The Rolexes that built the legend…
Founded by the visionary Hans Wilsdorf in the early 1900s, Rolex has never ceased to excel since its creation in its various fields. At the top in terms of know-how, communication, organization and distribution, the brand bet very early on on the wristwatch while fashion was still for the pocket watch. The company has positioned itself in a few years as a benchmark player in watchmaking by presenting precise, waterproof, robust and reliable watches.
Joining forces with extraordinary exploits (crossing the English Channel, climbing Everest, etc.), Rolex has never ceased to make people talk about its creations which have now, for many models, become legendary watches. : Datejust, Submariner, Day-Date, Daytona… A look back today at the watches that created the legend of Rolex, the original models that built the legend…
1926: First Rolex Oyster, cushion shape
The Rolex Oyster is the world's first waterproof wristwatch. Its name “Oyster”, in French “Huître” refers to the hermetically sealed case which thus allows optimal protection of the movement. At the time, the fluting of the bezel and the caseback responded to functional considerations in addition to offering a unique visual identity.
The brand also stands out at the marketing level by entrusting this model to Mercedes Gleitze during its crossing of the English Channel in 1927. Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex communicates on this exploit by publishing a full page on the front of the Daily Mail proclaiming the success of the waterproof watch and announcing “the triumphal march of the Rolex Oyster around the world”. Innovation, know-how and communication, the hallmark of Rolex since its inception...
1926: First Rolex Oyster Octagonal
Still in 1926, Rolex presented the octagonal Oyster, a model particularly close in terms of the dial to the cushion-shaped Oyster except for the “Rolex Oyster” indication at 12 o'clock and the hour, minute and second hands.
1931: First Rolex Oyster Perpetual
After chronometric precision and water resistance, Hans Wilsdorf tackled the automatic module in order to offer a wristwatch that would no longer have to be wound daily by hand, giving birth to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Thanks to the automatic winding system for free-rotor wristwatches called the perpetual rotor, the owner of the timepiece no longer needs to wind it by unscrewing the crown, an operation that compromises the water-resistance and precision of the watch…
Thanks to a mass rotating freely in both directions around an axis, the movement is constantly wound. The wearer of the watch no longer needs to wind it, the movements of his wrist now allow the watch to function alone and thus free him from the daily constraint of winding.
1945: First Rolex Datejust
It was a Rolex classic that made its appearance in 1945, the Rolex Datejust, the world's first waterproof automatic wrist chronometer to indicate the date in an aperture located on the dial. The Datejust retains the original fluted bezel of the Oyster and is fitted with a brand new bracelet, the Jubilee bracelet. This model initially designed for men will be available from the 1950s (1957) in different models of watches for women.
Until 1955, the date began to change several hours before midnight, but on this date Rolex adapted its mechanism to make the date change instantaneous at exactly midnight. The model then evolved further over the years, notably with the appearance of a Cyclops magnifying glass (magnifying glass patented by the brand in 1953) on the date window to allow better readability of the date.
1953: First Rolex Explorer
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer was born in 1953 from the conquest of Everest. On May 29, 1953, two mountaineers (Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) equipped with Rolex Oyster Perpetual chronometers reached the summit of Everest at an altitude of 8,848 meters for the first time! This model embodies the qualities of precision and reliability of the Oyster watch and once again associates the brand with exploits. Rolex positions itself with this model dedicated to professionals as the brand of explorers and adventurers.
1953: First Rolex Submariner
The year 1953 is also marked by the birth of a legendary watch, the Rolex Submariner, a watch that will be found in 1962 on the wrist of Sean Connery in the first James Bond! The Sub', as aficionados of the model call it, is an underwater diver's watch equipped with a graduated rotating bezel to read the immersion time and guaranteed waterproof to 100 meters (then 200 meters from the same year). Nowadays the Rolex Submariner is designed to withstand immersion at a depth of 300 meters.
1955: First Rolex GMT-Master
The Rolex of pilots, the Rolex GMT-Master made its appearance in 1955 in the golden age of air transport. This model is presented to meet the expectations of airline pilots who regularly change time zones. Thanks to an additional arrow-shaped hand and the 24-hour graduated rotating bezel, the GMT Master can indicate the time of a second time zone without interfering with reading the reference time.
This model became the official watch of several airlines, including the famous "Pan Am" (Pan American World Airways) which disappeared from the air in 1991... The GMT Master was also found on the wrists of the two Concorde test pilots in the years 1960 during the final series of test flights…
1956: First Rolex Day-Date
Unveiled in 1956, the Rolex Day-Date is considered the most prestigious model of the Rolex brand. The Day-Date is the first calendar wristwatch indicating, in addition to the current date, the day of the week in full at 12 o'clock on the dial.
A watch that will be found on the wrist of President JF Kennedy (a gift from Marilyn Monroe for his 45th birthday in 1962), President Johnson, Warren Buffet much later... In 1966, the brand relies on famous owners of the model in an advertisement where we can see the forearm of the American president equipped with a Rolex Day-Date in yellow gold picking up the red telephone… The Day-Date is the watch of presidents, leaders and visionaries, the watch that
1956 : Première Rolex Milgauss
In 1956, the Rolex Milgauss always appeared. Developed for scientists and engineers, this watch is able to resist magnetic fields. Recognizable at a glance thanks to its clean lines and its characteristic lightning-shaped second hand, the Milgauss is, as its name suggests, capable of withstanding a magnetic force of up to 1,000 gauss, thus far from ordinary mechanical watches which can see the reliability and their precision altered by a magnetic field of 50 to 100 gauss…
1960: Rolex Deep Sea Special
On January 23, 1960, the Rolex brand was once again associated with an extraordinary feat. The Deep Sea Special accompanies the dive of the bathyscaphe Trieste in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, at 10,916 meters, the deepest place in the earth's crust...
Attached to the hull of the Trieste, the watch is confronted with a colossal underwater pressure (more than one ton per square centimeter), but nevertheless rises to the surface in perfect working order, as underlined by a telegram received by the headquarters of Rolex. in Geneva following this feat: “We are happy to announce your watch as accurate at 11,000 meters as it is on the surface. Greetings Jacques Piccard”. The Rolex Deep Sea Special is the watch for professional divers wishing to venture into extreme conditions in the heart of the depths of the oceans... The year 1960 (July 6, 1960) was also marked by the death of the founding father of Rolex Hans Wilsdorf.
1963: First Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The year 1963 was marked by the birth of a myth, the birth of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona model, a chronograph capable of measuring time intervals and reading an average speed thanks to its graduated tachometer bezel. This racing watch, named after the mythical Florida city Daytona, the world capital of speed where races were held on the beach as early as 1903, is one of the models among the most coveted by Rolex lovers.
The Daytona is a watch designed for racing drivers, the representation of the vision of the chronograph according to Rolex: efficient, precise, readable, robust, reliable, waterproof, automatic, comfortable, elegant, timeless and prestigious!
1967: First Rolex Sea-Dweller
The Sea Dweller is an ultra-resistant diving watch designed with and for deep diving professionals wishing to conquer the great depths. This model waterproof up to 610 meters, then 1,220 meters from 1978 is the first model equipped with a helium valve (decompression device patented by Rolex) so that, during long decompression phases in a hyperbaric chamber, the helium of the gas mixtures used can escape without risk to the watch.
Henri-Germain Delauze, founder and president of COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises) said about the Rolex Sea-Dweller: "A hydrogen diver cannot live without his Rolex", "In diving, the time is vital data. The timing of operations, the change of gas mixtures, the duration of decompression stops, the entry or exit of the turret are all within a few seconds. Having an accurate, robust and reliable watch was of paramount importance. »
1971: First Rolex Explorer II
With the 1970s and 1980s came second-generation professional watches, and in particular from 1971 the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II, a 40 mm diameter watch dedicated to polar explorers, speleologists, volcanologists and other explorers... Designed for adventure, Rolex Explorer II offers the display of a second time zone in 24-hour format (which thus makes it possible to distinguish the hours of day and night) thanks to an orange arrow-shaped hand, the signature of the Rolex Explorer II...
1982: First Rolex GMT-Master II
The Rolex GMT-Master II is a second-generation watch that makes the link with the GMT-Master born in 1955 when airline pilots were looking to equip themselves with a professional timepiece. Having become the watch of globetrotters, the GMT-Master retains its functions initially dedicated to frequent travelers but evolves here towards a more marked style, a cosmopolitan allure while retaining a certain robustness...
The GMT-Master II features an additional arrow-shaped hand that can indicate a 24-hour time zone as well as a bidirectional rotating bezel graduated 24 hours. The reference time (of the place of residence, for example) is read via the arrow-shaped hand on the scale of the bezel. The local time is read on the dial and thus allows travelers to set their watch without affecting the reference time.
1992: First Rolex Lady-Datejust Pearlmaster
The year 1992 is the year of the appearance of a brand new line of the Oyster collection specifically dedicated to women. The Rolex Lady-Datejust Pearlmaster is a sumptuous interpretation of the classic Lady-Datejust. Still set with precious stones and diamonds, this new 29mm diameter model (compared to 26mm for the classic Lady-Datejust) is only available in 18ct yellow, white or Everose gold.
1992: First Rolex Yacht-Master
In 1992, it was also the arrival of the Rolex Yacht-Master watch, a new Oyster marking the links between Rolex and the world of yachting. Created for the open sea, the Yacht-Master is a bit of the relaxed elegance signed Rolex, an elegance that suits all wrists since this model is available in 3 sizes: 40, 35 and 29 mm in diameter. This timepiece features large hour markers as well as a bidirectional rotating bezel graduated to 60 minutes where the numerals and graduations stand out against a matte background with a sandblasted finish.
2000: First Rolex Cosmograph Daytona fitted with the 4130 movement
The year 2000 was marked by the arrival of a new generation of Daytona watches, a new generation equipped with the 4130 movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex and equipped with a hairspring patented and manufactured by Rolex, the Parachrom hairspring, a hairspring 10 times more resistant to shocks than traditional hairsprings and insensitive to magnetic fields. The Parachrom hairspring will then be gradually introduced across the entire Oyster collection. With the caliber 4130, the Rolex engineers succeeded in reducing the number of components required for the chronograph mechanism by 60%, saving space which increases the autonomy of the movement from 50 to 72 hours.
2007: First Rolex Yacht-Master II
Fifteen years after the presentation of the Rolex Yacht-Master, the Yacht-Master II makes its appearance. A chronograph designed for regattas that stands out from the first generation of 1992… Rolex is integrating a patented Ring Command bezel on a watch for the first time, a bezel dependent on the internal mechanism of the watch. It is a key element of the programmable countdown from 10 to 1 minutes and can, if necessary depending on events, be synchronized again on the fly.
2007: First Rolex Day-Date II
Fifty-one after the launch of the first Day-Date, the Day-Date II sees the light of day, a contemporary reinterpretation which, nobility obliges, is exclusively made in 950 platinum or 18 ct gold. The Rolex Day-Date II sees its case widened to 41 mm in diameter, but retains its DNA by displaying the date window and day of the week in full in a wide choice of languages. The bezel can now be fluted, domed or come in a version set with precious stones.
2008: First Rolex Deepsea
In 2008, Rolex launched the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea, a diver's watch illustrating Rolex expertise. Water-resistant to a depth of 3,900 meters, this model is equipped with the Ringlock System (a ring placed inside the caseband supports the pressure exerted on the crystal and the case back) and a Glidelock clasp (a patented system of fine adjustment of the strap length allowing the watch to be worn over a diving suit).
2009: First Rolex Datejust II
After the reinterpretation in 2007 of the Rolex Day-Date, it is in 2009 the reinterpretation of the Rolex Datejust which is presented by the Geneva brand. The Rolex Datejust II also has a more imposing 41 mm diameter case, but remains particularly recognizable thanks to its emblematic date window at 3 o'clock and its Cyclops magnifying glass.
2012: First Rolex Sky-Dweller
In 2012, Rolex innovated and presented a brand new creation with the Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, a concentrate of Rolex technology protected by no less than 14 patents! Sporting a 42 mm-diameter case, the Rolex Sky-Dweller (fitted with a rotating Ring Command bezel) offers a particularly intuitive dual time zone and an innovative annual calendar called Saros (calendar requiring only one date correction per year).
Under the Rolex logo, at 12 o'clock, is a red triangle indicating the time of the place of residence, the hour hand can be set to a second time zone. The annual calendar is made up of a date window at 3 o'clock and a display of the current month via one of the 12 windows located around the circumference of the dial.