Rolex watches are probably the most recognizable brand in the world. They are certainly the most copied, meaning both imitated and forged.
German watchmaker Hans Wilsdorf changed the wristwatch from an unreliable timepiece into something extremely accurate. Rolex quickly became known for its precision, so much so that today every Rolex is, strictly speaking, not a watch, but a chronometer. A chronometer is any watch that has undergone a series of precision tests in an official institute. If the watch passes these stringent tests, it is awarded an official certificate verifying its ability to maintain accurate time under nearly all conditions.
The name ROLEX was created by Wilsdorf, supposedly as a contraction of "horological excellence". In 1926, Rolex came out with the Oyster. The hermetically sealed case made the Oyster the world’s first dustproof and waterproof watch. When Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel in 1927 wearing an Oyster, the idea of promotional testimonials was born. To this day, the Rolex is synonymous with adventure and daring exploits. Sir Edmund Hillary wore an Oyster Perpetual to the top of Everest. Deep sea divers, aviators, Antarctic explorers, and less adventurous celebrities, can be seen in Rolex ads, sporting one of the iconic Rolex watches with the signature broad ceramic bezel, heavy case and wide, articulated bracelet.
Rolex watches are not the most expensive on the market, but the initial cost can be high. However, Rolex watches are known to retain their value better than any other brand of luxury watch, giving the purchase of a Rolex good investment potential. Some people claim that owning a Rolex for just 10 years is like getting it free, because in that short time the value can double. Add to that the fact that it is much more fun to wear your investment than to keep it in a bank.
With so much at stake, it is advisable to buy your Rolex from a reputable jeweler or dealer. At least you should do some research and be familiar with some of the more egregious mistakes that are found in replicas. Look particularly carefully at the trademark five-pointed crown with balls.
The majority of Rolex watches have the same general look, whether they are for men or for women. The women’s watches are a bit smaller and are frequently embellished with diamonds around the face, and marking the hours. Favorite materials are gold and steel, sometimes in a trademarked combination called Rolesor. Even when diamonds are present the watches are more sporty than feminine. This was not always the case. There are vintage Rolex watches that are small and delicate. A few had a hinged dial cover so that the overall impression was more a bracelet than a watch. Some were covered in diamonds. Vintage men’s watches were often sleek, simple and very elegant.
The most extraordinary thing about Rolex is that it is not a company, but a Foundation, established by Wilsdorf to ensure that a part of the substantial profits made by the sale of Rolexes worldwide goes to charity.