Rolex watches are still seen as a major status symbol

Rolex Rolex watches are still regarded as a status symbol. Producing around 2,000 watches every day, it is the biggest luxury watch brand in the world. It is also the largest manufacturer of Swiss chronometers. Over half the production of COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) watches in 2005 were made by Rolex. To this day, Rolex holds the world record for producing the most COSC movements for wristwatches.

Rolex boasts some impressive ‘firsts’. In 1945, it produced the Rolex Datejust which was the first watch with an automatic date-changer on the dial. It then went on to produce the first watch with an automatic day-and-date changer. In 1953, the Oyster Perpetual Submariner had the first waterproof case (100 meters). A year later, in 1954, the GMT Master was released. For this, Rolex was the first watch-making company to earn a chronometer certification.

One of the founders of the company, Hans Wilsdorf, had a specially made watch attached to his diving vessel when he went down to the Mariana Trench which is the deepest section of the Pacific Ocean. The watch worked perfectly during the descent and ascent and survived the expedition. The next day, a happy Wilsdorf sent a telegram to his colleagues at Rolex saying ‘Even as deep as 11,000 meters, the watch is precise’.

Over the years, Rolex has made watches exclusively for extreme sports like flying, mountain-climbing, and deep-sea diving. The early models included the Oyster Perpetual Date Sea Dweller and the Submariner. The most iconic of all was the GMT Master which was developed specifically for Pan Am Airways in 1954. The airline needed it to help pilots when crossing time zones on trans-continental flights.

There are some notable modern models worth mentioning. These include the Daytona and the Paul Newman Daytona, Day-Date I and II, Explorer I and II, the Day-Date Oyster Perpetual, GMT Master II, the Milgauss, the Masterpiece, Sea Dweller and the Sea Dweller DeepSea, Submariner, and Yacht-Master I and II. In 1946, Hans Wilsdorf introduced a range of cheaper watches which were sold under the brand name ‘Tudor’. These watches are still available in the Far East and Europe but sales of the Tudor range were discontinued in the United States of America in 2004.

Rolex is the official time-keeper of two Grand Slam tennis tournaments, namely the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Deep-sea diver, Jacques Piccard, strapped a Sea Dweller on the exterior of his submarine during his dive to Mariana Trench in 1960 when he went to a depth of 35,800 feet. When Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made history by being the first humans to summit Mount Everest in 1953, Norgay was wearing a Rolex Oyster. Although not confirmed, it has been said that Hillary wore a Smiths Deluxe.

Another great moment in Rolex history was when NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) decided that the only watch good enough to be used by astronauts for the Apollo missions was the Rolex Speedmaster Pro. This prompted its name to be changed to the Moonwatch. It is also reported that astronaut, Jack Swigert, was wearing a Rolex watch when the ill-fated Apollo 13 lifted off. Also, Ron Evans was wearing an Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master during the Apollo 17 mission.