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Hans Wildorf and Alfred Davis created Rolex in 1905. For over 100 years, Rolex has pushed the boundaries of watchmaking with an array of innovations.
5 Mins

History of Rolex Watches

Lewis Findley
Lewis Findley

Rolex - Kings of Watches

Rolex is a world-renowned Swiss luxury watchmaker who have pushed the boundaries of watchmaking for over 100 years.

The appeal of Rolex watches reached its peak in 2017 when a Rolex Daytona, formerly owned by Paul Newman, sold in auction for $17.75m.

An incredible amount, it's a testament to their appeal around the world.

In this spotlight, you'll learn what made Rolex famous and how they became one of the most revered watchmakers in the world.

Keep reading!

Who Created Rolex?

Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in 1905 with Alfred Davis

Image Via - eveswatch

Rolex can trace their origins back to 1905 in London when Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis had an ambition to create a watch for the wrist. 

However, these dreams came at a time where wristwatches were known for their lack of precision. Hans believed wristwatches could be precise, elegant and reliable. So, he went out to prove it.

This endeavour created a lot of early milestones for Rolex.

Rolex Breakthroughs in Watchmaking

To prove that their watches were precise, Rolex secured certificates from key observatories such as Kew, Geneva, Besançon and Neuchatel.

What's remarkable is that, some of these observatories reserve their classifications for marine watches only.

Another breakthrough for Rolex came in 1926 when they created the Oyster. A world's first, they hermetically sealed a watch to make it waterproof and dust-proof.

in 1927, Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel with a Rolex Oyster

Image Via - Watch & Bullion

To prove its reliability, Mercedes Gleitze traversed 26 miles of the English Channel with it. After crossing the channel, the Oyster still functioned.

They took out a full-page advert to celebrate the achievement.

Now making waves in the world of watchmaking, they went even further when they created the world's first self-winding mechanism in 1931. Now found in today's automatic movements, it illustrates the ingenuity of Rolex.

In 1931, Rolex created the first self-winding mechanism

Image Via - Rob's Rolex Chronicle

With the quality of Rolex watches proven, Rolex set out to create watches designed to meet the needs of professionals - or set a new benchmark in watchmaking.

Famous Rolex Watches

How many Rolex watch families can you name? Do you have a favourite? Get closer to their stories by learning about them.

Rolex Datejust

Introduced in 1945, the Datejust became the first self-winding watch to show the date on the dial.

The Rolex Datejust was released in 1945 and became the first watch to display the date

Image Via - Stockx

Featured inside a small window, this complication became the talk of the industry and the flagship model of the Datejust range. 

It wasn't until 1957 that Rolex made a bespoke Lady Datejust

Trivia - The Jubilee bracelet with its signature five-piece metal-link debuted on the Datejust.

The Rolex Pearlmaster was released in 1992 and combines fine watchmaking with jewellery

Image Via -

Rolex repeated the same feat in 1992 with the Pearlmaster (pictured above), one of Rolex's most visually stunning watches.

Adorned in elegance, you can see the attention to detail of the diamonds and gemstones.

Rolex Submariner

Even though the Rolex Submariner was released in 1953, it can be argued that the makings for it started way back in the '20s with the Oyster. 

With water resistance reaching 100m, it resonated with divers and swimmers. 

The Rolex Submariner was released in 1953 and became known as the divers' watch

Image Via - British GQ

The Submariner also achieved cult status when it became the watch of choice for the man with a license to kill, James Bond. 

With numerous alterations over time, a candidate for the find of the century scored big in auction. A Rolex with a unique bezel sold for £140,000.

Rolex Milgauss

The Milgauss was introduced in 1956 and designed with the scientific community in mind.

The Rolex Milgauss can withstand a magnetic field of up to 1,000 gauss and became the watch of choice for scientists at CERN.

The Rolex Milgauss was released in 1956 and can function in up to 1,000 gauss

Image Via - Majordor

But, what is magnetism? How does it affect watches?

When a watch enters a magnetic field or is exposed to a magnetic charge, it can cause the watch to go faster or slower etc.

Watches can obtain these charges from an array of machines which range from smartphones and microwaves to scanners.

Under normal circumstances, the watch is unharmed but stress is applied to its parts.

Rolex GMT-Master

Released in 1955, the Rolex GMT-Master was a game changer.

For the first time, pilots could set their watches to the timezone of the country they were travelling to.

Despite pilot's being the inspiration of the design, the GMT became widely popular due to its aesthetically pleasing looks.

The Rolex GMT was released in 1955 and became known as the Pilot's watch

Image Via - Monochrome Watches

It's become one of their most popular series and fans have even gone as far as nicknaming different variations of the bezel!

Names that have been attributed range from coke to batman!

Rolex Day-Date

Released in 1956, the Rolex Day-Date set a new standard in watchmaking because it was the first watch to display the day in full and the date.

The Rolex Day-Date was launched in 1956 and became the first watch to show the day and the date

Image Via - Time and Tide Watches

The Day-Date found popularity with world leaders and became known as the president's watch.

Boasting a self-winding mechanism, a jubilee bracelet and Rolex's oyster technology, it resembled a symbol of status and elegance.

Rolex Daytona

An icon among the Rolex family, the Rolex Daytona was introduced in 1963 and became known as the racing man's watch.

The Rolex Daytona was launched in 1963 with origins to the Daytona Speedway

Image Via - The Watch Club

Paul Newman is one of the most famous owners of a Rolex Daytona after his watch sold for £17.75m at auction in 2017.

Deeply associated with the Daytona International Speedway, the Daytona became popular thanks to its ability to be used as a timer.

Now seen across an array of motoring events such as F1, the Daytona has firmly established itself as one of the most popular chronograph in the world.

Final Words

Ever since their inception, Rolex took on the almighty task of making wristwatches a viable accessory.

This endeavour enabled them to redefine the art of watchmaking through innovations that covered land, air and speed.

What's your favourite Rolex? Hit the comments and let us know!