A History of Rolex: Then and Now

deepsea challenge rolex

The name Rolex is as synonymous with luxury watches as the name Ferrari is with fast cars. As the pioneer of the modern day wristwatch, Rolex has a long and fascinating history.

Inception (1905 – 1919)

Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in 1905 at the age of 25. He envisioned a watch worn on the wrist that was reliable and elegant. He picked the name Rolex because it was easy to say and remember in any language.

During the early years, Rolex focused on chronometric precision. In 1914, Kew Observatory awarded them a class “A” precision certificate, which was a first for a wristwatch.

Most notable model – Rolex Officers watch

officers watch rolex
Caption: 1914 silver vintage Rolex ‘Officers’ watch
Source: Vintage Wristwatches

One of the earliest models, the Officers watch had a classic round face made from silver or rose gold. The strap and numerals differed over the years.

Innovation (1926 – 1945)

In 1926, Rolex developed the first waterproof and dust resistant wristwatch. It was named the Oyster and featured a hermetically sealed case. Mercedes Gleitze wore the watch when she swam across the English Channel in 1927. It was in perfect working order after the 10-hour swim, effectively proving that it was waterproof.

In 1931, Rolex invented and patented the first ever self-winding mechanism. The same system is used in every modern watch today. Not long after in 1945, another first from Rolex was the Datejust, a watch that featured an automatic date window on the face.

Most notable model – Rolex Oyster

rolex oyster
Caption: A Rolex Oyster watch from 1926.
Source: A Blog to Watch

The durable and waterproof Rolex Oyster was a world first in 1926. All Rolex, except for the rare Cellini Prince models, are technically in this collection as they all feature Rolex’s signature water resistance and durability.

Professional (1953 – 1967)

The fifties saw the launch of Rolex’s professional watches, specifically aimed at divers, aviators and mountain climbers. In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest sporting Oyster Perpetual wristwatches.

In the same year, Rolex also launched their famous diver’s watch, the Submariner. It was the first diver’s watch to be waterproof to a depth of 100 metres. The rotatable bezel also helped divers keep track of their immersion time. In 1960, their experimental watch, the Deep Sea Special, survived a 10,916-metre dive into the Mariana Trench.

Most notable model – Rolex Sea Dweller

deepsea dweller rolex
Caption: A 1967 Rolex Double Red Sea Dweller
Source: Basel Shows

The Rolex Sea Dweller was equipped with a helium escape valve and designed to withstand decompression in hyperbaric chambers after professional deep-sea divers completed saturation dives. It was waterproof to a depth of 610 metres.

Enterprise (1971 – 1992)

In 1976, Rolex celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Oyster by launching the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. The award is for ongoing projects around the world that improve lives, protect the natural world and cultural heritage.

Rolex became the first watchmakers to use 904L steel in its watchcases in 1985. This steel is most commonly used in the aerospace and chemical industries due to its excellent anti-corrosion properties.

Most notable model – Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master

rolex yachtmaster
Caption: The original 1992 Yacht-Master
Source: Salon QP

The Yacht-Master was launched to highlight Rolex’s connection to the sailing world. Rolex is the proud sponsor of some of the world’s most renowned offshore races.

Modern (2000 – present)

Modern developments for Rolex started in 2000 with the calibre 4130, a new mechanical chronograph. It is comprised of fewer parts than the standard chronograph, only 290, making it a simpler and more efficient design.

In 2005, Rolex developed the blue Parachrom hairspring that was crafted from a paramagnetic alloy. It is unaffected by magnetic fields and is 10 times more resistant to shocks, making it ideal for fieldwork and exploration.

Most notable model – Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Challenge

deepsea challenge rolex
Caption: The experimental Rolex Deep Sea Challenge has a 51.4 mm face.
Source: Rolex Magazine

This experimental diving watch is waterproof up to 12,000 metres. It was designed by Rolex to withstand exploration in the deepest reaches of the ocean. It has claimed the record for the deepest diving watch in the world.

Rolex watches as an asset

Vintage or modern luxury watches are considered a good asset to have in your investment portfolio. As the largest single luxury watch brand in the world, Rolex is a worthwhile investment.

Their watches appreciate well over time as well. Their vintage watches can fetch hundreds of thousands of rand and even the modern watches are known for their expert workmanship and durability, ensuring a good resale value.

Asset-based loans with lamna

If you own a Rolex watch, whether it’s vintage or modern, you can get access to its value without having to sell it. Simply use it as collateral on an asset-based loan. Once the loan is repaid, your watch is returned to you.

At lamna, we offer fast, discreet loans against the value of a wide range of assets, including luxury watches and jewellery. For more information about using an asset to secure a short-term loan, contact us on 086 111 2866 or simply complete and submit our online application form.

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