Rolex, a watch manufacturing company trades and deals on diverse models and classic watch mockups that fit any wrist. It is the most widely preferred luxury watch brands in today’s world and needs no introduction.
Here are a few of the renowned watches made by the Rolex company. The Cosmograh Daytona, which was introduced in 1963 to meet the demands of professional racing driver. The Sea Dweller which is said to be the watch that conquered the deep. The submariner which is perfectly crafted for the sea divers. The GMT Master 11, popularly called the cosmopolitan watch. The Yacht-Master, called the watch of the open seas. The Oyster Perpetual. The Sky-Dweller, which is perfectly suited for word travelers. The Air-King, known as a homage to aviation. The Cellini, the Pearl Master; the Lady Datejust, etc. These are but a few of the timeless classic models of Rolex.
The Rolex brand has become a legendary, respected, valued, admired, and highly sought after watch brand. Rolex wristwatches have since made their way into the wrists of several superstars, sportspersons, futurists, entertainers, and even the most ordinary, everyday human. Rolex watches have also been used in the innermost depths of the deep-sea as well as in the uppermost conferences and meetings on the earth. It has for its slogan, “A Crown for Every Achievement”
In this article, we would consider putting the highlight on the history of Rolex, a few important facts to note about Rolex, where the Rolex wristwatches are made, the different factory locations, and the production processes of Rolex.
History Of Rolex
The journey of Rolex began with the brand name Wilsdorf and Davis. It was founded by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. WIlsdorf and Davis’ main trade engagement was the importation of Swiss movements from the Hermann Aegler’s company to England. They enclosed these watches in cases from the Dennison Company and sold them to jewelers who placed their brand insignia on the dial.
(Here is a little explanation on what movements are. A movement is also referred to as a caliber. In horology (the study of time), it is the machinery or mechanism of a timepiece which is made differently from the case. While the movement determines the mechanical activities of the watch, the case provides protection to and encloses the movement, and the watch face, responsible for showing the time.)
It was not until 1908 before the company registered and named Rolex as the official brand name for all its watches. Thus, the name “Wilsdorf and Davis” became obsolete in the business world. The name Rolex came about because the founder wanted a word that anyone could easily pronounce in any part of the world, irrespective of the language of communication. The name Rolex satisfied all the brand needs of the company and was thus adopted.
In the year 1914, Rolex was awarded with a class A Precision Certificate. This award is usually the exclusive reserve of marine watches. It was thereafter, in 1915, that the company was known and branded as Rolex Watch Co. Ltd.
The company made the choice of moving its base of operations after the World War 1, to Geneva in Switzerland. At the time, Britain was just recovering from a war and as such were imposing heavy taxes on businesses operating in the country. Thus, Wilsdorf decided to move his growing business to friendlier climes — Geneva.
Upon arrival in Geneva, the brand name was changed again to Montres Rolex SA in the year 1920 before it finally changed to Rolex SA.
Currently, Rolex is owned by a private family trust known as the “Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.” The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation was created by Hans Wilsdorf after the demise of his wife. He bequeathed to the foundation all of his dividends and insured that part of the proceeds of the company goes off to charitable donations. To this day, as earlier said, the trust retains ownership of Rolex. Rolex watches remain the most trustworthy and prominent watches in the entire world. Hans Wilsdorf died in 1960.
Rolex In Geneva
After its relocation to Geneva in Switzerland, Rolex was faced with many secretarial concerns. In the heat of increased administrative pressures, the company was rather worried about mechanical issues with its watches. It was found that dust and moisture permeated the dial as well as the watch crown. As a result, the movements of their watches started to suffer some damage.
The company got to work, researching and developing. In 1926, Rolex designed and manufactured, for the first time in its history, a timepiece that could neither be permeated by dust nor by water. The name given to this watch was Oyster. The watch came in a case with a hermetic seal that allowed for optimal security for the watch movement.
The Oyster arrived the market to a mixed bag of reactions. There were skepticisms and incredulities by the public. Customers were not certain about the claims of the company that the watch was water-resistant. Ever the daring company, Rolex immersed the new model Oyster watches in enclosed water bodies (aquariums) to knock off all doubts. This was put out at the various brand’s sale plugs.
This effort was further boosted when in the year 1927, a young swimmer of the British ancestry with the name Mercedes Gleitze wore an Oyster watch while swimming through the English Channel. She thus became the first brand ambassador for Rolex. The swimming period lasted 10 hours and that was a big sales boost for the company.
Where Are Rolex Watches Made? — Location Of Rolex’s Factories
As stated earlier, Rolex watches are made in Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva is the French-speaking and second-most populous city in Switzerland. There are four Rolex factories and we will review the activities of each.
1. The Bienne Factory
This is where all the Rolex watch movements are made. Rolex movements are some of the most unique features of the brand’s timepieces. Aegler’s company of Bienne supplied all the initial movements that Rolex wristwatch used during its startup. In the year 2004, the company was bought over by Rolex for about 1 billion dollars.
The factory sits on a 92,000 Square meters of land. All of the Rolex movements made here are assembled by hand. There are world-class machines that design and produce the components but the assembling is done by hand. Visitors are prohibited from entering this facility. This is likely because they would not want anyone else aware of the manufacturing technicalities of the company.
The Bienne facility also manufactures some of the high-class and limited components of Rolex which cannot be found in any other chronometer. Examples are the parachrom balance spring and the paraflex shock absorber.
2. The Plan-Les-Ouates Laboratory
This is the 11-story central laboratory where everything comes into shape. This factory was built in 2006 and it is the biggest of all the Rolex factories. It is equipped with robotic machines, a foundry for refining gold etc. There are six wings in this factory. Each has a height of 30 meters, length of 65m and width of 30m.
When the building is viewed from without the facility, only 6 of the 11 stories are visible. The other five stories are constructed underground to hide from the view of the curious. This is about the busiest and most important Rolex factory.
A very key department in this facility is the private foundry where the 904L gold stainless steel is manufactured. The alloys used for the watches are created exclusively by Rolex company. This is because the output of the metal in dimension, aesthetic and mechanical properties are dependent on it.
It’s in this facility too that you find Rolex’s ceramic department and the departments that concern itself with the tribology of the brand’s designs.
3. The Les Acacias Facility
This is where the international headquarters of the brand is housed. This facility is also central to the Rolex brand. It has in the administrative offices of senior managers and directors. It is completely protected against spying by members of the public. This is where the finishing phase of production is done. All of the production processes climax in this facility. It houses the assembly plant for the finishing touches to the production.
There are two separate ten-floor manufacturing segments in this facility. Finishing phases of the brand’s quality control are done here. Every detail in Rolex watchmaking is paid keen attention to here. Details like fixing dials into the movements, attaching the watch hands, serial number, etc. From here, there is still a final control phase, where the finished products are subjected to meticulous testing.
4. The Chene Bourg Facility
This is where all of the dials and gems are set. The facility houses the equipment used in the production of its dials and gems. It also has a machine that is used to screen the components and detect fake ones, especially the precious stones bought by the company.
Each of the Rolex facilities has a personalized and unique finishing and polishing unit. This ensures that Rolex watches are nothing short of perfect.
These are the four Rolex facilities in the world. All of them are located in Switzerland. Thus to answer the question “where are Rolex watches made?” you’d be right to say Switzerland as that’s where all the production goes down.
From design to finishing, Rolex watches are 100% Swiss.
Other Important Facts About Rolex
- Rolex uses very unique steel in the making of its watches. It uses a 904L grade steel, while most other watches use 316L steel. No other watch brand uses such steel quality. It neither corrodes nor rusts.
- Rolex has many professional science laboratories, equipped with state-of-the-art and modern lab equipment. These laboratories are given to researching new ideas that could be featured in Rolex watches as well as more efficient techniques for production. From the chemistry laboratory for researching suitable and advanced lubricants used in oiling processing machines; to the stress test room, where the watches are subjected to all levels of abuse to test its strength; Rolex is given to preternatural excellence. Little wonder their watches last as long as a lifetime.
- All of Rolex chronometers are assembled and tested by hand. None of Rolex wristwatches is assembled by a machine.
- All the gold used by Rolex for their watches is made in the company’s production unit. This is to ensure the quality of gold used.
Rolex watches are one of the most expensive classes of timepieces in the world. Know why? Click here to read Why Are Rolex Watches Expensive?