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Whether you’re considering purchasing a Rolex in Kansas City or simply becoming fascinated by the brand’s long history of excellence, an unmistakable air of mystique and intrigue comes packaged with the watchmaking brand. Here are 10 things you may not know about Rolex and how it came to be one of the greatest watch brands on Earth.
1 — Over a Century of Perfection
Rolex has stood the test of time with over 104 years of production under its current trademark. However, its journey began some 10 years before this in Switzerland and at that time, the founder Hans Wilsdorf set the exacting specifications for what he thought would be the perfect timekeeping device.
2 — The 1927 Cross-Channel Spectacular
Rolex has also been the pioneer of other timekeeping innovations such as the waterproof watch. The company set up a publicity stunt to prove that the watch was waterproof. The stunt involved swimmer Mercedes Gleitze swimming across the English Channel with a Rolex watch on. All reports indicate that when the swimmer made it across the canal after 10 hours and the watch was undamaged by the water, thus proving that the watch was a success.
3 — To the Highest Peak
Since then, Rolex has succeeded in creating a variety of watches that are capable of handling just about any kind of extreme environment that you could think of. This includes the harsh weather conditions at the top of Mount Everest. In 1933, the crew of the first expedition over Mount Everest in a plane was equipped with Rolex watches and they returned with glowing reports for the timepieces. In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay stood on the top of Mount Everest wearing Rolex watches.
4 — To the Lowest Depths
As if the top of the world was not enough, Rolex also conquered an extreme at the other end of the spectrum. It developed a watch that could withstand the extreme pressures of the deep seas, and in 1950, it sent a watch to the depths of the Mariana Trench. The Submariner watch works perfectly well 660 feet under the sea and includes a rotatable bezel for easy reading of diving immersion time.
5 — A Precise Watch That Requires Adjustment Just Once a Year
Rolex’s achievements that are more recent include precise watches for Formula One Racing and watches for skydiving. These watches are capable of telling time within two times zones and have cases of 42 mm. Designed for world travelers, the face includes a dual time zone readout and an annual calendar. Sky-dweller watches only need to be adjusted once a year and are in tune with astrological events.
6 — Continued High-Quality Materials
While Rolex has come a long way in publicity and innovation, they have remained true to their roots and have maintained quality assurance that ensures required watch repairs are rare. The company still makes its watches by hand with high-quality materials such as quartz and precision steel. The most common type of timepiece developed by Rolex is the wristwatch. The steel used in the watches is said to be extremely durable and arguably the best in the world.
7 — Forgeries and Fakes
Because of the brand’s famous name and the high price of its original wristwatches, Rolex has been perhaps the most forged brand ever. Forgeries range from cheap automatic movements to higher-quality fakes with mechanical movements. O.J. Simpson famously wore a fake Rolex watch during his murder trial in 1994. Even the higher quality counterfeits can be spotted easily by a knowledgeable jeweler.
8 — Rolex’s Own Fort Knox
As for the material that Rolex uses for their watches, the gold is owned by the company itself and the company goes to great lengths to ensure its safety. They have reportedly spent millions on security to guard their in-house gold foundry and even go as far as fingerprinting their employees before moving the materials used to make their watches. To date, Rolex is the only major watch manufacturer that has a real in-house foundry.
9 — The Brand Name Origins
Rolex may not actually be a word that means anything, but merely a word that was made up to trademark the product. The founder Hans may have simply been looking for the perfect short and recognizable word to represent his company. Later, the company added a motto — “A Crown for Every Achievement.”
10 — The London Connection
While the company was trademarked in Switzerland, it originally started elsewhere. Rolex started much further west of its Swiss origins in London, the home of Big Ben. The company was originally Wilsdorf & Davis in 1905 and registered as Rolex in 1908. It only moved its base of operations to Geneva after World War I to avoid the heavy taxation introduced at that time to rebuild Britain.