Whether or not you own a Rolex, you know that a Rolex is special. There is no watchmaker like Rolex. But what makes a Rolex special? What’s that thing that oomph that Rolex has that makes their timepieces “the only watches that matter?”
The truth is there is no company like Rolex in the watchmaking space. Rolex is ever disruptive and what’s even more mind-boggling about the brand is the fact that it is a very young brand, at least, compared to others in the watchmaking industry.
Rolex is only a bit over hundred years in age. Compare it to Blancpain or Vacheron, for instance, which were founded as far back as the mid-1750’s, you find that Rolex is really just a baby. Yet, today, you can’t even compare these three companies. Rolex has overtaken them both in size and in vision and now occupies the top spot as the most important watchmaker the world has ever seen.
The brand is a foremost leader when it comes to trendsetting and conceptualization both in watchmaking and watch use, and has completely revolutionized the way watches are made and used, scaling its watchmaking process to the industrial level.
These are just a few reasons Rolex is so special. Let’s get into the major reasons Rolex stands out in its industry.
What Makes A Rolex Special? — Major Reasons
It Is A Pioneer In The Evolution Of Horology Techniques
Because Rolex is such a disruptive company, the brand is constantly ahead of the industry when it comes to trends in watchmaking techniques.
Some of the fields where Rolex has pioneered innovation is in the development of the centrally-mounted automatic movement, the development of waterproof watch cases, as well as the development of anti-magnetic devices and alloys which help to improve watch accuracy.
In fact, the movements we find in most of, if not all of, the automatic watches we use today have some connection to Rolex. The centrally-mounted 360-degree swiveling rotor most watches use was indeed invented by Rolex.
Before then, watches were using a more rudimentary pendulum mechanism. This mechanism also called the bumper mechanism only allowed the swiveling of the oscillating rotor to a limited extent. But as we said, the movement is now quite outdated.
It Makes The Best Waterproof Watch Cases
When the Rolex Oyster case was first made, it was simply designed to keep out the dust and grime. Two known enemies of any watch. However, with time, the Oyster watch cases also became popular for their waterproofing abilities. But this new ability was going to be put to extreme testing in a short time.
In 1927, Mercedes Gleitze, a young English swimmer, would wear a Rolex Oyster while crossing the English channel. Here’s the amazing thing, this crossing took about 10 hours altogether. Yet, the watch remained in top conditions after the whole thing which is super impressive.
But there were yet more feats to be achieved by Rolex in this area of water-resistance.
Yet another time, a group went out on a fishing expedition during which a Rolex Submariner got lost at sea. Thankfully, the owner was able to mark the coordinates where the watch got lost. So, he made a deal with a dredging barge in the locality to help him search the area once in a while.
After 14 months, the watch was finally found, and you know it! The watch was happily ticking away like nothing ever happened. Let’s review the facts, the watch was lost for more than a year at a depth of 100 meters. Yet, the watch movement remained in excellent working condition.
You can see a photo of the watch here. Only the bracelet and case seems to have taken a beating, the watch itself remains fine.
Rolex Is Also An Extreme Perfectionist
When it comes to their watchmaking practices, Rolex is an extreme perfectionist. They are totally unbothered about time and do not care how much time it takes them to get a watch ready.
If a watch isn’t ready, it isn’t, and no matter how much the market balks and throws market tantrums, Rolex will simply not bend. It will not release a watch that isn’t perfect.
So, the rumors are true, it does take Rolex about a year to get a watch ready (to learn more about Rolex’s watchmaking processes, click here to read our article: How Is Rolex Watches Are Made?).
While other companies claim to pursue perfection, Rolex seems to be the only company actually pursuing perfection. And to be completely honest, it also seems to be the only company with any freedom to do so.
The company is vastly successful and does not have to bow to market pressure and so it has the luxury to take its sweet time in making its timepieces.
It also goes without saying that Rolex is obsessed with quality control. Things are constantly checked and rechecked. Any watch with the potential to fail simply must not leave the factory.
Rolex has a vast team of watchmakers that work on each one movement before and after they are sent for chronometer certification at the COSC. Even after that, Rolex will retest the movements for accuracy once again several days after they come back from certification while simulating wear. Only after these several steps of quality control are they allowed to be sent to retailers.
Every Rolex Watch Is A Certified Swiss Chronometer
Each Rolex watch you come across is a certified Swiss Chronometer. This isn’t a title that many watchmakers can claim because the road to certification is a long, treacherous one. Movement parts must be made from components of the highest quality. But not just that, they must be assembled under the care of the most skilled watchmakers and timers. This is because the chronometer characteristics and regulation of an otherwise fine watch can easily be destroyed in seconds by amateur hands.
But that’s not the end of the matter. The watches will then have to be tested once again for a period of two weeks in 5 different positions and at 3 different temperatures. The measurements are then taken daily using high-tech specialty cameras.
When the stats have been gathered, seven criteria are calculated and the watch must be able to meet certain minimum requirements (don’t let the word “minimum” fool you, the minimum requirements are quite high) before they can receive the certification.
See how long that took to explain? And the process is infinitely longer than that. Is it surprising, therefore, that only about 3% of the high-quality Swiss watches you know get to receive this honor every year? However, every Rolex watch that goes for this certification comes back with the title. Impressive or not?
In fact, the caliber 3255 has 14 patents and even surpasses the Swiss Chronometer standards. See this video below:
Rolex Watches Are Mostly Handmade
While many believe that Rolex watches are made by machines, the truth is this isn’t exactly correct. Rolex watches are actually mostly made by hand. Yes, machines are involved at some point, most definitely. However, the bulk of the work is done by hand. Rolex is big on using the best methods. So, if a human would do it better then let the human do it and if a machine would do it better, then let the machine do it.
So, when it comes to cataloging, sorting, filing, and other procedures too delicate for human hands, Rolex typically goes for the robots and machinery which are typically operated by humans. By the way, it has the most sophisticated watchmaking facility in the world.
On the other hand, when it comes to movements and bracelets, both are assembled strictly by hand. Machines might be involved with the aligning of parts, attaching of pins, and pressing down of the hands. However, a Rolex-trained technician will still have to set the watch hands by hand.
The Company Is The Only Watchmaking Company To Use The More Expensive And More Difficult 904L Stainless Steel
Rolex is currently the only watchmaking company to use 904L stainless steel to make its watches. Other companies use the 316L stainless steel mostly because it is cheaper and it is much easier to work with compared to 904L steel.
It wasn’t always like that, though. Initially, Rolex used 316L steel just like everybody else. However, in 2003, Rolex started to use 904L steel exclusively. Remember though, that we have established that 904L stainless steel is more expensive and much more difficult to machine than 316L. So, why the change?
Well, 904L steel is much better than 316L for a couple of reasons. First is that it is considerably harder than other kinds of steel. Secondly, it is more resistant to corrosion and rust. Lastly, when worked properly, 904L steel takes and holds a polishing way better than other kinds of steel. This is why Rolex watches end up looking different and more brilliant than other kinds of watches you know.
However, you can be sure that Rolex paid a huge price to be able to reap these benefits. For one, they had to change out their machinery as 904L steel is more demanding to machine than 316L.
It Is Also The Watch Manufacturer To Make Its Own Gold In Its In-House Foundry
Rolex has a limited number of steel suppliers, however, its gold and platinum are made in-house and even the steel is worked in-house to make the parts. So, Rolex receives from 24K gold from its suppliers and works its to make 18K yellow gold, white gold, or Rolex’s very own Everose gold (Rolex’s non-fading version of the 18K rose gold).
By the way, when Rolex uses gold (whether yellow or white or Everose), it only uses 18K, no more, no less. It also never uses gold-plated metals. If you spot a watch with anything different, it’s not genuine. (Learn more ways to tell a fake Rolex from a genuine one in our article: How Can I Tell If A Rolex Is Real?)
A Rolex Watch Has Helped Solve A Murder Case
This is one dark and twisted story, so sit tight.
The tale is told of a certain Albert Walker who had a partner Robert Platt. For one reason or the other, this scam artist, Albert Walker, decided to murder his partner.
After murdering him, Walker dumped his body into the English Channel in a bid to get rid of the corpse and hide his crime. But he didn’t end it there, he also stole Platt’s identity and went into hiding.
Meanwhile, as time went on and the body decomposed in the river, the Rolex Oyster which Platt had on at the time of his death stayed put. About two weeks after his death, Platt’s lifeless body made it into a fisherman’s net (poor fisherman) but the only identifiable thing about the corpse was the Rolex Oyster watch on. The rest of the body was badly deformed and unrecognizable from decomposition.
Knowing that every Rolex watch has a unique serial number, the police were able to use this information to determine the owner of the watch. This led them straight to Walker who was arrested and made to serve some serious time for what he did.
Watch this video for a more comprehensive account of the story.
Rolex Watches Are The Most Faked Watches In The World
If imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, then Rolex is the most flattered watchmaker in history. Rolex watches are the most faked watches in the world which is a compliment to their high tastes and high demand.
You find so-called Rolex watches selling for $20. However, there are the super fake Rolex watches that can catch even some pretty experienced watchmakers unawares. So, be careful. Read our article: How Can I Tell If a Rolex Is Real for a full guide on how to tell a fake Rolex from a genuine one.
It Takes A Year To Make A Rolex Watch
In an ad it made a long time ago, Rolex claimed that a single Rolex watch takes roughly a year to make. It does sound suspicious, but from everything we’ve said so far, it’s easy to see that this is true.
The company makes more than a million watches yearly yet Rolex will never take shortcuts and continues to insist on perfection. We’ve seen this from the fact that Rolex watches are among the few watches to receive the Swiss Chronometer certification every year.
With Rolex’s fanatical approach to quality control and all the processes involved in making a Rolex watch therefore, it’s not far-fetched to think that manufacturing would take a whole year.
Rolex Watches Are Loved By Collectors
Rolex watches have very strong intrinsic value, and it is often said that owning a Rolex watch is like holding actual currency. As long as your watch is in good condition, it can only increase in value (click here to read our article: What Is My Rolex Worth?)
Vintage Rolex watches are practically a wearable investment (something watch collectors are always on the lookout for) especially the sport models such as the Daytona, the Submariner, and the Explorer. These three models, in particular, continue to increase in value at a steadier and faster rate than other classic Rolex wristwatches.
Generally, though, dressier Rolexes don’t increase in value as fast as the sport models, although there are exceptions, especially if the dress watch is super rare. A good example is the stainless steel Day-Date which is rather elusive and currently valued at several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Another thing that endears Rolexes to collectors is all the detail they come with. Vintage Rolex watches are known to be heavily nuanced. You even notice it among watches of the same model.
For instance, the vintage Rolex watch with the Bart Simpson dial. This watch was made only briefly in the 1960s. On the dial, the Rolex insignia is flatter and made to resemble Bart Simpson’s hair with its shorter tines. Such details boost the value of a watch tremendously, making them more attractive for vintage watch collectors.
Rolex Is The Original Tool Watch
A Rolex watch isn’t just made as jewelry, it’s made for a specific, functional purpose. This is another thing that makes Rolex watches really special.
For example, we have the GMT Master The GMT-Master is made specifically for pilots. It was made upon request by Pan-Am who wanted something for pilots who were experiencing the all-new phenomenon known as jet-lag. These pilots wanted a watch that would be able to tell the time in two time zones simultaneously and Rolex, of course, delivered.
Then again, we have the Milgauss which came on the scene in the 1950s. The Milgauss is specifically made for people that work in highly electro-magnetic environments such as early nuclear research labs.
With its anti-magnetic feature, the watch is able to withstand a thousand gauss (a measure of magnetism) which is where Rolex got the name for the watch.
When it was first introduced, people didn’t wear the watch in civilian life. However, these days, they are totally cool fashion statements.
Of course, we cannot forget the Rolex Submariner as well which is made for the divers.
The Company Recommends A 10-Year Service Cycle — The Only Watch Manufacturer To Do So
Finally, Rolex is a company that stands behind its products. First off, they have a 5-year warranty for each of their watches. Also, they are the only watch manufacturers to recommend a service cycle of 10 years for all their watches. Other watch manufacturers recommend 5 years at the most. Some even recommend 3 years. Rolex recommending 10 years goes to show a lot about the company’s manufacturing processes.
For more information about Rolex watch servicing, click here to read: How Much Does A Rolex Service Cost?