Rolex is a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer based in Geneva, Switzerland. Founder, Hans Wilsdorf, was a visionary who foresaw wristwatches being both elegant and reliable at time-telling – something it had not been before – and set out to create innovative timepieces equipped with very small and precise movements. Thus Rolex was created in London, England in 1905. Originally named Wilsdorf and Davis (after Wilsdorf and co-founder, Alfred Davis), the company officially registered the brand’s name as Rolex in 1908. After World War I, Rolex moved its base of operations to Geneva, Switzerland – a city internationally renowned for watchmaking. Since 1960, the company has been owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private family trust.
Rolex’s various watch models can best be categorized by the following collections: classic and professional. The classic watch collections combine Rolex’s high standards of perfection with timeless style and include the Day-Date, Sky-Dweller, Oyster Perpetual, Pearlmaster, Datejust, Lady-Datejust, and Cellini. Rolex’s professional watches are designed for specific activities, ranging from diving to motor sport, and include the Cosmograph Daytona, Sea-Dweller, Submariner, GMT-Master, Yacht-Master, Explorer, Milgauss, and Air-King collections.
Rolex is undoubtedly the most famous luxury watch manufacturer in the world. Their output includes some of horology’s true icons; from legendary dive watches and chronographs to dual time zone models and dress pieces which have set the standard for all others to follow.
Epitomized by a form-following-function design language, Rolex’s output redefines the word timeless. The bulk of their collection made its debut in the 1950s and ‘60s and has retained its fundamental styling ever since. In terms of materials and technology, however, the brand exists right on the cutting edge of what is possible.
Now seen as far more than merely a watchmaker, Rolex is a symbol of luxury, aspiration, unyielding quality, and faultless integrity.
The manufacture against which everything else is judged, there is only one Rolex.
Originally known as Wilsdorf & Davis, the brand was established in London in 1905 and took its name from founders Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis.
Becoming Rolex in 1908, and relocating to Geneva, Switzerland in 1915, the company’s formative years resulted in two inventions which would completely transform the image of the wristwatch.
In 1926, they produced the first workable waterproof case, dubbed the Oyster. Following that, in 1933 Rolex perfected the self-winding or automatic movement, which they referred to as the Perpetual. Between them, these innovations revolutionized the industry. Wristwatches, which had until then been fragile, delicate items of jewelry worn almost exclusively by women, were now robust and convenient enough for anyone, whatever the situation.
By the end of the 1960s, Rolex had added models capable of diving to impossible depths, others to help travelers ward off jetlag by keeping track of two time zones at once, accomplished chronographs for timing motorsport laps and models able to withstand massive electromagnetic forces.
Joining them were two of the business’s ultimate dress watches to round off one of the most complete and coherent collections from any manufacturer.
Over the years, that collection has gained new additions only very rarely. Rolex has concentrated on enhancing and perfecting the pieces they already have, making them the definitive examples of the type, rather than adding evermore watches to the range.
Recently however, they have started to introduce some highly complicated models, with some particularly niche functions, to the lineup.
Today, Rolex remains at the very top of the horology tree, a byword for engineering excellence and enduring style.
The Rolex Collection: Professional vs Classic
Rolex’s lineup is split into two main sections and one subdivision.
The Professional Collection
The Professional Collection is where you will find Rolex’s sports/tool watches.
The Rolex Submariner: Designed for divers and was the first watch to boast a 300m depth rating. Probably the most famous dive watch ever made, and the blueprint copied by just about every manufacturer since.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller: A larger, even more capable diver than the Submariner, waterproof up to 1,220m.
The Sea-Dweller Deepsea: The third of Rolex’s dive trio, and the most uncompromising. Able to descend to an incredible 3,900m.
The GMT-Master: The benchmark for all luxury traveler’s watches, originally made for pilots. Able to track three time zones simultaneously by using the dual colored bezel. While not all GMT-Master watches have two colors on the bezel the functionality can still be used in the same fashion.
The Cosmograph Daytona: A model born for the racetrack, and probably the most important sports watch ever made. The tachymetric bezel allows wearers to measure average speed per hour with two pushes. One above the winding crown and one below it. The top pusher is to start and stop the chronograph while the bottom pusher is to reset it.
The Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II: A softer take on the Submariner, with an opulent timing bezel made from either platinum or gold based off the Rolex Submariner. While the Yacht-Master II is a distinctive watch designed for professional regatta skippers, with the world’s first programmable countdown with mechanical memory intended for use for nautical races.
The Explorer: A minimalist, starkly beautiful watch that can trace its roots to the summit of Mount Everest by world renowned Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
The Explorer II: A tough, no nonsense tool watch originally designed for spelunkers to be able to distinguish day from night in the dark cave systems where the sun could not be seen.
The Milgauss: Built in the 1950s for scientists and technicians, it contains a second internal case to ward off strong magnetic forces, which can affect the accuracy of the watch’s timing.
The Air-King: One of the oldest names in the catalog, the Air-King was made to honor the heroic allied pilots of WWII with several other variations such as Air-Tiger, Air-Lion, and Air-Giant.
The Classic Collection
The Classic Collection houses Rolex’s dressier watches, with a versatile elegance suitable for any occasion.
The Day-Date: Made from only precious metals like yellow gold, white gold, platinum and almost never in stainless steel. This model was nicknamed the President after several US Presidents donned this timepiece. Worn by world leaders, celebrities, and other public figures it is the last word in aspiration and achievement.
The Datejust: The perfect everyday model, with an almost limitless number of variations on offer, you are sure to find one that perfectly fits your style.
The Oyster Perpetual: Rolex’s most modest watch, and the very essence of the brand. This no-frills line has a simple iconic look and one function: simply telling the time. However, it comes in a wide variety of dial colors and case sizes to suit any taste.
The Sky-Dweller: A massive achievement, the Sky-Dweller contains both a GMT function as well as Rolex’s first ever annual calendar. It is both the newest and most complicated model.
The Pearlmaster: A gold variation of the Datejust adorned with gemstones. This one-of-a-kind timepiece delivers class and elegance.
The Cellini Collection: The sometimes overlooked Cellini Collection is a series of out-and-out dress watches, counted as part of the Classic Collection. Here you will find exquisitely sophisticated pieces in either white or Everose gold, including Rolex’s only moonphase watch.
How Much Is A Rolex Watch?
It is a familiar question, and one with many answers. The entry level model, the Oyster Perpetual, can be had for around $5,000. At the other end, one of the diamond-encrusted Pearlmasters or Day-Dates easily reaches into six figures. When talking about rare vintage Rolexes, those prices can go far beyond even that, with the record currently standing at about $17.8m for Paul Newman’s personal Daytona.
In addition, because of the brand’s policy of restricting supply to their retailers to drive up demand, it can be extremely difficult to buy a new watch at an Authorized Dealer or to know how to find an online Rolex. This has led to high premiums on many of the used Rolex for sale in the preowned Rolex marketplace.
Below, we have picked out a few of the most popular models to contrast their official retail price against their average cost as a secondary purchase.
If you have a Rolex you wish to sell, we also provide a convenient, secure way to do so online.
Who Wears Rolex?
If you have, or want to buy, Rolex watches, you are in excellent company. The brand has been a favorite status symbol for all types of people throughout the past century. Even the fictional character James Bond chose Rolex as his watch of choice throughout all of Fleming’s novels as well as nine of his movie outings.
From Hollywood royalty to actual royalty, here are just some of the brand’s most famous devotees: Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren Buffett, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, Brad Pitt, Prince Harry, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian, Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer, Adam Levine, James Cameron, Tiger Woods, and many other celebrities and influence figures.