Monday, April 21, 2008

Rolex History & Major Milestones

Rolex Founder Hans Wilsdorf (1881-1960)

The Rolex odyssey began in 1905 as Wilsdorf & Davis, a company that started out making pocket watches and folding watches called travel clocks. 

German watchmaker, Hans Wilsdorf founded Wilsdorf & Davis at 24 with his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. His objective was to make quality timepieces at affordable prices.

Three years after Wilsdorf & Davis was formed, Wilsdorf trademarked the name Rolex, which later became the company's official name. 

When Hans Wilsdorf came up with the brand name Rolex, he wanted a name that was not only memorable, but easy to pronounce and spell. 

Hans Wilsdorf ran and owned Rolex until he died in Geneva on July 6, 1960. His will left Rolex as a not-for-profit foundation.

Wilsdorf wanted Rolex to be a symbol or achievement, not a status symbol.

ROLEX Historical Milestones.

1905 - Hans Wilsdorf established London firm that specialized in watch distribution named Wilsdorf & Davis.

1908 - Wilsdorf created new brand name: Rolex.

1910 - Rolex started to give official chronometer certification in Switzerland.

1914 - The Kew Observatory in Great Britain awarded to Rolex wristwatch a CLASS A precision certificate.

1920 – Montres Rolex S.A. is established in Bienne, Switzerland.

1926 - Rolex developed and patented the Oyster: as the first air, dust and waterproof watch.

1927 - Rolex Oyster crossed English Channel unscathed.

1931 – Year of Birth for Perpetual Rotor: Self-winding mechanism that could be found in every modern automatic watch.

1944 – Upon the death of Hans Wilsdorf's wife, Hans establishes the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation in which he left all of his shares in Rolex.

1945 - Oyster Date model was invented. This was a first watch that automatically displayed the date.

1946 – Tudor subsidiary is established.

1947 – Chuck Yeager is the first man to break the sound barrier and he is wearing his Rolex.

1953 - Rolex created the Submariner which was a watch for specifically dedicated to divers.

1953 – Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to stand on the summit on Mt. Everest wearing Rolex Explorers on May, 29 at 11:30 a.m.

1954 - Oyster Perpetual Lady-date Created.

1955 - Oyster GMT Master was developed for Pan American International Airlines to make it possible to easily keep time in two different time zones.

1956 – Rolex introduces first Anti-Magnetic Watch in History [Reference 6543]

1956 - Oyster Day-Date Introduced at Basel.

1960 – Hans Wilsdorf dies in Geneva on July 6, 1960.

1960 - Rolex Bathyscaphe Deep Sea Special was created and plunged 35,787 feet down in the Mariana Trench in Pacific Ocean.

1962 – First James Bond movie "Dr.No" comes to the big screen with Sean Connery wearing a Rolex Submariner.

1967 - Oyster Sea-Dweller was invented which was waterproof to a depth of 610 Meters or 2001 Feet.

1971 - Oyster Explorer II was designed and presented at Basel.

1978 - Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller was tested for waterproof in depth of 1220 Meters or 4003 Feet.

1988 - First Cosmograph Daytona was fitted with a perpetual rotor.

1992 - Yacht-Master was designed and shown at Basel.

2004 - Submariner model celebrated its 50th Anniversary with special commemorative model wich has green bezel and unique black dial.

2008 – Rolex Sea Dweller Shown off at Basel.

Watch Term Glossary

AM - Anti Meridian, Before noon.

Analogue - A watchdisplay that uses hands rather than a digital readout.

Automatic - A watch containing a mechanism which uses the movement of the wearer to wind the watch and provide power.

Anti Magnetic - A type of watch mechanism shielded against strong magnetic fields to maintain accuracy.

Applique - The fixing of numerals and other features to the face of a watch.

Aperture - An opening in the face of a watch to enable display of information such as date, day and moonphase.

Anti reflection - A treatment often applied, particularly to sapphire crystal watch glass, which reduces reflections and makes the watch easier to read.

Balance - Connected to the mainspring of a movement. It is the oscillation of the balance that provides the energy and rhythm of the watch.

Bar - A small rod used to fix a watch band to the body of the watch.

Battery Reserve Indicator (See also Power Reserve indicator and Reserve de Marche.) -  A method of displaying that the battery in a quartz watch is running low. This will often take the form of less frequent "ticking" e.g. Every 2 seconds.

Bezel - The circular portion of the body of a watch surrounding the crystal or glass. Most often decorative, as well as functional (it usually holds the glass on), the bezel forms major part of what kind of impression the design of a watch conveys.

Bombe - convex French

Bracelet - A metal watchband, available in many types of alloy, from stainless steel to gold.

Butterfly Clasp - See Deployant Clasp. A clip which opens in two directions, expanding to enable easier putting on and removal of a wristwatch.

Calendar - Display on a watch face of day/date sometimes month/day/date, referred to as a triple calendar.

Calibre - Has a number of meanings within horological circles. Can refer to the size of a watch movement. Most often used to referring to the model or series of movement within the catalogue of a particular manufacturer. A Calibre may have meanings such as type of movement, series, period of manufacture etc within the one number.

Case/Caseback - The housing within which the movement of a watch sits. This may form part of the decorative aspect of a wristwatch. A caseback may be clip-on or screw-down, and can in fact be transparent revealing the movement inside.

Chapter Ring–the circular ring on a clock or watch dial on which the minutes (and sometimes the hours) are engraved, attached or painted.

Chronograph - A watch with a stopwatch function that enables the timing period to be controlled.

Chronometer - A standard of classification conferred by the COSC (See below) giving a watch certification as having a high degree of accuracy under a number of operating conditions.

Co-Axial - The configuration of having two hands running on the same axis.

Complication - A watch movement that carries more functions than just telling the time, eg calendar, moonphase. See also Grand Complication.

Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres - The official Swiss Chronometer testing institute that verifies a watch's accuracy.

Côtes de Genève - Machined oscillating pattern on the flat surfaces of a watch movement.

Crown - Most often found at "3 O'clock" the crown is a knob used to wind and set the watch. May have multiple positions for setting date, moon phase etc as well as time. 

Crystal - The "glass"window in the front of a watch. Crystals are made from different materials chosen for their individual properties.

Sapphire Crystals - Most often found on high end watches, all but scratchproof. However Sapphire crystal is subject to shattering under strong localized impacts.

Acrylic - Resistant to small knocks and scratching. Can be polished to restore clarity and appearance.

Mineral Glass -    Glass hardened by a process of heat treatment. Approximately 10 times harder than acrylic, mineral glass is extremely scratch resistant but must be replaced if scratched.

Cyclops -  Rolex term for a small lens in the glass/crystal used to magnify date elements on the face of a watch.

Day/Date - A watch and/or movement that shows both the day and date.

Deployant - A type of buckle attached to the band or bracelet of a watch consisting of several hinged parts that open and expand to more easily put on and take off the watch.

Dial - The portion of a watch face that shows the values of various displays, eg Hours, Minutes, Seconds etc.

Digital - Display using electrical currents to form numbers to display time and other information on a watch.

Display back - An open back watch casing that allows the movement of the watch to be viewed easily.

Dual Time -Zone A watch that is capable, by means including several hour hands on the one face or several dials on the one face, of displaying more than one time zone at once eg The Rolex GMT Master 2 can show one time on its main face and another time can be independently set on the 24 hour hand.

ETA - Swiss manufacturer of mechanical movements. Although held in the highest regard, their movements are available in watches retailing under $1000 up to tens of thousands.

Escapement - The mechanism within a watch movement that converts the stored power in the spring to drive energy in the watch. This is the portion of the movement that "ticks". 

Flinqué - The use of engraving on the surface of a watch, then covered with enamel to form a decorative surface.

Fluted - A surface of a watch, eg dials or face carrying thin parallel grooves.

Full Rotor Automatic - watch movement which allows for the complete revolution of the winding rotor.

GMT - Abbreviation for Greenwich Mean Time. As a feature of watches,    it means that two or more time zones are displayed.

Guilloché - Curved lines interlaced to form a patterned surface.

Hand - Moving part of the face of a watch which indicates on the dial values such as hour, minute, date etc.

Helium escape valve - Divers watches are often fitted with a HEV. Air with a higher helium component is used in diving applications conducted at great depths. Helium, having a smaller molecular size than other air elements, can move in and out of a watch casing regardless of seal. When depressurizing, either in open water or even a pressurized cabin helium can become trapped inside the casing, blow out the glass/crystal and damage components. A helium escape valve allows one way movement of expanding helium to escape the casing.

Horology - The study of time and watches.

Incabloc - A watchmaking technique used for creating shock resistant movements.

Jewels - Watch makers have long used jewels, (often synthetic ruby), to create wear resistant hubs for rotating components of a watch movment, also used for other components subject to constant wear.

Kinetic -  A system whereby the movement of the wearer creates electrical energy which is then stored in a watch. Similar to automatic only electrical rather than mechanical kinetic energy.

Lugs - Protruding sections of a watch casing to which a watch band is attached using spring bars.

Luminescent (Lume) - Emitting light from within. Luminescent hands are often used on watches so that they can be read in the dark. Many types of luminescent materials are used, including the very slightly radioactive Tiridium. Watches using Tiridium must carry a "T" on the face of the watch.

Manual - A mechanical movement that must be wound by hand to store energy in the spring to keep running.

Markers - Indicators on the face of a watch to mark out time, indicate hours etc.

Mechanical - A mechanical watch converts energy stored within a spring to motion within a watch movement to display information on its face.

Minute repeater - See Repeater

Moon phase - A commonly seen element of a Complication movement displaying the current phase of the moon.

Movement - The inner workings of a watch that convert either spring (mechanical)  or battery (quartz) energy into the information displayed on its face.

NIB - New In Box.

New Old Stock - A term referring to a Mint condition/New watch first available for initial sale a long time ago but never used and/or sold.

Perpetual Calendar - A highly complicated movement displaying calendar information that adjusts to different lengthed months and years. Perpetual calendars are often among the most valuable, highly sought after watches.

Power reserve/Reserve De Marche - A display on the face of a watch showing the remaining time left in the spring before requiring further winding.

Provenance- Historical evidence attesting to the authenticity of a watch by proving its history.

Quartz - A mineral with a highly regular molecular vibration rate. Quartz is used in watches as its vibrations can be harnessed to control the output with great accuracy.

Quick set/date - A movement that allows the date to be set directly from the crown of the watch rather than the rotation of the time.

Rattrapante - Split lap time function on a mechanical chronograph. Separate second hands are utilized to show split lap times.

Rehaut–The wall that runs around the inside of the watch above the dial. Sometimes referred to as a "flange." In 2004 Rolex started engraving the word "ROLEX, ROLEX, ROLEX" around the rehaut as well as engraving the serial number of the watch in the 6 o'clock position on some models. It is believed that eventually all Rolex watches will have this design aesthetic. 

Repeater - An auditory way of telling time. When a button is pressed a series of tones is heard signifying hours and minutes. One of the most highly complex types of complications included in a watch movement. Watched that carry a repeater are often extremely valuable/expensive.

Retrograde - Most commonly used to indicate elements of a date, a retrograde hand does not move through a full 360 degrees, instead it will move back to the start of it's "sweep" begin again.

RIS - Rolex Idiot Savant. Somebody who know every little detail about Rolex watches.

Rotor - A counter weighted component of an automatic watch movement, the rotation of which stores energy in the spring.

Ruby - The red jewel used to prevent wear on some moving and contact parts in a mechanical movement. Rubies may be either synthetic or actual stone.

Sapphire - Man made sapphire crystal used for its hardness and scratch resistant qualities in watch making.

Screw Back - Threaded back for a watch casing to ensure a more secure seal and attachment. .

Screw-down crown
 - The crown of a watch that screws on/in to the case to better seal the watch. This ensures more water and dust resistance.

Skeleton watch - Called both the most beautiful and the most ugly form of mechanical movement in watchmaking, the skeleton watch is one constructed so as to enable all moving parts to be viewed. Although many watches feature a crystal back and front, the skeleton movement is constructed and cut so that each moving part of the  movement is visible.

Spring bar - Small sprung bar used to attach bands and bracelets to the case of a wristwatch.

Subdial - Smaller dial on the face of a watch to display information such as seconds, dual timezone, chronograph times etc.

Sweep second hand - Second hand which moves around the face of a watch.

Tachometer - instrument for measuring speed over a measured distance.  Also called a Tachymeter. Time an event that takes less than 1 minute. The scale on the Tachometer will tell you how many of those events will occur in 1 hour. 
e.g.  A racing car covers 1 mile in 30 seconds. The sweep seconds hand, when stopped at the end of the mile, would point to 120 on the tachometer. The average speed of the car is 120 m.p.h.

Tachymeter - see Tachometer.

Tourbillon - A watch mechanism where the entire escapement assembly rotates to counter the effects of gravity. Often incorrectly referred to as a watch with a window in the face that shows the balance rotating.

Tricompax - A chronograph with 3 subdials, traditionally at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock, most often displaying seconds, minutes and hours elapsed.
Triple Calendar - a dial that displays the day, date and month.

Tritium - a slightly radio-active substance that collects light and is used to allow the hands or hour markers to glow in the dark. The radiation is so low that there is no health risk.  Watches bearing tritium must be marked as such, with the letter T on the dial near 6 o'clock.

Two tone - Most often 18K gold and steel pr white gold, two tone refers to a multicoloured watch design.

Uni-directional rotating bezel - A bezel that indicates elapsed time, often found on divers watches.  It moves only in a counter-clockwise direction.  If a diver is timing his remaining air supply and knocks the bezel by mistake it can only move in one direction so that the error can only be on the side of safety.  

Water Resistant - Ability to withstand water pressure. Made to prevent water from entering a watch.  The watch case joints are made to prevent moisture from entering. Regular servicing is necessary and recommended to maintain full integrity of the seals  Water resistance is measured in meters and refers to the depth that the watch will keep out water:

                                  50 meters    surface swimming
                                100 meters    snorkelling
                                200 meters    scuba diving (to 40 meters)
                             1,000 meters    deep sea diving. 

Winding - The process of tightening the mainspring of a watch movement, this can be manual or automatic via the movement of the wearer.

WIS - Watch Idiot Savant. Somebody who seems to know everything about everything about collectable mechanical watches.

WISitus - Somebody who suffers from an addiction to watches or is fanatical about their love of watches.

Yacht - A number of watches have as a function the start timing markers of a yacht race. This appears as 5 circles most often at the top of the face.