a fake Rolex is to only deal with reputable, authorized sellers (such as a Rolex store or an authorized Rolex dealer).
One reason why Rolex is such an expensive, and sought after brand is because of the quality it puts into each individual watch. Take a very close look at the watch, and if you notice anything off (such as a misaligned case, corrosion, or other minor imperfections) there’s a good chance it’s a fake.
You can also look at the serial number markings and the Rolex logo on the face of the watch. Rolex uses precision lasers to etch the serial numbers onto their watches, so a fake will likely not have deep, fine lines. A lot of knockoffs will also miss one of the most important hallmarks – the Rolex logo, and more specifically their trademark crown. If a watch does not have the Rolex crown on it’s face, this is a dead giveaway of a counterfeit.
Rolex watches are often made from precious metals, or steel which are dense. You can always find the weight of a watch on the official Rolex website and weigh the watch in question to see if it matches. Fake Rolex watches are often several ounces lighter, due to cheaper material being used to reproduce them.
If you see a Rolex logo or other insignia on the back of the watch case, it is likely a fake. With a few rare exceptions, Rolex does not generally include this information on the caseback and it should be a giveaway that the watch is not authentic.