While it may not have yet acquired the same historical background as lets say Breguet or Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex's role over the past century has been incredibly significant. From being the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision in 1910, to generously supporting British troops during World War II and to eventually becoming one of the world's most internationally recognized brands, Rolex has played a far-reaching role culturally.
1.ROLEX ORIGINATED FROM LONDON
While Rolex is renowned and revered for being a Swiss-made watch, it was originally founded in London in 1905 by German watchmaker Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis. The duo, however, moved its base to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919 due to wartime taxes levied on luxury imports.
2.THERE IS NO INTENDED MEANING BEHIND THE WORD ROLEX
While many watch experts assume that the name came from the French phrase horlogerie exquise, meaning "exquisite clockwork" or as a contraction of "horological excellence," the name in fact was invented by Wilsdorf. The German watchmaker is said to have wanted a word that was short, looked good on a watch face and that could be pronounced in any language. He also thought that the name sounded like the noise a watch made when it was being wound.
3 - ROLEX WATCHES RAISED THE MORAL OF BRITISH TROOPS DURING WORLD WAR II
During World War II, believing that British soldier's were honorable, Hans Wilsdorf offered all British prisoners of war the possibility of ordering any Rolex of their choice and paying for it whenever they liked. The idea behind this kind gesture was to raise morale amongst the British troops and it worked. Over 3,000 watches were delivered to Oflag VII-B Pow camp in Bavaria alone. The gesture was incredibly extraordinary considering that Hans was in fact German himself and he was betting against his own nation.
4 - A ROLEX WATCH PLAYED A FUNDAMENTAL ROLE IN THE GREAT ESCAPE
During his time as a prisoner of war at a German camp, Clive Jame Nutting wore his Rolex Oyster 3525 with great pride as he counted down the days to his escape from Stalag Luft 111 Camp. Indeed, the watch is believed to have played an integral part in the now legendary Great Escape, which was also made into the iconic movie in 1963 staring Steve McQueen. Wildsdorf never allowed Nutting to pay for his watch and the two exchanged many letters as the soldier recounted his story of the escape.
5 - ROLEX USES THE MOST EXPENSIVE STAINLESS STEEL IN THE WORLD CALLED 904L
While all other high-end watch brands utilize a stainless steel grade known as 316L, since 2003, Rolex has been using a more expensive and stronger grade known as 904L. Featuring a higher level of nickel, it is much more difficult to machine than the standard steel so Rolex had to upgrade the majority of its equipment with an investment that cost the company a pretty penny. In return, Rolex watches have better resistance to pitting corrosion from salty seawater (great news for Rolex fans who happen to be divers) and they also hold their polish much better than standard steel watches.
6 - IT TAKES ABOUT ONE YEAR TO MAKE A ROLEX WATCH
While you may find this hard to believe, it takes around one year to craft a single Rolex watch. Around one million watches a year come out from Switzerland with the Rolex crown on the dial but surprisingly enough, each one must be rigorously tested to make sure that it meets the company's high quality standards. Requiring so many minuscule parts and with each one being made in-house, each Rolex watch is hand-assembled and individually tested.
7 - EACH ROLEX WATCH IS PRESSURE TESTED BEFORE IT LEAVES THE FACTORY
Pressure testing a watch is by no means a simple process. It involves a multitude of steps with increasing levels of pressure being placed on the watch at each stage. Dive rated watches are tested to the equivalent of 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) deep and once they past this test, they must undergo a condensation test. If there is any condensation whatsoever found on the watch, it is scrapped. Also Rolex's deep sea rated timepieces undergo one final exam whereby they are placed in a container and are subjected to the pressure that they would encounter 12,000 meters below the surface of the ocean.
8 - ROLEX HAS ITS VERY OWN IN-HOUSE TEAM OF GEMOLOGISTS
Not content in outsourcing gemologists, Rolex employs a massive team of gemologists whose job is to buy, test, arrange and set diamonds and other precious stones in a range of Rolex timepieces. The company reports, however, that out of all the 20 million diamonds they tested over the years, only two have been found to be fake. Each and every stone that you see on an authentic Rolex watch is hand-selected and hand-set.
9 - ROLEX HAS ITS VERY OWN SCIENCE LABORATORY
While it may come as no surprise that the world's most commercially successful watch brand has its very own science laboratory for research and development purposes, Rolex has stepped it up a notch with some of the world's most technically advanced equipment. These apparatuses are used for examining, testing, observing, researching and discovering innovative ways to improve the dexterous craft of watchmaking - all at the hands of well trained scientists.
10 - ROLEX HEADQUARTERS OUTSHINES ANY HIGH LEVEL SECURITY PRISON
If you thought that Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible films were a bit far-fetched, then wait until you hear about the security system of Rolex's production headquarters. Understandably, the Swiss company needs a lot of security and it has plenty of resources (or money) to implement its very own Fort Knox. With fingerprint scans for all its employees, bank vault doors, iris scanners that identifies you via your eyes and unmarked armored trucks to move Rolex parts from location to location, the brand's production premises are definitely fit for any James Bond inspired film.