Rolex watches

Rolex watches

Written by David Barth, March 29, 2003.

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) DateJust watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) DateJust watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) Yacht Master Date watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) DateJust watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) Day Date watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (self-winding) Datona watch

Rolex watch
Rolex OysterQuartz watch


Rolex watch
Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea watch (3,900 meters - 12,800 feet)

Rolex watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date GMT Master II Pilot's watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Datona watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Datona watch

Rolex watch
Rolex Yacht Master watch

Rolex watch
Fake Rolex watches: These are some of the counterfeit Rolex watches displayed at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Arlington, Virginia, USA in 2008.

Hans Wilsdorf (1881-1960), a Bavarian, was orphaned at age 12, around 1893. In 1905, at the age of 24, he decided to start manufacturing wrist watches in London. The company became Wilsdorf and Davies, assembling watches in London and in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland using Swiss movements. The watches, called “wristlet” watches, were sold throughout the British Empire.

Hans Wilsdorf never claimed to be a watchmaker, and always signed legal documents with the title "Merchant".

Wilsdorf wanted a short, easily pronounceable and memorable name and came up with the name Rolex. On November 24, 1927 the Oyster watch line was launched.

The Rolex watch was on sale for over a year before the company placed a famous advertisement in the London Daily Mail around 1929. It was the world’s first national watch advertisement, covering the front page of the newspaper. Several Rolexs were featured, and the Oyster occupied less than 20 percent of the advertisement because most of the space featured Rolex lady's cocktail watches.

The first Oysters were never tested for accuracy. From the mid-1930s Rolex put "Chronometre" on the dial. In the mid 1940s the Rolex dial legend became "Certified Chronometer." In the early 1950s it was changed to "Officially Certified Chronometer.”

Rolex men’s models 14000, 14010, 67480, 14060 are not certified, but most Rolex watches are tested for accuracy by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (C.O.S.C.).

A Rolex Oyster accompanied Sir Edmond Hillary's historic climb to the summit of Everest in 1953. Sherpa Tensing Norgay also wore a Rolex, and this watch is now in the Rolex collection in Geneva. Twenty-five years later, in 1978, Reinhold Messner climbed Everest without oxygen, carrying a Rolex watch.

Founded in London in 1905 by the Bavarian Hans Wilsdorf and his English Brother-in-Law, William Davis, as Wilsdorf & Davis, it began life as nothing more than one of hundreds of small importers buying movements, cases and dials and assembling them into finished watches. Wilsdorf's great breakthrough was deciding to specialize in wristwatches after 4 or 5 years of getting nowhere fast in making his company stand out from all the others.

Prior to the outbreak of World War 1, Wilsdorf was issued with the world's first timing certificate for a wristwatch. In 1915, his watches passed the famed "Kew A" test proving the watches were as accurate as the world's finest pocket watches. By the end of the war, wristwatches were an accepted part of a man's accoutrements and no longer seen as solely for the ladies. Wilsdorf realized that wristwatches were more susceptible to objects entering the case. When he saw the patent for the screw down crown first proposed by Perret & Perregaux, he bought all rights to the patent and the first "Oyster" watch was introduced in late 1926. He was determined to promote it in the best way he could.

In 1910, Rolex sent their first movement to the School of Horology in Switzerland. It was awarded the world's first wrist watch chronometer rating given by the Swiss School of Horology.

Validation came in 1914, when London's Kew Observatory certified a Rolex wristwatch to be as precise as a marine chronometer. It was the first time that a watch had received "chronometer" status from the Kew Observatory.

The first Oysters of 1926 were never tested for accuracy, only tested to ensure that they were waterproof.

  • Mid-1930s: "Chronometre"
  • Mid-1940s: "Certified Chronometer"
  • Early 1950s: "Officially Certified Chronometer"

Wilsdorf realized that wristwatches were more susceptible to objects entering the case. When he saw the patent for the screw down crown first proposed by Perret & Perregaux, he bought all rights to the patent and the first "Oyster" watch was introduced in late 1926.

Mercedes Gleitze was the first English woman to swim the English Channel. However, there was some controversy over her swim and so she offered to do it again in the full light of publicity. Recognizing the value this would have, Wilsdorf asked her to wear a new Rolex Oyster. She then wore the watch on her nearly successful "confirmation" swim (she was pulled semi-conscious from the unusually cold water seven miles from the finish) and a month later Wilsdorf launched the watch in the UK with a full page advertisement on the front cover of the Daily Mail, the first time a watch company had ever done this.

The problem with the Oyster was that people had to unscrew the winding button in order to wind it. The answer came in 1931 with the perpetual winding mechanism. Now the winder was only occasionally needed, and the watch remained waterproof for much longer.

The addition of a date window came in 1945, with it came a new model, the Datejust. Into the twenty-first century, the Datejust was still in production and is probably the most recognized watch in the world. Other new introductions have been the Submariner, in 1953, (the world's first diving watch); the Day-Date (otherwise known as the President); the Explorer (an extra tough watch made for sportsmen) and the GMT Master, in 1954, (the world's first dual time zone watch).

Every one of these watches has been copied by other watch firms, to say nothing of the legions of fakes of varying quality. The Cosmograph in 1988, and the Yachmaster in 1990 continued Rolex's tradition of innovation and conservatism. Rolex's continual leadership in the watch industry was recognised by a panel of industry leaders who voted the Rolex Oyster "The Watch of the Century".

In 1908 Wilsdorf & Davis changed its name to Rolex. At the time, mostly pocket watches were produced by Swiss watch manufacturers because it was difficult to produce accurate and reliable movements in such small size that they would fit in a wrist watch.

Wilsdorf was a perfectionist who improved the standards for watch-making and pushed for smaller and more accurate movements that transformed style and fashion from larger pocket watches to smaller more practical wristwatches.

Aegler, a small Swiss company agreed to supply Wilsdorf with movements small enough to be worn on the wrist. Wilsdorf's production included a variety of case designs: casual, formal and sporty.

In 1910, Rolex sent their first movement to the School of Horology in Switzerland. It was awarded the world's first wrist watch chronometer rating. Wilsdorf recognized two major requirements for watches:
  • To keep accurate time
  • To be reliable

With the Chronometer Award, "accuracy" of timekeeping was considered to be under control and Wilsdorf started to work on improving the reliability of his watches. One of the main problems at the time was, that dust and moisture would enter in the watch case and progressively damage in movement. To solve this problem, one would need to develop a completely dust and waterproof watch case. Dust and water would enter watch cases via the casebook and via the crown. Wilsdorf developed a screw crown and casebook mechanism that revolutionized the watch industry.

The first waterproof watch, the Oyster, was cleverly advertised around the world. At the time, the public was rather skeptical that the watch would be really waterproof. However, after seeing a watch in an aquarium in the shop window, many people were convinced. Around the world one could see windows of watch shops with an aquarium and submerged Rolex watches. This campaign created an enormous brand awareness for Rolex. Since then, Rolex has continued to be at the forefront of the watch making industry. Today, almost every watch manufacturer followed Rolex and offers waterproof watches.

The Rolex Prince, developed in 1928 became a best seller with its dual dial and rectangular case. In 1931 Rolex invented the "Rotor," a semicircular plate of metal, that with gravity, would move freely to wind the watch. Thus, the Rolex "Perpetual" (automatic) movement was born.

Rolex's star has risen much higher since those days of the First World War. "People want to own a Rolex because it shows that they made it." It is something to which you aspire and then treat yourself after a successful venture or a windfall.

Industry watchers say that what distinguishes Rolex from other premium timepieces is its signature look - a big, round face paired with a wide metal band - that has become as familiar on a basketball court as at a black-tie reception. Identifiable from across a room, the Rolex look has an unrivaled, near-universal appeal. Sportsmen value its ruggedness, adventurers its reliability and royalty its elegance. The design's evolution could be best described as glacial. There have been changes over the years, but it's all in the details.

Take Rolex's first calendar watch, the Datejust. If you put a Datejust from 1945 beside a Datejust from 1998, you'll see the resemblance. There probably won't be a single part inside that's interchangeable, but the outward design has evolved ever so marginally. This timeless appeal often translates into an excellent investment. At Christie's auction house in London, the excitement created by the sale of a private collection of 360 Rolex watches dating from the 1910s to the 1990s surprised even the most nonchalant pundits.

The highlight of the auction was the sale of a cult icon, a late-1960s stainless-steel manual-wound Paul Newman Cosmograph Daytona (so named because the actor wore one in the 1969 racing flick, "Winning") that took the hammer for a cool $21,212, twice its estimated value. The Paul Newman, with its flashy dial and oversized indexes, wasn't an immediate success and was produced for a very limited time. Its meteoric ascent in popularity didn't begin until the mid-1980s.

The Italians were the first to go for it. It was perfectly possible 16, 17 years ago to buy a Daytona at 20 to 25 percent under list price in England or America at the same time Italians would pay you 30 to 40 percent over list. Let's just say it was a nice little earner for quite a number of enterprising people.

By the time Daytona fever swept across Europe and the United States in the late 1980s, a relaunch was already in the works. Introduced in 1991, the updated Daytona replicated the original's racy chronograph, a built-in stopwatch that's perfect for timing the morning sprints of Kentucky Derby contenders or your nine-year-old's dash for first base, but added an automatic winder.

By 2000, the $5,150 stainless-steel Cosmograph with a white face, the rarest combination and the one that Paul Newman reportedly wore off screen, was one of the country's most-coveted timepieces. The Daytona was actually worth more on the secondary market than its retail price.

But the best-known Swiss watchmaker has always been something of an outsider in Geneva. Perhaps it's because the company didn't start out Swiss. As mentioned, Rolex was founded in London, in 1905, by the 24-year-old Wilsdorf, a German who became a British citizen after taking an English bride. It was an era when national borders tended to define men's ambitions.

Wilsdorf thought big from the beginning. In 1908, before anyone had uttered the term multinational, Wilsdorf trademarked the word Rolex, a name that is easily pronounced in different languages and short enough to fit on a watch dial. It's said that Wilsdorf dreamed up the word while riding a London bus, having been inspired by the sound a watch makes as it is wound.

Rolex didn't leave England until after the First World War, when an import tax hike of 33 percent made receiving in London its Swiss-made movements prohibitively expensive.

The company's first decade was driven by its founder's relentless obsession with precision. "Wilsdorf wasn't content merely to invent the first wristwatch. He wanted to invent the first truly accurate wristwatch, one that you could actually run your life by." Validation came in 1914, when London's Kew Observatory certified a Rolex wristwatch to be as precise as a marine chronometer. It was the first time that a watch had received "chronometer" status, a classification that, even today, is held by a relative few timepieces.

Still, improved accuracy didn't immediately transform the wristwatch into an essential item in the common man's wardrobe. Dust, heat and moisture had a way of wreaking havoc with a wristwatch's intricate mechanical movements, and the earliest models required too much maintenance to be practical. Rolex's big breakthrough came in 1926, when Wilsdorf developed a case that was impervious and waterproof. The secret was a revolutionary double-locking crown that screwed down on the case like a submarine hatch to create an airtight seal. Recalling his difficulty in prying open an oyster at a dinner party, Wilsdorf christened his creation the Rolex Oyster.

To launch his company's new timepiece into the popular consciousness, Wilsdorf came up with an ingenious publicity stunt. After learning that a young British woman named Mercedes Gleitze was planning to swim across the English Channel, he presented her with a Rolex Oyster and dispatched a photographer to chronicle her endeavor. When Gleitze emerged triumphantly from the sea, her Oyster was keeping perfect time and, true to its name, had remained waterproof.

Wilsdorf capitalized on the successful event with a splashy front-page ad in London's Daily Mail newspaper, touting "The Wonder Watch that Defies the Elements: Moisture Proof. Waterproof. Heat Proof. Vibration Proof. Cold Proof. Dust Proof." It was the genesis of the famous Rolex testimonial ad campaign that continues to this day.

If the first Oyster had an Achilles' heel, it was its winder button. The watch was hermetic only when the button was screwed down. To eliminate the need for owners to unscrew the crown to wind a watch, Wilsdorf came up with another innovation that propelled the industry forward even further. In 1931, Rolex introduced a "perpetual" rotor that literally rewound a watch with every flick of the wearer's wrist. The world's first successful automatic watch became the bedrock of the Rolex empire. "The Oyster Perpetual is really what makes a Rolex a Rolex. It's waterproof, with a tiny engine that you power every single time you move your arm."

The Oyster Perpetual has proved undaunted by the worst possible conditions. It has survived the depths of the sea with Jacques Piccard and the summit of Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary's Sherpa. It has retained its accuracy in subzero arctic temperatures, the scorching Sahara and the weightlessness of outer space. It has shrugged off plane crashes, shipwrecks, and speedboat accidents, broken the sound barrier, and been ejected from a fighter jet at 22,000 feet. Some of the most colorful recommendations are the cautionary tales: the Englishman who inadvertently laundered his Oyster in a scalding cycle, then rinsed, spun and tumble-dried it; the Australian skydiver who dropped his from 800 feet above the outback; or the Californian whose wife accidentally baked his in a 500-degree oven. In each case, the recovered Rolex was running perfectly.

By the advent of the Second World War, the Rolex name had become so prestigious in Britain that pilots in the Royal Air Force rejected inferior government-issued watches and used their paychecks to nearly deplete England's supply of Oyster Perpetuals. The compliment was duly returned: any British prisoner of war whose Rolex was confiscated had only to write to Geneva to receive a replacement. Yankee GIs returned home with a new trinket on their wrists. And so Rolex's romance with America began.

Though he lived in Geneva for 40 years, Wilsdorf never became a Swiss citizen. He died a Briton in 1960 and was remembered by colleagues as a good-humored, fatherly man who loved life as much as he loved a fine watch. Two years after his death, the company's board of directors appointed 41-year-old Andre Heiniger as Rolex's new managing director. While working under Wilsdorf for 12 years, Heiniger had come to share his boss' vision for the company, as well as his high energy level and sanguine outlook. All three traits proved invaluable when the Swiss watch industry found itself slipping into oblivion.

Just as video killed the radio star, the quartz boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s nearly snuffed out the mechanical timepiece faster than you can say "Seiko." By substituting low-cost, digital technology for labor-intensive artisanship, the Japanese sent the Swiss horology industry into crisis mode. Yet while most of Geneva's watch houses feverishly hitched their star to the digital bandwagon, Rolex stuck resolutely to its mechanical guns.

By the time the dust had settled, more than half of Geneva's watch manufacturers had gone under. Fully a third of the survivors were subsumed into a publicly owned consortium to avoid bankruptcy:
  • Omega
  • Longines
  • Blancpain
  • Tissot
  • Rado
  • Hamilton

Wilsdorf, an heirless widower at his death, created a private trust run by a board of directors to insure the company would never be sold.

What made Rolex so resilient? "The single most important thing that saved Rolex is that up until then the company had only been run by two managing directors: Hans Wilsdorf and Andre Heiniger. They really never had to worry about this quarter's results. They could think long-term appeal: 'Where will we be in five or ten years' time?' That's a completely different philosophy than at another watch house. Even in times of uncertainty, Rolex's greatest policy was "never to adopt change for change's sake." Revealingly, the single quartz model developed by Rolex in the 1970s never exceeded 7 percent of the company's total production. (Today, that figure is 2 percent).

If Rolex had gone to quartz, there's no way it would have the image and prestige it has now. And being a private company without external shareholders, Rolex can better afford to remain aloof to fads than many of its counterparts. That means no chunky cases, no madcap numerals, no avant-garde shapes, nothing that's going to look dated in a decade's time.

In 1992, Patrick Heiniger replaced his father as Rolex's managing director. Both Heinigers share the twin virtues of undying optimism and ironclad discretion, according to colleagues. It's a combination that generates intrigue among rivals and industry observers.

Montres Rolex S.A. is hugely secretive. Rolex always was an outsider company in Switzerland. Their top executives almost never do interviews. Essentially, their philosophy has always been to let the product speak for itself. At Rolex, the product is an obsession.

Consider the care taken to decorate the inside of a Rolex. The parts the wearer never even sees. At the company's Geneva headquarters, Rolex's craftsmen, dressed in white laboratory smocks, pull up to ergonomically designed workstations, then execute minute operations in near silence. Each component of every tiny movement is sculpted with swirls, lines or loops. Every angle is rounded and polished to a brilliant shine. This provides absolutely no value to the consumer, except as a gesture of the brand's refinement.

That Rolex produced its own movements separated it from other well-known mechanical brands. More than 200 craftsmen and technicians worked on a watch before it acquired Rolex certification. "There's so much more to a Rolex than the average person will ever need." And in that sense it's the Mercedes-Benz of wristwatches. It's over engineered. Not because Rolex wants to squander money but because that's just the way they do things.

Before leaving Geneva, every Rolex watch must travel through a high-tech obstacle course of quality-control checks. Every dial, bezel and winder will be checked and double-checked for scratches, dust and aesthetic imperfection. The microscopic distance between its hour and minute hands will be painstakingly calibrated to ascertain that they are lying perfectly parallel. An ominous-looking air-pressure chamber will verify that each watch is waterproof to a depth of 330 feet. (The Submariner and Sea-Dweller divers' models are guaranteed to 1,000 and 4,000 feet, respectively.) And every watch will engage in a precision face-off against an atomic-generated "überclock" that loses but two seconds every 100 years. Only after successfully passing dozens of checkpoints does a watch receive the Rolex seal.

Such attention to detail limits Rolex's production to about 650,000 watches a year, based on industry estimates. "That might sound like a lot," insists Lister of Christie's, "but it's very far below market demand." But, as André Heiniger once said, "We've never wanted to be the biggest, but certainly one of the finest in the field."

  • Oyster (1926, screw-down crown)
  • Prince (1928, dual dial and rectangular case)
  • Datejust (1945, date window)
  • Submariner (1953, the world's first diving watch)
  • Day-Date (1953, otherwise known as the President)
  • Explorer (1953, an extra tough watch made for sportsmen)
  • GMT Master (1954, the world's first dual time zone watch)
  • Cosmograph (1988)
  • Yachmaster (1990)
  • Deepsea (2008) Sea-Dweller (waterproof to 3,900 meters - 11,700 feet)

Following information is courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • The first waterproof wristwatch "Oyster", 1926.
  • The first wristwatch with an automatically changing date on the dial (Rolex Datejust ref.4467, 1945).
  • The first wristwatch case waterproof to 100 m (330 ft) (Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner ref.6204, 1953).
  • The first wristwatch to show two time zones at once (Rolex GMT Master ref.6542, 1954).
  • The first wristwatch with an automatically changing day and date on the dial (Rolex Day-Date, 1956).
  • The first watchmaker to earn chronometer certification for a wristwatch.

Rolex SA and its subsidiary, Montres Tudor SA design, manufacture, distribute, and service high-quality wristwatches sold under the Rolex and Tudor brands. Founded by Hans Wildorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905 as Wilsdorf and Davis, Rolex moved its base of operations to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919.

Bloomberg Businessweek magazine ranked Rolex No.71 on its 2007 list of the 100 most valuable global brands. Rolex is the largest single luxury watch brand, producing about 2,000 watches per day, with estimated 2003 revenues of approximately US$3 billion.

Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the company that would eventually become Rolex SA, in London, England in 1905. Wilsdorf and Davis' main business at the time was importing Hermann Aegler's Swiss movements to England and placing them in quality watch cases made by Dennison and others. These early wristwatches were sold to jewellers, who then put their own names on the dial. The earliest watches from Wilsdorf and Davis were usually hallmarked "W&D" inside the caseback.

In 1908, Wilsdorf registered the trademark "Rolex" and opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The company name "Rolex" was registered on 15 November 1915. The book "The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches: An Unauthorized History" by Jeffrey P. Hess and James Dowling says that the name was just made up. One story, never confirmed by Wilsdorf, is that the name came from the French phrase horlogerie exquise, meaning "exquisite clockwork" or as a contraction of "horological excellence". Wilsdorf was said to want his watch brand's name to be easily pronounceable in any language. He also thought that the name "Rolex" was onomatopoeic, sounding like a watch being wound. It is easily pronounceable in many languages and, as all letters have the same size, allows to be written symmetrically. It was also short enough to fit on the face of a watch.

In 1914, Kew Observatory awarded a Rolex watch a Class A precision certificate, a distinction which was normally awarded exclusively to marine chronometers. [This test was sometimes referred to as the "Kew A" test.]

In 1919, Wilsdorf left England due to wartime taxes levied on luxury imports as well as export duties on the silver and gold used for the watch cases driving costs too high. He moved the company to Geneva, Switzerland, where it was established as the Rolex Watch Company. Its name was later changed to Montres Rolex, SA and finally Rolex, SA.

Upon the death of his wife in 1944, Wilsdorf established the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation in which he left all of his Rolex shares, making sure that some of the company's income would go to charity. The company is still owned by a private trust and shares are not traded on any stock exchange.

In December 2008, the abrupt departure of Chief Executive Patrick Heiniger, for “personal reasons”, was followed by a denial by the company that it had lost 1 billion Swiss francs (approx £574 million, $900 million) invested with Bernard Madoff, the American asset manager who pleaded guilty to an approximately £30 billion worldwide Ponzi scheme fraud. Heiniger died March 5, 2013, after a long illness, according to an official statement issued by Rolex SA.

Rolex watches are popularly considered status symbols.

The first self-winding Rolex wristwatch was offered to the public in 1931 (the so-called "bubbleback" due to the large caseback), preceded to the market by Harwood which patented the design in 1923 and produced the first self-winding watch in 1928, powered by an internal mechanism that used the movement of the wearer's arm. This not only made watch-winding unnecessary, but kept the power from the mainspring more consistent resulting in more reliable time keeping.

Rolex participated in the development of the original quartz watch movements. Although Rolex made very few quartz models for its Oyster line, the company's engineers were instrumental in design and implementation of the technology during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, Rolex collaborated with a consortium of 16 Swiss watch manufacturers to develop the Beta 21 quartz movement used in their Rolex Quartz Date 5100. Within about five years of research, design, and development, Rolex created the "clean-slate" 5035/5055 movement that would eventually power the Rolex Oysterquartz.

Rolex was also the first watch company to create a water resistant wristwatch that could withstand pressure to a depth of 100 m (330 ft). Wilsdorf even had a specially made Rolex watch (the watch was called the "DeepSea") attached to the side of the Trieste bathyscaphe, which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The watch survived and tested as having kept perfect time during its descent and ascent. This was confirmed by a telegram sent to Rolex the following day saying "Am happy to confirm that even at 11,000 metres your watch is as precise as on the surface. Best regards, Jacques Piccard".

Rolex produced specific models suitable for the extremes of deep-sea diving, mountain climbing, and aviation. Early sports models included the Rolex Submariner and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea Dweller. The latter watch has a helium release valve, co-invented with Swiss watchmaker Doxa, to release helium gas build-up during decompression. The Explorer and Explorer II were developed specifically for explorers who would navigate rough terrain, such as the world famous Mount Everest expeditions. Another iconic model is the Rolex GMT Master, which was originally developed in 1954 at the request of Pan American Airways to provide its crews with a dual time watch that could be used to display GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), which is the international time standard for aviation and was needed for Astronavigation during longer flights.

Rolex is the largest manufacturer of Swiss made certified chronometers. In 2005, more than half the annual production of COSC certified watches were Rolexes. To date, Rolex still holds the record for the most certified chronometer movements in the category of wristwatches.

By 2010, the company was starting to introduce ceramic bezels across the range of professional sports watches. They were available on the Submariner, Sea Dweller-Deepsea, GMT Master II, and Daytona models. The ceramic bezel is not influenced by UV-light and is very scratch resistant.

Rolex SA offers products under the Rolex and Tudor brands.

Montres Tudor SA has designed, manufactured, and marketed Tudor brand watches since March 6, 1946. Rolex founder Hans Wildorf conceived of the Tudor Watch Company to create a product for authorized Rolex dealers to sell that offered the reliability and dependability of a Rolex, but at a lower price.

Tudor brand watches are manufactured by Montres Tudor SA using movements supplied by ETA SA.

Tudor brand watches are marketed and sold in most countries around the world including Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, South Africa, most countries in Europe, South Asia, the Middle East and countries in South America, particularly Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Montres Tudor SA discontinued sales of Tudor branded watches in the United States in 2004. Tudor returned to the United States in the summer of 2013.

Rolex has three watch lines:
  • Oyster Perpetual
  • Professional
  • Cellini

The Cellini line is Rolex's line of 'dressy' watches) and the primary bracelets for the Oyster line are named:
  • Jubilee
  • Oyster
  • President

The name of the watch lines in catalogs is often "Rolex Oyster Perpetual ______" or "Rolex ______"; Rolex Oyster and Oyster Perpetual are generic names and not specific product lines, except for the 36mm Oyster Perpetual model, which goes by no other name and is a model unto itself. The Air-King is the least-expensive member of the Oyster Perpetual family and is meant for understated elegance and simplicity. The Date is related to the Air-King but adds a date display. Certain models from the Date and Datejust are almost identical, however the Datejust 36 mm case and a 20 mm bracelet compared to the Date's 34 mm case and 19 mm bracelet. Internally, the Datejust's mechanism is more sophisticated as it can change date independently of the minute/hour hands by pulling the crown 1/2 way out, while the date on the Date has to be changed by advancing the minute and hour hands all the way around 24 hours. Lastly, the Datejust has optional luxury features such as gold and diamonds which are not available on the Date.

  • Air-King
  • Air-King-Date (available in 1988)
  • Date
  • Oyster Perpetual
  • Datejust
  • Datejust II
  • Datejust Turn-O-Graph
  • Lady Datejust Pearlmaster
  • Daytona
  • Paul Newman Daytona
  • Day-Date
  • Day-Date II
  • Day-Date Oyster Perpetual
  • Explorer
  • Explorer II
  • GMT Master II
  • Masterpiece
  • Milgauss
  • Oysterquartz
  • Sea Dweller
  • Sea Dweller DeepSea
  • Sky-Dweller
  • Submariner
  • Turn-O-Graph
  • Yacht-Master
  • Yacht-Master II

  • Quartz Ladies
  • Quartz Mens
  • Cellinium
  • Cestello Ladies
  • Cestello Mens
  • Danaos Mens
  • Prince

Rolex was the official time keeper of Wimbledon and the Australian Open tennis grand slams, as well as two of the four majors in golf: the Open Championship and the U.S. Open. They were also the title sponsor to the 24 Hours of Daytona, from which the Daytona model takes its name.

Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh had a specially designed experimental Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep-Sea Special strapped to the outside of their bathyscaphe during the 1960 Challenger Deep / Mariana Trench dive to a world-record depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 ft). When James Cameron conducted a similar dive in 2012, a specially designed and manufactured Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Deep Sea Challenge watch was being "worn" by his submarine's robotic arm.

Tenzing Norgay and other members of the Hillary expedition wore Rolex Oysters in 1953 at altitude 8,848 m on Mount Everest while there are attestations and speculation that Sir Edmund Hillary either carried a Smiths Deluxe or a Rolex to the summit, or both.

Mercedes Gleitze was the first British woman to swim the English Channel on 7 October 1927. But, as John E. Brozek (author of The Rolex Report: An Unauthorized Reference Book for the Rolex Enthusiast) points out in his article "The Vindication Swim, Mercedes Gleitze and Rolex take the plunge", some doubts were cast on her achievement when a hoaxer claimed to have made a faster swim only four days later.

To silence her critics, Mercedes Gleitze attempted a repeat swim on 21 October in the full glare of publicity, thus touted the "Vindication Swim". Hans Wilsdorf knew a good marketing opportunity when he saw one and offered her one of the earliest Rolex Oysters if she would wear it during the attempt.

After more than 10 hours, in water that was much colder than during her first swim, she was pulled from the sea semi-conscious seven miles short of her goal. It was during this swim where she wore the Rolex watch, contrary to popular opinion. Although she did not complete the second crossing, a journalist for The Times wrote "Having regard to the general conditions, the endurance of Miss Gleitze surprised the doctors, journalists, and experts who were present, for it seemed unlikely that she would be able to withstand the cold for so long. It was a good performance".

This silenced the doubters and Mercedes Gleitze was hailed as a heroine. As she sat in the boat, the same journalist made a discovery and reported it as follows: "Hanging round her neck by a ribbon on this swim, Miss Gleitze carried a small gold watch, which was found this evening to have kept good time throughout". When examined closely, the watch was found to be in perfect condition, dry inside and ticking away as if nothing had happened.

One month later, on 24 November 1927, Wilsdorf launched the Rolex Oyster watch in the United Kingdom as the focal point of a full front page Rolex advert in the Daily Mail and the Rolex Oyster began its rise to fame.

The Vienna Herald described the 1969 Apollo moon landing as: 'an event almost as significant as the time a woman swam most of the English Channel with a waterproof watch on.'

By the start of World War II, Rolex watches had already acquired enough prestige that Royal Air Force pilots bought them to replace their inferior standard-issue watches. However, when captured and sent to POW camps, their watches were confiscated. When Hans Wilsdorf heard of this, he offered to replace all watches that had been confiscated and not require payment until the end of the war, if the officers would write to Rolex and explain the circumstances of their loss and where they were being held. Wilsdorf, in belief that their word was their bond, was in personal charge of the scheme. As a result of this, an estimated 3,000 Rolex watches were ordered by British officers in the Oflag (prison camp for officers) VII B POW camp in Bavaria alone. This had the effect of raising the morale among the allied POWs because it indicated that Wilsdorf did not believe that the Nazis would win the war. American servicemen heard about this when stationed in Europe during WWII and this helped open up the American market to Rolex after the war.

On 10 March 1943, while still a prisoner of war, Corporal Clive James Nutting, one of the organizers of the Great Escape, ordered a stainless steel Rolex Oyster 3525 Chronograph (valued at a 2010 equivalent of £1,200) by mail directly from Hans Wilsdorf in Geneva, intending to pay for it with money he saved working as a shoemaker at the camp. The watch (Rolex watch no. 185983) was delivered to Stalag Luft III on 10 July that year along with a note from Wilsdorf apologising for any delay in processing the order and explaining that an English gentleman such as Corporal Nutting "should not even think" about paying for the watch before the end of the war. Wilsdorf is reported to have been impressed with Nutting because, although not an officer, he had ordered the expensive Rolex 3525 Oyster chronograph while most other prisoners ordered the much cheaper Rolex Speed King model which was popular due to its small size. The watch is believed to have been ordered specifically to be used in the Great Escape when, as a chronograph, it could have been used to time patrols of prison guards or time the 76 ill-fated escapees through tunnel 'Harry' on 24 March 1944. Eventually, after the war, Nutting was sent an invoice of only £15 for the watch, due to currency export controls in England at the time. The watch and associated correspondence between Wilsdorf and Nutting were sold at auction for £66,000 in May 2007, while at an earlier auction on September 2006 the same watch fetched A$54,000. Nutting served as a consultant for both the 1950 film, "The Wooden Horse" and the 1963 film "The Great Escape". Both films were based on actual escapes which took place at Stalag Luft III.

In a famous murder case, the Rolex on Ronald Platt's wrist eventually led to the arrest of his murderer, Albert Johnson Walker, a financial planner who had fled from Canada when he was charged with 18 counts of fraud, theft, and money laundering. When the body was found in the English Channel in 1996 by a fisherman named John Coprik, a Rolex wristwatch was the only identifiable object on the body. Since the Rolex movement had a serial number and was engraved with special markings every time it was serviced, British police traced the service records from Rolex and identified the owner of the watch as Ronald Platt. In addition, British police were able to determine the date of death by examining the date on the watch calendar. Since the Rolex movement was fully waterproof and had a reserve of two to three days of operation when inactive, they were able to determine the time of death within a small margin of error.