Rolex, a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer based in Geneva, was founded by Hans Wilsdorf in London, England in 1905. Wilsdorf foresaw the potential of wristwatches as elegant and reliable timepieces, and set out to create innovative timepieces with precise movements. In 1908, the brand’s name was officially registered as Rolex. After World War I, the company moved its operations to Geneva, Switzerland, a renowned center for watchmaking. The company has been owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private family trust, since 1960.
Rolex’s watch models are categorized into classic and professional collections. The classic collections combine the brand’s high standards of perfection with timeless style, including the Day-Date, Sky-Dweller, Oyster Perpetual, Pearlmaster, Datejust, Lady-Datejust, and Cellini. The professional watches are designed for specific activities, 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 globally recognized as the most famous luxury watch manufacturer. The brand’s output includes iconic horology timepieces, from legendary dive watches and chronographs to dual time zone models and dress pieces, setting the standard for all others to follow. Rolex’s design language epitomizes a form-following-function approach that redefines the word timeless. The brand’s collection debuted in the 1950s and ’60s and has retained its fundamental styling ever since. The company remains on the cutting edge of technology and materials.
Today, Rolex represents more than just a watchmaker, but is also a symbol of luxury, aspiration, unyielding quality, and faultless integrity. As a benchmark for others to strive towards, there is only one Rolex.
Established in London in 1905, the luxury watch brand Wilsdorf & Davis was named after its founders, Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. The company changed its name to Rolex in 1908 and relocated to Geneva, Switzerland in 1915. During its formative years, Rolex introduced two game-changing inventions that transformed the perception of wristwatches. In 1926, they launched the first waterproof watch case, the Oyster, and in 1933, they perfected the self-winding or automatic movement, which they called the Perpetual. These innovations revolutionized the watch industry, making wristwatches robust and convenient enough for anyone, in any situation.
By the 1960s, Rolex had expanded its collection with models designed for diving to great depths, keeping track of two time zones, timing motorsport laps, and withstanding massive electromagnetic forces. The company also developed two of the ultimate dress watches, completing one of the most comprehensive collections in the industry. Rolex has focused on perfecting its existing pieces rather than adding more watches to the range, but has recently introduced some highly complicated models with niche functions.
The Rolex Collection: Professional vs Classic
The collection of Rolex watches is categorized into two primary divisions and one subdivision.
The Professional Collection
Rolex’s collection of sports/tool watches can be found under the Professional Collection.
The Rolex Submariner: This line was specifically created for diving and became the first timepiece to achieve a depth rating of 300 meters. It is widely considered the most iconic dive watch of all time and has served as a blueprint for countless other watchmakers.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller: A bigger and more proficient dive watch compared to the Submariner, with a water resistance of up to 1,220m.
The Sea-Dweller Deepsea: The third member of Rolex’s dive watch family, this timepiece is the most uncompromising of them all. It is capable of descending to an incredible depth of 3,900 meters.
The GMT-Master: Originally created for pilots, the GMT-Master has become the standard-bearer for all luxury traveler’s watches. It is capable of tracking three time zones simultaneously by utilizing a dual-colored bezel. Although not all GMT-Master watches feature two colors on the bezel, the functionality remains the same.
The Cosmograph Daytona: The Cosmograph Daytona is a timepiece that was created with the racetrack in mind and is arguably the most significant sports watch ever produced. The watch features a tachymetric bezel, which enables the wearer to measure average speed per hour using two pushers, one located above the winding crown and the other below it. The top pusher is used to start and stop the chronograph, while the bottom pusher is for resetting it.
The Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II: The Yacht-Master offers a more refined version of the Submariner, featuring a luxurious timing bezel crafted from either platinum or gold. Though it shares the Submariner’s design cues, the Yacht-Master II is a unique timepiece made for professional regatta skippers. Its standout feature is the world’s first programmable countdown with mechanical memory, specifically intended for nautical races.
The Explorer: The watch is a minimalist and stunning timepiece that can be traced back to the summit of Mount Everest, where it was worn by the world-renowned climbers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
The Explorer II: Originally created as a functional tool watch, the Explorer was designed for spelunkers who needed to distinguish between day and night in the dark cave systems where the sun was not visible. It is a robust and reliable timepiece with a simple and utilitarian design.
The Milgauss: In the 1950s, Rolex created a timepiece tailored for scientists and technicians, featuring a double case to shield against powerful magnetic fields that could disrupt its precision timekeeping.
The Air-King: The Air-King, one of the oldest models in the Rolex catalog, was originally created to pay tribute to the brave pilots of World War II. Other variations such as the Air-Tiger, Air-Lion, and Air-Giant were also introduced during that time period.
The Classic Collection
Rolex’s Classic Collection comprises dressier watches that exude a versatile elegance, appropriate for any occasion.
The Day-Date: Crafted exclusively from precious metals such as yellow gold, white gold, and platinum, the watches in this collection are rarely seen in stainless steel. These models, often referred to as the “President”, were so named after several US Presidents were seen wearing them. Often adorned by world leaders, celebrities, and other notable figures, these watches are the epitome of prestige and success.
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: With an extensive range of variations available, the ideal watch for daily use, tailored to suit your personal style, is within reach.
The Sky-Dweller: The Sky-Dweller is a remarkable feat of engineering, boasting a GMT function and Rolex’s first-ever annual calendar. It is the newest and most intricate model in the lineup.
The Pearlmaster: This unique timepiece is a golden version of the Datejust, embellished with precious gemstones, offering an exquisite combination of luxury and sophistication.
The Cellini Collection: Often overshadowed by other Rolex collections, is a series of pure dress watches, belonging to the Classic Collection. This line features exquisitely refined timepieces crafted in white or Everose gold, and includes Rolex’s sole moonphase watch.
How Much Is A Rolex Watch?
The question of how much a Rolex costs can be difficult to answer definitively. At the lower end of the spectrum, the Oyster Perpetual is a relatively affordable entry point at around $5,000. However, at the other end of the scale, the diamond-encrusted Pearlmasters or Day-Dates can easily reach six figures. In the case of rare vintage Rolexes, prices can go well beyond even that, with Paul Newman’s personal Daytona selling for a record-breaking $17.8 million.
Furthermore, because Rolex restricts supply to drive up demand, it can be challenging to purchase a new watch from an Authorized Dealer or to find one for sale online. As a result, many used Rolex watches sold on the secondary market command high premiums.
To provide some context, we’ve highlighted a few of the most popular Rolex models and compared their official retail price with their average cost as a secondary purchase. If you’re looking to sell a Rolex, we offer a secure and convenient online platform for doing so online.
Who Wears Rolex?
Owning or desiring to own a Rolex watch puts you in the company of many notable individuals. Throughout the past century, the brand has been a coveted status symbol for people from all walks of life. Even James Bond, the fictional character, consistently chose Rolex as his timepiece of choice in all of Fleming’s novels as well as nine of his movie appearances.
From Hollywood stars to real-life royalty, here are just a few of the brand’s most prominent admirers: 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 countless other celebrities and influencers.