Rolex – A History of Firsts

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Most people associate Rolex with quality, style and prestige but did you know that they actually have a fascinating history of innovation too?  We love Rolex watches at James Ross Jewellers and often buy and sell vintage models so we wanted to share some interesting facts from Rolex’s history as a brand and how it’s had so many firsts throughout the years.

The First Really Reliable Wrist Watch

When Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, started creating wristwatches in 1905, his goal was to make them not only stylish but precise too.  His dream came true in 1910, when a Rolex watch was the first wristwatch in the world to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, granted by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne.

The First Waterproof Watch

In 1926, Rolex created the first dust and water proof watch called the Oyster which featured a hermetically sealed case.  To prove how waterproof the watch was, it was worn by English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze while she swam the English Channel in 1927.  The swim took her 10 hours and the watch was still in perfect working order when she finished.

The First to Self-Wind

Another innovation came along in 1931 when Rolex patented the world’s first watch with a self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor.  This system is now used by almost every modern automatic watch.

The First Flight Over Everest

The first expedition to fly over Mount Everest took place in 1933.  All the men on the expedition wore Rolex Oyster watches and were very satisfied with how they performed throughout.

Speed Record Breaker

‘King of Speed’ Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record nine times between 1924 and 1935 while wearing a Rolex watch.  He famously said “I have now been using my Rolex Watch for a while, and it is keeping perfect time under somewhat strenuous conditions”.

First Date

In 1945, the first self-winding watch to display the date was launched by Rolex.  It was called the Datejust and only came out in a men’s version initially but went on to come in a ladies’ version.

First to Reach 100 Metres

The Submariner watch by Rolex was launched in 1953 and was the first watch to be completely waterproof to 100 metres deep.  Rolex then went on to create the Deep Sea Special which was designed to work even in very deep water and was taken in the Challenger Deep portion of the Mariana Trench attached to the outside of the experimental bathyscaphe, the Trieste, in 1960.

A First at CERN

Scientists at CERN confirmed that the Milgauss watch could indeed resist magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss.  This watch was designed for the scientific community and worked by having a shield over the mechanism made of ferromagnetic alloys which protected the watch from magnetic fields.

The First Countdown

Much more recently, in 2007, Rolex launched the first watch in the world to have a programmable countdown with a mechanical memory.  It was designed to help yachtsmen win races.

These are just a few examples of Rolex’s innovations over the years.  There are lots more on their website if you are interested in finding out more.  If you want to own a piece of watchmaking history with a vintage Rolex watch, we purchase fantastic examples all the time so it is worth calling us to ask what we have coming in as they sometimes sell so quickly, we don’t have time to list them on our website.  For particular watches or particular years watches came out, we can often source exactly what you are looking for.  Speak to us about Rolex watches on 01273 239763.

Rolex – A History of Firsts was last modified: April 5th, 2019 by Admin