What Makes a Rolex a Rolex?
A Rolex is now widely understood to be a status symbol, but the brand’s legacy is much larger and vaster than that.
The Rolex house was founded in 1905 in London, although the main brains behind the operation – Hans Wilsdorf – was Swiss-born, bred, and trained. The company moved to Geneva only 14 years after its founding, but Wilsdorf aimed to represent the quintessential Swiss qualities of precision and innovation from the very start.
All the components and pieces on each Rolex watch are still made from scratch at one of their facilities in Switzerland. This includes the diminutive gears of the movement mechanism as well as all the gold, platinum, and steel. They have their own foundry. New advances in nanotechnology have permitted the brand to use computer-based calibrations when designing each new model, or when testing their final product. Most of the assembly, however, is still performed by hand by watchmakers trained in-house.
Despite the vast variety of models offered, there are certain characteristics that we can always expect from a genuine Rolex watch. All Rolex watches now have perpetual movement. They have a self-winding mechanism that uses wrist movement to power the watch. Because of the exacting precision of their hand-assembled mechanisms, the dials on a Rolex watch move smoothly and steadily, without any ticking.
In addition, their steel models all use 904L steel, which is the highest grade of steel used when constructing such small pieces. Most brands use 316L steel, which is softer and easier to handle, but also less exact. Their quality control procedures can only be described as obsessive, and include individual daily testing for at least two weeks across five positions.
All Rolex watches are certified Swiss chronometers, which only 3% of all Swiss luxury watches are. They were also the first to market a waterproof case – the Oyster.
Researching and understanding the brand’s history and achievements is key to appreciating what makes a Rolex special. It will also protect you from accidentally purchasing a convincing forgery.