I have to write something about the Rolex Oyster...it is, after all, probably the most famous quality watch there is. Here's a brief rundown of the history of the company.
The Rolex Oyster brand begun life in 1908 when Mr. Hans Wilsdorf and Mr. Davies formed a company called Wilsdorf & Davis. Wilsdorf's dream was to produce a wrist watch - (an unusual product in the early 20th century, most watches being pocket watches). He soon reached an agreement with a Swiss company by the name of Aegler, who agreed to produce a movement small enough to fit into a case for wearing on the wrist. he wanted a short, sharp and rememberable name - the Rolex Watch was born.
Soon after production of the first officially certified chronometer movement in 1910, Wilsdorf started work investigating the main causes that made watches in general unreliable - dust and moisture ingress into the movement. In these early days of the wrist watch, dust and moisture would enter the case through the winder (crown) and through the case itself. Wilsdorf solved the problem by the invention of the "Screw Crown" that proved to be an effective barrier against thes eairborne nasties. The case was waterproofed and a clever advertising campaign begun in which a Rolex could be seen dangling in a fish tank.
The Rolex watch came of age in 1914 with the granting of the status of "Chronometer" after tests carried out at London's Kew Observatory and was the first wrist watch to gain such an accolade.
Probably the most famous model made was the Rolex Oyster, featuring another new invention - a double-locking crown that screwed down on the case creating an airtight seal. Despite being labeled as "Chronometre" on the dial, many of these early models, (1927 on), were never actually tested as such. Not until the mid 1940's were the watches labelled correctly as "Certified Chronometer".
Marketing was an obvious strength of Wilsdorf, he struck an agreement for an English Channel swimmer by the name of Mercedes Gleitze to wear one of the Rolex Oyster watches during her swim. The brainwave proved an instant winner for the Rolex Oyster brand, luckily it didn't leak and was working perfectly after 23.69 miles of ocean swimming!
Many publications will state that Rolex produced the world's first Rolex Oyster Perpetual (automatic) watch movement. There is enough evidence to disprove this and point to Abraham-Louis Perrelet as the inventor of the movement. Nevertheless, Rolex have an undisputed position in horological spheres as a producer of the finest quality timepieces. To this end, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual was first produced in 1931. This was Wilsdorf's attempt to stop an incorrectly screwed down crown from letting moisture into the movement and it worked well.
A major threat to Rolex (and every other mechanical watchmaker in the '70s) was the invention of the quartz movement. Mass production of cheap, yet highly accurate timepieces sent many a good maker into liquidation. While many quality watch makers bit the dust, Rolex continued on its long trodden path of mechanical quality and eventually rode out the storm to emerge a leaner and stronger company, mainly due to its private ownership.
The Rolex tradition continues today with quality watches produced at their Swiss factory by a team of over 200 skilled technicians. Minute detailing inside and outside the watch is testament to a creation that is one of the worlds finest of timepieces.
About 650,000 Rolex watches are produced each year. Although not enough to meet the ever growing demand Rolex insist that quality, not quantity, comes first - of that you can be very sure.
1905 - Hans Wildorf & Davies form Wilsdorf & Davis in order to create wrist watches.
1908 - Wildorf needed a name for his soon to be created masterpiece: Rolex.
1910 - Rolex obtains the first official chronometer certification ever awarded to a wristwatch.
1914 - London's Kew Observatory awards the Rolex wristwatch a "Chronometer" rating.
1926 - Rolex develops and patents the first airtight, dustproof and waterproof watch - named the Oyster.
1927 - The Rolex Oyster crosses 26 miles of the English Channel - working perfectly after the swim by Mercedes Gleitze.
1931 - Re-birth of the Perpetual (automatic) watch, a self winding mechanism first invented by Abraham-Louis Perrelet.
1945 - The Oyster Datejust goes on sale. Automatically sets the correct date for each month (perpetual month).
1953 - The Submariner goes on sale.
1954 - The Oyster Perpetual Ladydate goes on sale.
1955 - The Oyster GMT Master is released, reads time in any two time zones.
1956 - The Oyster Day-Date goes on sale.
1960 - A bathyscaphe (A free-diving deep-sea vessel) carries a Rolex Watch 35,000 feet into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.
1967 - The Oyster Sea-Dweller is released - waterproof to a depth of 611 m / 2000 ft.
1971 - The Oyster Explorer II is released.
1978 - The Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller is tested waterproof to a depth of 1222 m / 4000 ft.
1988 - The Cosmograph Daytona is fitted with a perpetual rotor.
1992 - The Professional range of Rolex watch gains another superb wristwatch - the Yacht-Master.
2004 - The Submariner celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Rolex watch celebrates with a special commemorative model.
Here is a picture of a fake Rolex and a real one. Can you tell which one is real? Click on the picture to get a bigger picture. Mouse over the picture to see which one is fake.
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