17 Things You Didn't Know About Rolex
Few brands manage to carry both luxury and practical cachet. Across the world, Rolex has perhaps more clout and status than any other watch brand—hell, its products are sometimes even used as currency—while maintaining the credibility of a Craftsman tool.
Made well enough to typically outlast their owners, Rolexes usually appreciate in value with age—a rarity for just about anything. But while you've seen plenty of its watches strapped to the most fashionable wrists, you might not know that much about Rolex's storied history.
Below are 17 things you probably didn't know about the most iconic watch brand of all time.
1. Though it’s a Swiss company, it was founded in London by a German and a Brit.
Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis started out as “Wilsdorf and Davis,” putting movements into cases for jewelers.
2. The name Rolex came about because Wilsdorf wanted his brand to be easy to say in any language.
He also thought the word sounded like a watch movement. Maybe.
3. Rolex moved from London to Geneva in 1919.
Not because it’s the watch capital of the universe, but rather because import and export taxes were too high in England due to wartime.
4. Rolex's movements were the first to allow the rotor to make a full 360-degree circle.
Other improvements to the existing automatic movements allowed a 35-hour power reserve.
5. Rolex created the first waterproof wrist watch, built in 1926.
Oyster wasn’t just a name.
6. The venerable Datejust was the first watch to feature a changing date on the dial.
Someone had to do it.
7. Rolex revolutionized water resistance to 100 meters with the 1953 Submariner.
Time behaves in interesting ways when you’re deep underwater, and keeping track of it was essential.
8. Rolex became the first watch to secure chronometer certification.
That’s an average accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day.
9. Rolex actually made some of the original quartz movements.
If you’re the leading watch company and it’s the 1960s, you’re going to be part of the conversation, no matter what it is.
10. Jacques Piccard took a Rolex into the Mariana Trench.
It survived under 11,000 feet of seawater and kept perfect time.
11. The Rolex GMT Master was the first watch to have two timezones at once.
They created it for Pan Am pilots who needs to keep track of Greenwich Mean Time while on long transatlantic flights.
12. The least expensive Rolex is the Air-King.
It can usually be found for around $3,000 and is no slouch.
13. It’s very rare to have other brands on the Rolex dial.
But brands from Tiffany to Coca-Cola and Dominos pizza have graced the face.
14. The most expensive Rolex ever produced retailed at $485,350.
Ice ice, baby.
15. Rolex made a special watch for James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge, which survived the plunge into the Challenger Deep.
Most of its watches are tested to some serious extremes though, so this wasn’t particularly surprising.
16. Hans Wildorf supplied the watches used in the Great Escape.
Corporal Clive Nutting ordered a 3525 Oyster chronograph, which timed guard shifts.
17. The police once solved a murder because of a Rolex.
Since it had special servicing markings on it, the authorities could track down its owner. Furthermore, the watch had stopped winding, of course, when the man died, so they counted back from the 40 hour power reserve and found the time of death, which proved to vital to the case.
Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. He owns zero Rolexes, because they cost many months rent. Follow him on Instagram.