Rolex is recognized the world over as the leader in the Swiss watchmaking industry and enjoys an unparalleled reputation for quality and know-how. The origins of Rolex date back to the beginning of the 20th century. At a time when pocket watches were still the order of the day, Hans Wilsdorf, a young Bavarian just 24 years old, wagered on the future of the wristwatch.
The pioneering spirit of the founder is the subject of some of the finest chapters in the history of contemporary watchmaking and was the source of two major innovations. In 1926, Rolex invented the Oyster, the first waterproof and dustproof watch, and, in 1931, the first self-winding mechanism equipped with a Perpetual rotor. Over the years, Rolex created a full line of Oyster watches, with a strong identity and intrinsic features. Recognizable at a glance, this collection includes over 170 models available in a wide number of possible combinations. The Cellini collection later enhanced the choice offered to consumers loyal to legendary Rolex quality. The reliability and performance of it’s products have built the worldwide reputation of Rolex.
History of Rolex
The history of Rolex is inextricably linked to the pioneering and visionary spirit of Hans Wilsdorf, its founder. Born in Bavaria in 1881, the young man entered the world of Swiss watchmaking in the early 20th century, at a time when the pocket watch was the order of the day. Hans Wilsdorf began to dream of a watch worn on the wrist. Wristwatches at the time were not very precise. They were considered to be nothing more than items of jewellery of particular appeal to women and were produced only in small quantities. Inventive and curious by nature, Hans Wilsdorf foresaw the immense potential of the wristwatch. Convinced that it could be at the same time elegant, precise and reliable, he devoted all his energy to turning his dream into reality.
In 1905, at the age of 24, Hans Wilsdorf founded a company in London specializing in the distribution of timepieces in Great Britain and in the countries of the British Empire. To convince the public of the reliability of these resolutely innovative timepieces, he equipped them with small, very precise movements manufactured by a Swiss watchmaking company in Bienne. In gold or silver, these watches sparked the interest of modern sports-minded men and women all over the British Empire. In 1908 Wilsdorf coined a brand name with which to sign his creations – Rolex. Easy to pronounce in any European language and short enough to fit on the dial of a watch.
In order to convince a circumspect public, Hans Wilsdorf first concentrated on the quality of the movements. Untiringly seeking to improve their reliability, he constantly submitted them to tests by official quality-control organizations. This relentless quest for chronometric precision rapidly led to success. In 1910, a Rolex watch was awarded the first official Swiss certificate granted to a wristwatch by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne. Four years later, in 1914, the Kew Observatory in Great Britain awarded the Rolex wristwatch a class “A” precision certificate, a distinction which until that point in time had been reserved exclusively for marine chronometers. From that date forward, the wristwatch was synonymous with precision. In 1920, after the First World War, Hans Wilsdorf founded Montres Rolex SA in Geneva. By being closer to Bienne where the movements were manufactured, he gained direct control of the manufacture of the cases and the finished product.
In 1926, a major step was taken with the creation of the first waterproof and dustproof watch. Named the “Oyster”, this watch featured a hermetically sealed case which, like a miniature safe, provided optimal protection for the movement. The following year, a young English woman, Mercedes Gleitze, swam the English Channel wearing an Oyster watch, a crossing that lasted over 10 hours. At the end of the swim, the watch remained in perfect working order. To celebrate this landmark event, Hans Wilsdorf published an advertisement on the front page of the Daily Mail proclaiming the success of the waterproof watch and chronicling “the debut of the Rolex Oyster and its triumphant march worldwide”.
The Oyster soon boasted yet another outstanding feature. In 1931 Rolex introduced a self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor, which allowed the watch to be wound by the movements of the wrist. This ingenious system is at the origin of every modern automatic watch. That technical development led to a radical cultural change and, before very long, the manually-wound watch would become outdated. The Oyster was expanding its horizons. For Rolex, the world became a living laboratory. In oceans, on high mountain tops, or wherever extreme conditions prevailed around the world, they served to test the excellence of the watches in real-life conditions. As of the 1930s, the company issued Oyster Perpetual watches to numerous Himalayan expeditions setting out to conquer Everest.
In the early 1950s, thanks to the perfect mastery of chronometric precision and waterproofness, Rolex developed professional watches that served as tools and whose functions went far beyond simply telling the time. These watches were intended for new professional activities, such as deep-sea diving, aviation, mountain climbing and scientific exploration. Launched in 1953, the Submariner was the first watch guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 100 metres (330 feet).
These watches generated lasting enthusiasm and became known as the watches of achievers. In 1953, equipped with an Oyster Perpetual, the expedition led by Sir John Hunt, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay was the first to reach the summit of Everest. In 1960, Jacques Piccard’s bathyscaphe, Trieste, plunged to a depth of 10,916 metres, in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. An experimental Oyster prototype, the Deep Sea Special, fastened to its hull, withstood a pressure of over one tonne per square centimetre.
As of the 1940s, Rolex also created highly prestigious watches worn by some of the world’s most influential people. In 1945, Rolex created the Datejust, the first wristwatch to indicate the date in a window on the dial. In 1956, the Day-Date was introduced. It was the first wristwatch in the world to show the date and the day of the week spelt out in full.
Rolex is characterized for its remarkable stability since its foundation and its great consistency in facing challenges. Each of its leaders in turn has made bold moves, embraced progress, and broken with tradition when necessary to ensure the success of the company. In the early 1960s, the expansion of the company required the construction of a new building in Geneva. This new edifice with its avant-garde architectural design in the form of two glass towers was inaugurated in 1965.
In 1963, André J. Heiniger succeeded HansWilsdorf, who had died in 1960. André Heiniger had joined Rolex at the age of 28, and devoted his first years with the company to the development of markets and affiliates abroad. In 1954, Hans Wilsdorf appointed him Commercial Director in Geneva. A true commercial strategist, André Heiniger took in hand the destiny of Rolex. With the benefit of vast experience in the field, he accelerated business development and reinforced the presence of Rolex worldwide, transforming it into a universal watch brand and one of the most prestigious watch names in the world. A man of conviction, André Heiniger had the same sense of anticipation as his predecessor. In the 1970s, Rolex participated actively in the development of the first Swiss quartz movement but, to everyone’s surprise, decided to remain faithful to the mechanical watch. This decision showed André J. Heiniger to be one of the great visionaries of contemporary watchmaking and allowed Rolex to save entire segments of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
André Heiniger was committed to increasing the visibility of the brand. The 1960s and 1970s gave rise to partnerships between Rolex, sports events and exceptional sports personalities, as well as artists of world renown. These associations contributed to the emergence of cultural and sports sponsoring in the world of luxury. In 1976, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Oyster, André Heiniger created the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. These prizes provide financial support to men and women who seek new ways to increase knowledge of our world and improve the quality of life on our planet. These years of expansion resulted in increased recognition and paved the way for the next chapter in the history of the company.
In 1992, the Board of Directors appointed Patrick Heiniger Managing Director of the company. A lawyer by education and profession, a specialist in international and intellectual property law, Patrick Heiniger immediately set his sights on strengthening the defence of the brand worldwide. Under his impetus in the mid-1990s, Rolex made a fundamental strategic choice and decided on the vertical integration of its means of production. This initiative was intended to guarantee control over the manufacture of the essential components of the brand’s watches and thus ensure its autonomy. Within this context, Rolex SA, the new corporate entity of the company since 2002, acquired its historic partner in Bienne, Manufacture des Montres Rolex SA, in 2004.
The vertical integration programme called for the consolidation of all of Rolex’s activities located in the canton of Geneva at three sites and the construction of new, state-of-theart production facilities. They became fully operational between 2000 and 2006. Flexible and multi-purpose in design, they reflect the image of a company in constant evolution, anticipating and responding to the demands of the market, and thus ensuring the supremacy of its products.
Now autonomous, with unparalleled production facilities, Rolex entered the 21st century with increased determination. Stronger and more present than ever in the world thanks to its network of affiliates, after-sales service and watchmaker training centres, it is resolutely striving to conquer new markets. In 2002, under the impetus of Patrick Heiniger, Rolex created the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, dedicated to helping promising young artists realize their full potential under the watchful eye of a renowned mentor in their discipline. This programme is but one manifestation of the philanthropic tradition of Rolex, which is further exemplified in the many activities of the Rolex Institute.
Named Chief Executive Officer of Rolex in 2009, Bruno Meier, who joined the group in 2005 as Chief Financial Officer, judiciously applies his broad experience in banking and finance to ensuring the continuity of the brand. Well aware of the challenges arising from globalization, he steers a careful course between the legacy of the past and the demands of a constantly changing world to allow Rolex to build on its success. Under his leadership, Rolex is optimizing its industrial and commercial structure to heighten its passion for innovation and perfection.
The men who commanded the destiny of Rolex
The men who have presided over the destiny of Rolex since its creation in the early 20th century have, each in their time, known how to make bold moves and embrace progress. They built the foundations of the company and guided it to success, allowing it to attain the leading status it enjoys today in the world of luxury watchmaking.
Hans Wilsdorf: Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, marked the company with the seal of excellence and consistency. He created the company and provided for its future with innovative vision and a spirit of enterprise. Born in Bavaria in 1881, he entered the world of Swiss watchmaking in the early 20th century. At that time, while pocket watches were the norm, the young man began to dream of the wristwatch and foresaw the immense potential it offered. From then on, he devoted all his time and energy to realizing this dream. In 1905, he founded a company in London specializing in the distribution of watches in Great Britain and the countries of the British Empire. In 1908, he invented the name Rolex, easy to pronounce in all European languages and short enough to be inscribed in full on the dial of a watch. At the same time, he sought to master two concepts that were fundamental for the development of the wristwatch: chronometric precision and waterproofness.
This quest was at the origin of a real revolution in the history of contemporary watchmaking. At the initiative of Hans Wilsdorf, in 1926, Rolex created the Oyster, the first waterproof watch, then, in 1931, the first self-winding watch equipped with a perpetual rotor. Since that time, Rolex has shown repeated technical prowess and enjoys a privileged position among Swiss watch brands of international renown. In the 1950s, the company developed the concept of the professional watch, which opened new horizons. At his death in July 1960, at the age of 79, Hans Wilsdorf left behind a company with solid roots, producing universally admired, timeless watches synonymous with excellence and prestige.
André J. Heiniger: André J. Heiniger was responsible for expanding Rolex worldwide. Drawing on his vast experience in the field, this great commercial strategist accelerated the development of business and ensured that the company was strongly established on every continent, from the Americas to Asia and from Europe to Oceania, transforming it into both a universal brand, and one of the most prestigious watch brands in the world. He began his career at Rolex in 1948, at the age of 28, and devoted his first years with the company to developing foreign markets and affiliates, notably in South America. In 1954, Hans Wilsdorf appointed him Commercial Director in Geneva. In 1963, three years after the death of the founder, he took over the reins of Rolex. At a time when the watchmaking industry was undergoing profound changes, he put his faith in technological innovation while maintaining the traditional values of the company. In the 1970s, Rolex participated actively in the development of the first Swiss quartz movement.
But André Heiniger was convinced that the success of Rolex lay with the Oyster and he remained faithful to the mechanical watch. This decision made him one of the great visionaries of contemporary watchmaking and allowed Rolex to save entire segments of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
The 1960s and 1970s gave rise to partnerships between Rolex, sports events, exceptional sports personalities, as well as artists of world renown. These associations contributed to the emergence of cultural and sports sponsoring in the world of luxury. In 1976, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Oyster, André Heiniger created the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. These prizes provide financial support to men and women who seek new ways to increase knowledge of our world and improve the quality of life on our planet. André Heiniger retired from the post of Managing Director of the company and became Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1992, and then Chairman Emeritus in 1997. He died in January 2000.
Patrick Heiniger: In 1992, six years after joining Rolex as its Commercial Director, Patrick Heiniger was appointed Managing Director of the company. Born in Argentina in 1950, Patrick Heiniger earned a law degree and was admitted to the bar in Geneva in 1977. He founded his own law firm, specializing in international and intellectual property law. Faithful heir to the spirit of enterprise that had made Rolex an exceptional brand, he combined tradition with the demands of an ever-evolving world and did not hesitate to make bold changes to bring the company solidly into the third millennium.
Under his impetus, in the mid-1990s Rolex made a fundamental strategic choice and opted for the vertical integration of its means of production. This initiative was intended to guarantee control over the manufacture of the essential components of the brand’s watches and thus to ensure its autonomy. The company decided to group all of its activities located in the canton of Geneva at three industrial sites. In opting for industrialization, Rolex’s intention is to reinforce the quality of its products while remaining true to the best watchmaking traditions. This vast vertical integration programme led to the construction of new, resolutely state-of-the-art production facilities. With full autonomy, and unprecedented freedom in the design and manufacture of its watches, Rolex is in an ideal position to take its ambition for excellence and innovation to new heights.
In addition to strengthening the quality of the product, the distribution network and after-sales service, Patrick Heiniger set himself the task of reinforcing the defence of the brand worldwide. Under his leadership, the company opened itself to new methods of communication to promote the brand and its image. In 2002 in keeping with the philanthropic tradition of Rolex, Patrick Heiniger created the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, dedicated to helping promising young artists realize their full potential under the watchful eye of a renowned mentor in their discipline. Patrick Heiniger retired from his position as Managing Director of Rolex in December 2008.
Bruno Meier: Bruno Meier was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Rolex in 2009, four years after joining the company as Chief Financial Officer. He was born in 1950 in Lucerne, Switzerland, where he studied and started a career which over the years allowed him to acquire solid experience and an excellent reputation in the field of finance and banking. After distinguished service at major banking institutions, notably Chase Manhattan Bank in Geneva, he joined J.P. Morgan & Co. in 1986 as Deputy General Manager and member of the Executive Committee in Geneva, and then served as Managing Director in New York. From 1992 to 1997, he pursued his career at Banque Paribas, and afterwards held a key position at the Republic National Bank of New York. In January 2000, he went to Deutsche Bank, as Chief Executive Officer (Switzerland) and Global Chief Operating Officer of the Private Wealth Management Division. Bruno Meier came to Rolex in February 2005, bringing his expertise as a financial manager to a company that shares the values long upheld by the Swiss business sector.
Over the next four years, he combined the legacy of his institutional experience with a corporate culture deeply rooted in quality, service and openness to the world. As Chief Executive Officer of Rolex, Bruno Meier takes the reins of a group which, with its vertical integration, has effected fundamental changes since the mid-1990s. Today its position is unprecedented both in terms of skilled manpower and for its industrial and commercial structure. With his strong background in banking and finance, Bruno Meier is well positioned, at the dawn of the new millennium, to confidently face its numerous challenges. His managerial talents will be more than ever necessary to stay the course and strengthen a unique corporate culture, while responding to a constantly changing world.
Gian Riccardo Marini (CEO of Rolex from May 2011 – Apr 2014)
Jean-Frederic Dufour (CEO of Rolex from Apr 2014 – )
Rolex Headquarters and production sites
The Rolex world headquarters is located in Geneva. It is home to all the administrative activities of the company, and to those related to research and development, final watch assembly and sales, as well as after-sales service.
Rolex has three other sites, all located in Switzerland
• The Plan-les-Ouates site, in the canton of Geneva, groups all the activities related to the development, manufacture and quality management of the case and bracelet.
• The Chêne-Bourg site, in the canton of Geneva, groups all the activities related to the development and manufacture of dials and gem-set elements.
• The Bienne site, in the canton of Berne, groups all the activities linked to the development, manufacture and assembly of the Rolex watch movements.
These four sites are the direct result of the vast vertical integration programme undertaken in the mid-1990s, and are the expression of an autonomous company that has equipped itself with unparalleled production facilities and thus with absolute freedom to create and produce new models of watches.
Innovations by Rolex
904L STEEL: A Rolex watch is designed to last a very long time, even in the harshest environments. That is why Rolex has chosen to use 904L steel for the cases, winding crowns, bezels and bracelets of its watches.
904L steel belongs to the family of stainless superalloys. It is currently used in high-technology, the aerospace, chemical and petrochemical industries and for surgical instruments and implants. Its excellent corrosion-resistant properties, comparable to those of precious metals, are due to its high chrome content. Aesthetically, 904L, when polished, has an outstanding radiance.
The manufacturing process of 904L steel requires exceptional rigour. After a first casting, the metal is remelted in a vacuum to purify it and eliminate any inclusions that would diminish its corrosion-resistance and lead to problems in the polishing. A strict quality control of the steel castings is conducted using a scanning electronic microscope. Only the castings that meet the strict specifications are used for the watches. For Rolex, each metal is precious and must meet the same aesthetic and quality requirements. The company today controls the entire manufacturing process for the 904L components.
For cutting the rolled plates, forming them by stamping and for machining the components, the physical characteristics of 904L required perfecting specific tooling and special working methods. Thermal treatments facilitate forming the material. Very hard tools, some in tungsten carbide with an anti-wear coating, have been developed for stamping it. These operations end with a polishing that gives each piece a final polished or satin finish, like no other. In 1988, Rolex became the first watchmaking company to choose 904L. Today, it remains the only watchmaker to use it systematically for the cases, winding crowns, bezels and bracelets of its watches.
PARAFLEX SHOCK ABSORBER: A mechanical watch is a marvel of technology but can be sensitive to shocks, particularly if dropped. To minimise risks to the movement, Rolex has developed an innovative, highly efficient shock absorber, Paraflex.
The part of the movement most susceptible to damage from shocks is the balance staff. The balance is a large moving component with great inertia which helps guarantee optimal chronometric performance. Yet, to minimise friction, the pivots of the balance staff must be as fine as possible – around seven hundredths of a millimetre in diameter – making them very vulnerable.
At the beginning of the 20th century, finding a way of effectively protecting these especially fragile parts constituted one of the major challenges in developing the wristwatch, vulnerable by its very nature. The invention of an efficient anti-shock device in the early 1930s was a significant step in watchmaking, from which Rolex fully benefited. From the mid-1930s, Rolex fitted its movements with shock-absorbing bearings to the balance and the escapement wheel. Despite being perfected over the years, these tiny shock absorbers have their limits. In the event of a shock, the spring on the shock-absorbing bearing can sometimes open, with immediate consequences for the wearer: the movement stops short.
In an effort to optimize protection, Rolex rethought the shock absorber’s basic functions. Working hand-in-hand, engineers and watchmakers developed a system that would increase the shock absorber’s resistance by 50% while preserving the chronometric properties of the balance. Special attention was given to the design of a new spring, which is a key element. Completely redesigned, its innovative shape means the shock absorber can now withstand extremely demanding conditions. The new shock absorber, known as Paraflex, has been used in the Prince movement since 2005, and in the new Oyster Perpetual Day-Date II since 2008. It will be systematically introduced in all future movements for Oyster models.
In addition to increased shock resistance, this ingenious shock absorber offers several other advantages. Its innovative design guarantees that the spring remains firmly positioned on the support, with no risk of deformation. It also permits a precise amount of lubricant to be applied for the pivoting system. Furthermore, because the components are now perfectly symmetrical, they can be installed in any direction, with no loss of performance. These parameters not only make manual assembly of the system more reliable, but also facilitate its maintenance by after-sales service.
The invention of Paraflex was made possible notably thanks to the great advances in dynamic three-dimensional modelling. Validating the performance of this new system required numerous shock tests and laboratory procedures. The innovative geometry of the spring of the shock absorber provides Rolex movements with an exclusive signature. Entirely designed and developed by Rolex, Paraflex has been patented.
PARACHROM HAIRSPRING: In a mechanical watch, the oscillator is the guardian of time. Composed of a hairspring and a balance wheel, it is the regulating organ that determines the precision of the watch by the regularity of its oscillations.
Ensuring this regularity is no easy task. Measuring time with a precision of within one second per day is like measuring a kilometre to within one centimetre. To achieve this, it is necessary to take into consideration the temperature variations, even slight ones, to which a watch may be subject. Only a few materials with very special properties, such as certain iron, nickel and chrome based ferromagnetic alloys, grant a hairspring the stability it requires to guarantee such regularity.
After having mastered the manufacture of the ferromagnetic hairspring in the 1990s, Rolex developed and patented the Parachrom hairspring, made of a new alloy composed of niobium, zirconium and oxygen. The Parachrom hairspring, whose manufacture is entirely mastered in-house, has the advantage of being up to 10 times more resistant to shocks and is insensitive to magnetic fields.
The research lasted five years and required the development of the most advanced techniques. Rolex developed its own high technology to manufacture the Parachrom hairspring, thus guaranteeing perfect quality and independence. Uncoiled, the hairspring is finer than a strand of hair. It forms a 20-cm long ribbon with a rectangular cross-section: 45 μm by 150 μm (microns). Its manufacture begins with the fusion of niobium and zirconium at approximately 2300°C in an electron bombardment oven developed specifically for this application. A bar 30 cm long and 10 mm in diameter is thus created. This bar is then transformed through a series of operations to obtain a length of wire 3 km long and 0.1 mm in diameter (i.e., the diameter of a strand of hair). Subsequently this wire is transformed into a long ribbon with a rectangular cross-section that is cut into segments 20 cm long. Each segment is coiled into a spiral. Then, the shape is finalized using a high-temperature thermal vacuum treatment.
The Parachrom hairspring was introduced on the Cosmograph Daytona as of the year 2000. Its blue colour pays homage to the prestige of the watch and reinforces the stability of the hairspring. Indeed, in the history of watchmaking, colouring a hairspring blue has always been reserved for the most precise and most exclusive of watches.
OYSTER MOVEMENTS: The Oyster watch movements are all designed to meet superlative chronometric precision, total reliability over time, excellent shock-resistance, and the perpetual energy provided by a self winding movement. These objectives are achieved through a common architecture for the movements, including the following fundamental elements.
In a mechanical movement, the oscillator is the heart of the watch. Consisting of a hairspring and a balance wheel, it is the regulating organ which determines the precision of the watch by the regularity of its oscillations. All of the Oyster movements are equipped with a high-inertia balance wheel and a hairspring with a Breguet overcoil that guarantees precision regardless of the positionmof the watch. Since the year 2000, movements of newly launched models have been equipped with the Parachrom hairspring, entirely designed and developed by Rolex, and which demonstrates exceptional resistance to magnetic fields and shocks. The fine tuning of the balance wheel function is achieved thanks to Microstella nuts – a Rolex invention – installed on the balance wheel. The use of a traversing balance bridge is another typical characteristic of the architecture of the Oyster movements. This component allows for a very stable and precise positioning of the oscillator, thereby improving chronometric performance and enhancing shock-resistance. An extraordinarily elegant detail, the traversing bridge of the Oyster movements is height-adjustable to provide optimal freedom of movement to the balance wheel.
THE PERPETUAL ROTOR: Invented by Rolex in 1931, this self-winding mechanism consists of a half-moonshaped oscillating weight, which pivots freely on its central axle, in one direction, then the other with the natural movements of the wrist.
It transmits uninterrupted natural energy to the watch. The Perpetual rotor system of the Oyster movements is recognizable by two red reversing wheels that allow the winding of the movement regardless of the rotation direction of the oscillating weight.
CERACHROM INSERT: With the robustness and reliability of its watches in mind, Rolex developed, manufactured and patented the Cerachrom insert for the bezel of certain professional models in the Oyster collection. Made from an extremely hard, corrosion-resistant ceramic, this new component is virtually impervious to scratches, and its colour is unaffected by ultraviolet rays.
Available in black, blue or green, the Cerachrom insert is made from zirconium dioxide, or zirconia, a ceramic obtained from the synthesis of natural mineral sand. Today, zirconium dioxide has a number of high-tech industrial applications (such as medical implants and fibre optic connectors) because of its remarkable anti-corrosion properties, hardness and toughness.
The manufacture of the Cerachrom disc is fully integrated in-house giving Rolex, complete control over the quality of the final product and ensuring conformity to its rigorous standards. To this end, Rolex has installed the special equipment required. The ceramic in Cerachrom is a very fine white powder, composed of particles less than one micron (one thousandth of a millimetre) in diameter. The white powder is mixed with both a binding agent that allows it to be moulded and pigments that will give it its final black, blue or green colour. The raw material is shaped by high-pressure moulding into what is technically termed a “green” disc. It then undergoes various machining processes, among which is the engraving of the numerals. At this point, it has the resistance of a thin bar of chocolate. The discs are then heat treated in high-temperature furnaces. The first stage consists of an eight-hour firing at low temperature to eliminate the binding agent. From the second firing, known as sintering, which lasts 24 hours at a temperature of 1500°C (2700°F), the ceramic disc acquires its definitive hardness and mechanical resistance. Indeed, after sintering, the disc’s resistance is akin to that of steel.
During firing and sintering, the piece retracts, or shrinks, by approximately 25% and acquires its final colour, which penetrates the very core of the disc. A final machining gives each piece its definitive shape and size for assembly. As the Cerachrom disc now has all of its characteristic hardness, this operation requires the use of diamond tools. The disc is then coated with a fine layer of either yellow gold or platinum – the former for yellow gold watches, the latter for steel or white gold watches – using a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) process of cathode sputtering, developed and patented by Rolex. The precious metal layer is extremely fine, measuring just one micrometer, and fills the numerals and markers. Finally, the surface is polished to remove the gold or platinum from the surface of the disc, while leaving that which has filled the numerals and markers, making them more visible. The disc is now ready to be assembled onto the bezel, without glue or screws.
Throughout the production process, the Cerachrom disc undergoes stringent quality controls including checking the precision of its geometry, its mechanical properties and colour. Once fired and sintered, the ceramic discs are further tested to ensure their flexural strength. This resistance is indispensable both for fitting the insert onto the bezel and also for its ability to withstand shocks. The Cerachrom insert has been used since 2005 on the GMT-Master II; since 2007 on the Yacht-Master II in yellow gold; since 2008 on the Rolex Deepsea and the Submariner Date in yellow and white gold and in yellow Rolesor; and since 2010 on the Submariner Date in steel.
EVEROSE: Everose, pink gold developed and manufactured by Rolex, glows with unequalled radiance. Distinguished and warm, it does not fade with time from exposure to harsh chemicals in the environment and it complements perfectly the steel in the Rolesor pieces.
Enduring and noble, pure gold is naturally yellow. To create more variety in jewellery, other luxury items and watchmaking, pink and red gold were developed. The addition of copper made possible a whole palette of shades of red. Copper is more vulnerable than gold. It is attacked by the chlorine present in the environment, which leads to a progressive yellowing of red and pink gold alloys. In order to resolve this problem, Rolex patented a specific 18 ct pink gold alloy with a 2% platinum content. The presence of the platinum keeps the copper from leaving the surface and thus prevents its fading over time. Given the name, Everose, this innovation is protected by a patent. The development of Everose required state-of-the-art analysis techniques, including Rutherford Backscattering Spectroscopy, which is used to measure the change in concentration of chemical elements in the first layers of superficial atoms. Accelerated ageing tests have also been developed to verify the stability of the colour over time. Rolex now controls the entire manufacturing process for Everose as well as for the yellow and white gold used in its watches, from the casting of the alloy to its forming and thermal treatments, and can thus ensure impeccable quality.
Today, Rolex is present in some one hundred countries. The company ensures the distribution of its watches and the quality of their maintenance through a network of 30 affiliates and several thousand official Rolex jewellers. A Rolex watch is made to last. Assembled by hand, it benefits from the company’s know-how and decades of cumulative expertise. An after-sales service, unique in its genre, ensures the proper functioning of the watches over time. It is based on the competence of nearly 4,000 watchmakers, trained by Rolex, who work for the affiliates or for jewellers of the Group worldwide. A universal and timeless brand, Rolex continues to conquer new markets and expand its presence worldwide.
Responding to growing demand while integrating the latest technologies requires constant evolution of the means of production. In the mid-1990s, Rolex opted for a vertical integration of its production facilities, thus ensuring its control over the manufacture of all its watch components and guaranteeing its autonomy. In the interest of consistency and efficiency, the company consolidated all its activities in Switzerland at four functional sites.
While committed to the principles that are the foundation of the brand, Rolex ventures to break with tradition to respond to changes in an ever-evolving world. The Group has reinforced its position as a leader in the watchmaking industry by conquering new markets and enhancing the image of the brand.
Official website : www.rolex.com