Swiss watches by Rolex have already become an urban legend, an epitome for luxury wrapped around your wrist. But what makes a Rolex so very special? Rolex has history. Tradition as an icon of helvetian craftsmanship and manufactured perfection. Christian Bale wore a Rolex Datejust in his legendary portrayal of “Patrick Bateman” in “American Psycho”. Paul Newmans wrist was equipped with a Rolex Daytona in “The colour of money”. Sean Connery as famous James Bond? A Rolex Submariner. Even the revolutionary Che Guevara relied on the timing of a Rolex: model Oyster Perpetual.
All that shines is gold.
Rolex is the biggest Swiss gold manufacturer. Because Rolex clockworks are frequently controlled and certified by the official Swiss Control Center for Chronometers (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, COSC) and the official numbers are publicly available, we know that Rolex assembles about 800.000 watches per year. Quite a lot, compared to the brand Patek Philippe for example, which releases only about 50.000 pieces a year. Additionally it gets hot in the basement of the Rolex headquarters in Plan-les-Ouates near Genf, really hot. 1200 to 1300 degrees Celsius burn inside the smoldering gold melting pot. Here works the man in the silver suit with the reflective visor shield. And here the luxury-brand Rolex carefully handles it’s own gold production. More precisely: here is the place where Rolex forges its own gold alloys – roségold, white gold, yellow gold. Crude 24-Karat-gold granulate, by adding silver, copper, palladium or platinum, based on highly secret recipes, becomes the exclusive metals for the exclusive watches of Rolex.
Where it all began.
For about a hundred years wristwatches have not just been a useful accessoire but a symbol of style and status. And Rolex has been there since the very beginning: with a clear message, prominent communication and consistency Rolex managed to hold its standards. It all began in northern Bavaria, Germany. In Kulmach, to be precise, where on 22nd of march 1881 Hans Wilsdorf is born. With twelve years Hans loses both his parents and is sent to boarding school in Coburg. A few years later, 19 years old, he meets a Swiss man who takes him to La Chaux-de-Fonds and into the world of watches. And ten years later Hans Wildorf officially registers the brand name “Rolex”.
“I am trying every combination of the letters in the alphabet.”, Hans writes about finding a name for his company in a letter. “One morning, while riding high on a horse bus through Cheapside in Central London, I heard an inner voice calling it to me: Rolex.”
Rolex on the top of the world.
Wilsdorf, a visionary with an extraordinary intuition for his brand, banks everything on wristwatches. And that at a time where wristwatches are far from being considered manly. Man wore pocket watches on a fancy chain. Only with the first world war wristwatches became increasingly popular on a man’s wrist. Another step to success has always been owed to the famous brand ambassadors of Rolex: in 1927 the British swim star Mercedes Gleitze wore a waterproof golden Rolex Oyster strapped around her neck when she spectacularly attempted to cross the English Channel swimming. Since that day Rolex is known for building the world’s first actually waterproof wrist watch. When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first people to climb the Mount Everest in 1953, they did it with Rolex. In 1960 the Rolex supermodel Deepsea dove 10.916 meters deep into the abyss of Marianas Trench, mounted on the deep sea submarine of Jacques Piccard. The watch, encased in a massive glass dome, withstood incredible pressures up to a ton per square centimeter.
To this day Rolex proves holistic understanding for brand and audience with the selection of its brand ambassadors in the fields of golf, sailing, Formula One and art. With consequences: who decides to invest in a Rolex today, wears cash money on his wrist. A watch is always good to sell, a Rolex is an investment with accretion potential. Who managed to get his hands on a limited edition can earn a small fortune with a sale. The model Jean-Claude Killy, worth 5000 to 7000 Swiss Francs in the 50s, reached sale values from 100.000 to 150.000 Francs just ten years later. Newest vintage-coup: Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona is scheduled to auction at the auction house of Phillips in the end of October. Minimum estimated sale value: a million dollars. The proceeds will benefit a charity foundation instituted by Newman’s daughter two years after the legend passed away in 2008.
Be it one million or ten: a Rolex is kult. Rolex is a profound statement. And a long term investment – for oneself and for one’s descendants.