Rolex is perhaps the most successful watch company of all time
The Miracle Year
In 1905, 24-year-old Bavarian businessman Hans Wilsdorf set up a company in London with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis. It was the same year that Albert Einstein released the papers that revolutionised our understanding of the universe. People call it Einstein’s ‘annus mirabilis’, which means ‘miracle year’. No-one could have foreseen that the company Wilsdorf created that same year would also revolutionise the world of watches.
Called simply ‘Wilsdorf and Davis’, it began simply. They took movements made by Hermann Aegler that they had imported from Switzerland and put them in cases supplied by a company called Dennison. The resulting watches were then sold to jewellers. The mark ‘W&D’ was hidden inside the case-back and the jeweller would usually stamp their name on the watch before selling. It was an inauspicious beginning, and was not dissimilar from what other watch companies were doing at the time.
A Watch for the Masses
But Wilsdorf was a very intelligent man with great business acumen. At that time, wristwatches were considered only as women’s jewellery. This was because their inner mechanisms were so intricate that they couldn’t withstand what was seen as the active life of an average man. Wilsdorf saw a huge opportunity. If he could somehow put together a wristwatch that was reliably accurate and also tough enough to withstand everyday use, he would have created an enormous market that he could then dominate.
To do this, he worked feverishly on getting a movement that could reliably keep time no matter what the world threw at it. But this was just the beginning, and Wilsdorf didn’t yet have a proper name for his company. He knew that ‘Wilsdorf and Davis’ wouldn’t cut it. He needed something short and simple so that it could be easily pronounced by anyone anywhere in the world. He began rearranging letters to form nonsense words, hoping that something would click. Then in 1908 it finally came to him:
“I tried combining the letters of the alphabet in every possible way. This gave me some hundred names, but none of them felt quite right. One morning, while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along Cheapside in the City of London, a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”
By now he had moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, where he continued to pursue his vision. After years of work, in 1910 one of Rolex’s watches became the first wristwatch to be certified by an institution called ‘COSC’. Their job was to put watches through a rigorous testing process to ensure that they can reliably keep time at a wide range of different temperature and humidity levels, and Rolex’s watch passed with flying colours.
Four years later, Kew Observatory certified one of their watches as ‘Class A’; an honour only reserved for professional marine chronometers watches in the past. In only a few years, Wilsdorf had successfully created a movement that could keep time extremely reliably. However, it wasn’t enough for it to keep time. A movement by its nature is fragile, and it had to be protected. In 1926, Rolex revealed the crucial breakthrough; the world’s 1st ‘waterproof’ and ‘dustproof’ watch. By ‘waterproof’, Rolex really meant water resistant to a certain depth. Wilsdorf called his new watch ‘Oyster’, because it sealed its movement off from any surrounding water just as an oyster does for its pearl.
Conquering the Mind
Wilsdorf had achieved what he set out to do. After twenty-one years, he had created a truly precise and reliable watch that was tough enough to be worn by anyone in daily use. But he knew that this wasn’t enough. He needed to get the fact that he had achieved this into the minds of consumers everywhere. Wilsdorf’s genius is as much about Rolex’s marketing as it is the watches themselves. To get the message across, he began what came to be called the ‘Testimony Concept’.
To prove his watch’s reliability, he would give them to people who were attempting extraordinary physical feats. When his watches survived these adventures, those involved would provide him with quotes about the watches that he would give to the newspapers. He knew that it was better to show the people how reliable his watches were than simply to tell them. Actions speak louder than words.
By associating his watches with what were seen at the time as the masculine activities of sport and adventure, he may also have been attempting to break the perception of wristwatches as being feminine.
Having said that, the first person who was chosen was actually a woman. The same year he had released his ‘Oyster’ watch, Wilsdorf gave one to Mercedes Gleitze. She was a British swimmer who was attempting to cross the English Channel. Gleitze provided her quote and Wilsdorf fed his story to the press. It was the beginning of Rolex’s powerful testimonial marketing, which continues to the present day.
Meanwhile, Wilsdorf continued to improve on his designs. It was really the screwdown crown that protected his new ‘Oyster’ watch from the elements. But the watch still had to be manually wound, and this required unscrewing the crown. When it was unscrewed, dust and water could potentially get in to the watch. To have a truly rugged watch, it needed it to be automatic so people would never have to unscrew the crown.
In 1931, he unveiled the ‘Perpetual’. This was not the first automatic wristwatch in the world. That was invented by John Harwood in 1924. Harwood’s design used a ‘bumper’ system that he had devised after seeing children playing on a see-saw. But what Rolex did was still innovative, because their design was the first 360-degree automatic winding system; an improvement on Harwood’s design that is still used today. It came to be called a ‘bubbleback’ because it’s case-back was domed to accommodate the winding motor.
In the same period, Rolex’s branding continued at pace. In 1933, a Rolex was given to Stewart Blacker to take on the first flyover of Mt Everest. In 1935, Malcolm Campbell took a Rolex with him into his ‘Bluebird’ car and set the land speed record of 300 miles per hour. On all occasions, quotes from those involved were fed to the press. More and more, the name of Rolex became associated with adventure and innovation in the mind of the consumer.
By 1944, almost forty years since he created the company, Wilsdorf had achieved his dream. He had made Rolex one of the leading watch companies in the world. He now wanted to ensure that he kept this position. To do this, now in his early 60s, he created the ‘Hans Wilsdorf Foundation’. He would eventually give full control of the company to this foundation. This ensured that no-one could buy the company and it could remain in the family’s hands into the future, which it still does to this day.
The Golden Years
The years that followed the Second World War saw the release of all of Rolex’s main watch lines, most of which still continue to this day. This began with the DateJust in 1945; the first automatic wristwatch with a date complication.
In the early ‘50s there was a string of new releases. Rolex supplied Edmund Hillary with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual for his 1953 ascent of Mount Everest. When Hillary became the first person to successfully reach the summit, Rolex decided to create a new watch line called ‘Explorer’ in honour of this. Like before, Hillary was used as an ambassador to promote the new line.
Although dive watches already existed, the Submariner is really the first of these intended for mass consumption. It was released in the same year as the Explorer and pushed the boundary of water resistance even further than before; this time up to an impressive 100 metres. The watch was famously worn by Sean Connery in the first James Bond film ‘Dr. No’.
In 1955, the GMT-Master was released. Its marketing was focused on the adventurous world of international flight. The GMT had a dual time zone complication that was specifically designed for use by pilots, who were used in promotional materials as endorsers.
This was followed by the DayDate in 1956, which became known as ‘the President’ after Lyndon Johnson was seen wearing one. This improved on the DateJust by adding a day complication. Rolex was never a ‘complicated’ watch company, and refrained from the advanced complications of luxury companies such as Patek Philippe, like moon phases and tourbillons (with the exception of Rolex’s aberrant ‘Cellini’ line). Rolex’s complications were always very practical, and the DayDate was pretty much as ‘complicated’ as the company got.
Whereas most of the watch lines so far were associated with physical adventurers such as sportsmen or pilots, the next watch they released was for a more intellectual type of explorer. The Milgauss was released the same year as the DayDate and its name meant ‘a thousand Gauss’; a Gauss being a unit of magnetic flux density.
This was because the watch was designed for use by scientists working at the scientific institute CERN. Where earlier watches had been protected from water and dust, they hadn’t been protected from the invisible threat of electromagnetism. The Milgauss was Rolex’s first watch that was resistant to magnetism up to a thousand Gauss. This was achieved by encasing the movement in an iron cage.
1960 was a sad year for the company, as it saw the death of Hans Wilsdorf; the pioneer who had made the company what it was. But there was no stopping what he had created. Three years later, a watch line began that would eventually become the most valuable of all.
It was designed for race car drivers, who were used to promote it. A complication called a tachymeter was included which allowed drivers to calculate their speed. Its release marked the end of a remarkable period for the company. With the release of the DateJust through to the Explorer, Submariner, GMT, DayDate, Milgauss and Daytona, most of the recognisable Rolex lines had now been created.
Life Goes On
In the years that followed, Rolex released less new lines, but they still continued to improve their designs. The Sea-Dweller in 1967 was the next step in the search for ever greater water resistance. It was capable of surviving at double the depth of the Submariner. This was achieved with the addition of what was called a helium escape valve.
In 1971, the company created a new version of their Explorer watch, called the Explorer II. Many today consider this an underappreciated watch. In 1978, the Sea-Dweller 4000 was released, doubling the Sea-Dweller’s water resistance. In 1992, Rolex released an entirely new watch line called the Yacht Master whose marketing was focused on the world of Yachting.
An Age of Technical Innovation
In the early 2000s, when Silicon Valley was rising up and we were increasingly moving into a computer-dominated world, it’s fitting that Rolex turned their attention to technical innovation in these years. The early 2000s saw some major innovations that have been used since in many of Rolex’s watches. In 2000, they released the 4130; their first in-house movement. Prior to this, Rolex had used movements supplied by other companies, such as Valjoux. But they were continually striving to keep as much in-house as possible so they could maximise control. The 4130 was a remarkable movement with many innovative features including a vertical clutch.
The next innovation came in 2005 with the first watch with a Cerachrom bezel, which was more robust and scratch resistant than what was used before. Next came their Parachrom hairspring, which was much less sensitive to shocks, temperature fluctuations, and magnetism than earlier hairsprings.
The YachtMaster II that was released in 2007 took advantage of many of these innovations. But they kept coming. 2008 saw the release of a watch called the DeepSea that perhaps marks the end of what began back in 1926 with Mercedes Gleitze’s swim across the channel. The new watch could be submerged one hundred times deeper than humans can survive, which some might say is overkill.
The last new watch line released by Rolex is the Sky-Dweller. It is the most complicated watch Rolex has ever made, but somehow manages to do this in the eminently practical way Rolex is known for. It contains an annual calendar complication, meaning that it only has to be set once a year.
There is no sign of an end to this story. The little company Wilsdorf and Davis set up in 1905 has truly taken over the watch world and continues to go from strength to strength. Who knows what the future holds for this remarkable company.
There are a number of variants of Rolex watches that cut across multiple brands. Here in this general Rolex page, we describe some of the most common of these
From the late ’50s through to the early ’90s, Rolex allowed certain boutique stores to stamp their name on Rolex watches sold at their stores. The two most famous examples are Tiffany and Co. and Cartier. They were sold at Cartier’s stores; some at the famous Fifth Avenue store. Like their Tiffany dial cousins, the Rolex Cartier watches symbolise a period in Rolex’s history where they were happy to allow select brands to stamp their dials.
Cartier is amongst the most respected names in jewellery and watchmaking. It was founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier in Paris. It has a long history of innovations in luxury goods, and has earned the name ‘the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers’ due to its prestigious list of royal clients. Much like the Tiffany co-branding, a Cartier signature adds a certain air of class to a watch.
Since the only difference between Cartier versions of a reference and a standard reference is the signature on the dial, these watches are fairly easy to fake. Consequently, there are a lot of fakes out there on the second-hand market. If you’re wanting to buy one, make sure that the watch comes with as much paperwork as possible.
Look for watches with a confirmation letter from Rolex ensuring that the watch was sent to a Cartier store. More crucially, a Cartier sales receipt that has a serial number written on it that matches the one on the watch. Also, if possible try to investigate the watch a little, checking that the crown and dial match the versions around in the timeframe that Cartier stamped their name on these models of Rolexes. By examining the font of the Cartier designation, it is often possible to prove that an example is a fake. However, this is difficult if you don’t have great photos and expert knowledge. If in doubt, get an expert to look at it for you.
There is a long tradition of watch manufacturers producing custom watches for Middle Eastern royalty. Along with Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and other high-end brands, many of these royal’s favourite brand is Rolex. Special versions of Rolex watches have been commissioned by the rulers of Oman, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Usually, the watch manufacturer is asked to customise the dial with national emblems or signatures. The purpose is so they can be given out as gifts. These were usually given out quite liberally; the recipients ranged from foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, executives of oil companies, jet pilots, police, and honorary guests.
The value of the gift corresponded to the level of respect felt towards the recipient, and luxury watches showed this. When the watches were in gold or had precious stones the level of respect was even more. The fact that they were given out to western diplomats have led to these being called ‘diplomatic’ dials. This became customary from the late ’60s onwards, but it’s a practice that continues to this day. The most valuable of them are the classic sports watch models from the early ’70s.
Oman is a country in southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea meet. Since Qaboos bin Said came to power in 1970 he has transformed the country with the newfound oil wealth. The Middle Eastern custom of gift giving of watches may go back to the European companies who gave clocks and watches as gifts on their trips to the Ottoman Empire.
Since they were specially made, these watches are quite rare. However, they may not be as rare as you might imagine since they were gifted to such a large number of people. These royals had a vast amount of money in the 1970s and one of their favourite ways of spending it was on luxury watches. Experts estimate that although these watches were never retailed, there are thousands out there.
However, the number appearing at auctions is much lower than this. This is due to the fact that Middle Eastern owners often don’t want to sell them for sentimental and patriotic reasons. As a result, almost all of the ‘diplomatic’ watches appearing in auction houses are from western owners. These watches are becoming among the most prized by collectors. As well as due to the rarity, collectors like the royal connection and the stories behind the watches. Many also love the aesthetics of the watch, although this is not a universally held opinion.
Some of those appearing at auctions are in truly amazing condition. Some have no signs of wear, and have never been polished (which is a good thing). It has been suggested that this is due to the fact that many in Middle Eastern high society did not want to wear the gifted watches, as this would suggest that they could not afford one themselves. Consequently, many of these watches have been locked away safely since they were received.
The Oman royal family of this era loved Rolex watches. The demand was high enough for Rolex to set up a special department solely to create custom dials to be added to watches sent to these clients. Not all countries of origin are as popular with collectors. For example, many collectors are not so fond of custom Saudi watches.
However, Oman watches are certainly popular in watch circles. Ever since he ascended to the throne in 1970, Rolex has formed a close connection with its ruler the Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. This began after he defeated the Dhofar Rebellion with the help of the British SAS. As a thank you, he gave the SAS soldiers special Rolex Sea Dweller (ref. 1665) watches with the national emblem inscribed on the dial.
From then on, the Sultan commissioned many custom watches from luxury brands such as Rolex. He also developed a love of horology and started building what is now a huge collection. Oman had no authorised retailer at that time, and so the watches were sold by Asprey London, and very occasionally Asprey Geneva. Asprey put their logo on the caseback, and this is one of the first things people look at to tell whether a watch is genuine.
Asprey is a famous retailer of jewellery, watches, and other luxury goods. It is based in London and was founded in Surrey by William Asprey in 1781. Its flagship store is in New Bond Street in London, U.K. From the early ‘70s through to the late ‘90s, Rolex used Asprey to supply bespoke watches to clients in the Gulf states as well as in East Asia. After this, Rolex used them less and less for some reason.
Asprey did not put their logo on the dial of these watches. However, more recently the Bamford Watch Department has produced some new watches, including Daytonas, where the Asprey logo is included on the dial. Most of their watches they put their ‘Asprey’ logo on the case back. Although there are some genuine examples where this is not the case, the value of the watch is much higher if the mark is there.
The watches he commissioned can be split into two main groups; those with a national emblem and those with His Majesty’s signature. Not everyone is a fan of these watches. Some believe it is bad taste to display national symbols on watches, while some don’t like it for aesthetic reasons, believing that the additions to the dial detract from the classic Rolex design. Some say that the Arabic font jars with Rolex’s font on the dial. Nevertheless, if genuine they are becoming quite an investment. There are also top collectors who are think the emblem or signature adds to the aesthetics of the watch.
The national emblem of Oman has the official name ‘Khanjar Bo Sayfain’, meaning ‘dagger and two swords’, and it’s often referred to as the ‘spade of Oman’. It’s often simply called the ‘Khanjar’ emblem in watch circles due to the fact that the emblem consists of a sheathed Khanjar in front of two swords. A Khanjar is a dagger that is worn for ceremonial purposes. It has been part of Omani society since the 18th century, and has become a symbol of national pride. The emblem was used as a royal crest from the mid-18th century and it became the official emblem when the Sultanate was formed. It appears on the top left of the Oman flag, on banknotes, coins, and on official buildings and documents.
Qaboos bin Said al Said commissioned many different Rolex watches with dials with this emblem. On most of these the emblem has a crown added. Three different colours were used for the printing of the emblem: white, red, or green, corresponding to the colours on the Omani flag. There are also some with gold emblems.
With all of these watches, the value of the watch is dependent to a large extent on its provenance. For example, a watch worn by the Sultan would fetch more than one worn by a police chief. As with all watches, it’s also important to have all the correct documentation, service receipts, and so on. Even despite the value, these are wonderful watches with an extra history that adds to its specialness.
Rolex Peruvian Air Force / Fuerza Aerea Del Peru
Fuerza Aerea del Perú is a Spanish translation of Peruvian Air Force, and FAP is simply a shortened version of this. The watches were commissioned to be used for their personnel for daily wear. These watches are highly prized by collectors due to their rarity and historical interest. Some collectors believe that the FAP is the most interesting military watch Rolex produced.
Military watches are very popular with watch collectors, both due to their rarity and the stories they tell. It’s quite common for watch lovers to build a whole collection of just military watches. A special sub-category of military watches are the watches that manufacturers made specifically for the military. Rolex made special watches for a number of military outfits, including the British Royal Navy, Marine Nationale, and the Peruvian Air Force. Many models have been customised, but the Submariner in particular seems to have been favoured by armed forces.
Special custom Rolexes almost always command a premium at auction. In addition to the military dials, Rolex also made special watches for Middle Eastern royalty of countries such as Oman, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. They also made custom watches for deep sea diving companies such as COMEX (Compagnie maritime d’expertises), IFREMER (Institut Français de Recherche pour l’exploitation de la Mer), and CNEXO (Centre National pour l’exploitation des Océans). Just as with the armed forces, these diving organisations seem to have favoured the Submariner. All of these are of great interest to collectors. Collectors are interested in these special relationships that Rolex formed with other groups. Of all these custom watches, the Peruvian Air Force watches are slightly less well known, and only a very small number of them were produced. This makes them very especially interesting to collectors.
The Peruvian Air Force was formed on July 18, 1950 during the presidency of Manuel A. Odría. It replaced the Peruvian Aviation Corps (nicknamed CAP), that had itself been formed in 1929. The Peruvian Air Force merged the aviation departments of the Army and Navy. At the time of FAPs formation, the force had very strong ties to the U.S. and Britain, but this was to change in the late ‘60s as Peru shifted towards a Soviet alliance.
The first watches the Air Force commissioned were actually from Omega rather than Rolex. However, from about 1960 Rolex began to supply a number of custom watches to them. It is speculated that Rolex made these watches due to the close friendship between the official Rolex dealer of Lima and André Heiniger, who was the head of Rolex South America. The watches supplied included a Submariner 1680 (given to superior officers), GMT Master 1675, Turn-o-graph 1625, Datejust, the pre-Daytona reference 6238, and various Daytonas. The 6238 is called a pre-Daytona because it shares much in common with the Daytona. The Daytona is the most common line for these Rolex FAP watches. The Daytona references included the 6239, 6263 and 6265.
Fortunately, it is fairly easy to authenticate these watches. There is a serial number inscription both on the inside of the caseback, and between the lugs, in a very small font. Since these watches were specially made, Rolex has kept records of all of them. It’s therefore possible to authenticate them by checking with Rolex. On early examples of Rolex FAP watches, dating to the ‘60s, only the last three digits of the serial number are on the inside of the caseback. On examples from the ‘70s and ‘80s, the whole serial number is engraved there. Note that if the serial number on the caseback does not match the one on the case, this does not necessarily mean that the watch is a fake. When they were serviced, the casebacks were often swapped between cases.
Very few of these special watches were produced. It’s estimated that about 700-800 chronograph FAP watches (i.e. pre-Daytona and Daytona) were produced by Rolex from the early ‘60s to the mid ‘80s. Most are not in fantastic condition, due to the fact that they were used as intended by the Air Force and not kept locked in a safe as a collector’s item. This heavy wear often includes the erasure of the 3-digit serial number that is found on early examples. However, there are many that are in better condition than would be expected.
Tiffany & Co. is one of the most iconic luxury brands in the world. It was founded in 1837 by Charles Lewis Tiffany; the so-called ‘King of Diamonds’. The original aim was to open a ‘stationery and fancy goods’ store that showcased a new American style that broke away from the old-world European aesthetic. They’ve been at the forefront of the jewellery world ever since, with innovations such as the ‘Tiffany Setting’ and the unveiling of previously unknown gemstones such as morganite and kunzite. They have come to sell a variety of luxury goods, including watches from distinguished brands such as Rolex. Its flagship store is located in New York City; a store famously featured in the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ with Audrey Hepburn. It’s not surprising that Rolex chose to co-brand with such a renowned brand.
The name Tiffany is synonymous with style and class. The addition of a Tiffany designation to the dial therefore adds a certain classiness to a watch. Consequently, it perhaps is best suited for dress watches. However, many Rolex sports watches have had the Tiffany added to it. There are Tiffany dial versions of many Rolex lines, including the Submariner and GMT-Master.
Tiffany began selling watches with their company name added to the dial in the late ‘50s, including on some Rolex models. To begin with, they did the printing at their flagship NYC store. However, later they began to sometimes printed it in Geneva, Switzerland. They also stamped the replacement dials used when servicing watches. To make matters even more complicated, Rolex sometimes did the printing themselves. As a result, there is no one consistent set of criteria for Tiffany dial Rolexes. Subtle details of the printing differ depending on the exact circumstances.
This makes it very difficult to tell whether a particular Tiffany dial Rolex is genuine or not. There are many fakes out there in the second-hand market. Consequently, it’s even more important than usual to ensure that the watch you buy has all of the relevant documentation to prove that it’s genuine. Most importantly, it needs the original Tiffany sales receipt with a serial number matching that of the watch. Even seasoned Rolex collectors buying from a reputable dealer are reluctant to buy one without paperwork. Even if it’s proven beyond doubt that it’s real, without the receipt you’ve got to imagine having to prove its authenticity to whoever you sell it to in ten years time.
Having said that, a genuine Tiffany signature will enhance the value of any Rolex. This is largely due to the effects of scarcity. Tiffany dials are relatively rare, even if this rarity differs between models. With rarity comes exclusivity, and many collectors will pay over the odds just to have that special watch no-one else has. The number of stores Rolex gave permission to alter their dials is very limited, making these Tiffany dials very special indeed.
These dials also have historical significance, something that the serious watch collector is always looking for. This is another factor that adds to the value of these special watches. They are indicative of a bygone age in Rolex’s history. Rolex no longer gets involved in co-branding arrangements like it did with Tiffany and Cartier. Today, it tries to keep as much as possible in=house and to keep strict control so that it can ensure quality. Rolex broke its ties with Tiffany in the early ‘90s, when it stopped allowing these kinds of co-branded dials. It stated that it would not honour the warranty of watches stamped at Tiffany stores.
Rolex Tropical Dial
Every watch collector knows that condition is one of the key factors that determine the value of a watch. However, sometimes what might to some eyes seem like damage can actually increase the value of the watch. This is what occurs with so-called ‘tropical’ dials. The word tropical refers to discoloration of the dial due to long-term exposure to the sun. On watches with black dials, this process changes the original black colour to varying shades of brown. These shades are given specific names by collectors, that usually have culinary derivation – such as chocolate, caramel, coffee, tobacco and so on.
Most of the time, damage on a watch spoils the appearance and lowers the value. However, in the eyes of many collectors the aged brown colour actually enhances the watch. Watches with tropical dials are sought after by collectors and are sold at a premium.
In addition to enhancing the look of the watch, the tropical dial is a good indicator of authenticity. It can be quite tricky for watch fakers to get this aged colour exactly right, although many try. Note that this is only one indicator and shouldn’t be relied on to authenticate a watch.
A tropical dial is only one of the features of the watch to look for, but it’s a nice cherry on the cake. There is also a great deal of variation in the way dials have discoloured, meaning that a particular tropical dial watch will be unique.
During the 1970s it became commonplace for luxury watch manufacturers to make custom watches for Middle Eastern royalty. Many of the top brands, including Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet did this. However, for many of these royals Rolex was their brand of choice. In almost all cases, the watch manufacturer was asked either to customise the dial, and sometimes the caseback, with the national emblem of their particular nation, or to add a signature to the dial.
The letters UAE refer to the United Arab Emirates, a country on the south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders Oman on the east and Saudi Arabia on the south, both of whom have also had many special custom Rolexes made for them during the same timeframe. It consists of seven ‘emirates’ (nations): Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm al-Quwain, and Sharjah.
The federation was formed at the end of 1971. Arab oil exports were exploding around this time, and the Middle Eastern rulers were looking for ways to flaunt their new-found wealth. One was through luxury goods, including watches. The custom watches they commissioned were produced so that they could be given out as gifts. The tradition of royal gift giving has a long precedence, but it reached new heights in the 1970s.
The term Desert Eagle is often used when referring to these watches, and it refers to the bird in the UAE crest at 12 o’clock, which is in actual fact a hawk. It is also referred to as a Quraysh hawk, named after the dominant tribe in Mecca. In the emblem, the hawk is holding a red parchment with the signature of the man who commissioned the watch, Muhammed bin Rashid, inscribed on it.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had numerous key roles over the years, including the UAE’s Defense Minister in the 1970s. He is now the Prime Minister of the UAE and also the emir of Dubai. He became Crown Prince of Dubai in 1995, and has been instrumental in transforming Dubai into the city it is today. He has many interests, including poetry and horse racing, but is also interested in watch collecting.
Rolex is a very popular watch company with celebrities
A music and fashion icon, Rihanna is known for hits such as ‘Umbrella’, ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Diamonds’.
She has been spotted with a Rolex President Day-Date 36, Rolex Datejust, Rolex Day-Date II Everose, and 18k gold Rolex President.
Robert Downey Jr. (actor)
From ‘Weird Science’ in 1985 to Richard Attenborough’s ‘Chaplin’ in 1992, to the hugely successful ‘Iron Man’ series, Robert Downey, Jr. has had a very successful career as a film actor.
He has a Rolex Submariner ref. 116610LV, known as the ‘Hulk Submariner’ due to its green dial and bezel. He also has a Rolex GMT-Master II “Ghost” that has been customised by the Bamford Watch Department.
Mark Wahlberg (actor)
Achieving fame in the rap group ‘Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’, Mark Wahlberg went on to be a model for Calvin Klein and then achieved huge success as a film actor. He is known for starring in films such as ‘Ted’ and ‘Daddy’s Home’.
He has multiple Rolex Submariners, including a 18k yellow gold ref 116618 and the 126610LV, which is known as the ‘Kermit’ Submariner due to it’s green bezel.
He has multiple Daytonas, including an 18k white gold 116509. This watch has a beautiful iridescent starburst dial
He has two ‘Rainbow’ Daytonas (116595RBOW); one in 18k white gold and onw in 18k Everose gold.
He has a GMT-Master II in 18k yellow gold (116718LN) and another in Everose gold (126715CH).
He has been spotted with a Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II multiple times. He also has a Platinum Day-Date 40 with a blue dial. Mark certainly like the brand!
Justin Bieber (singer)
Discovered on YouTube by music promoter Scott Braun, Bieber became a teen idol after releasing his single ‘One Time’ in 2009. He went on to huge success with hits such as ‘Baby’.
Bieber has worn Rolex watches on multiple occasions. He was spotted wearing an 18k yellow gold Rolex Day-Date II with diamonds on the bezel and dial. He also wore a Datejust 41 with a sunburst grey dial with Roman numerals. Clearly a fan of the blingy look, he has also sported a yellow gold Rolex Daytona with champagne dial and diamonds markers.
Ellen DeGeneres (TV Presenter)
After achieving success as a stand-up comedian in the ’80s, she began appearing in a run a TV shows in the early ’90s, including ‘Open House’ and ‘Laurie Hill’. This led to her starring in her own sitcom ‘Ellen’. After it ended in 1998 she began her own talk show ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ which has earnt multiple awards.
DeGeneres has an enormous watch collection, including many Rolexes. She clearly loves the Daytona, having at least four of the seven classic vintage references (6241, 6262, 6263, 6265), and a more recent 116518.
Here is a selection of some of the most interesting videos online about Rolex