Rolex is a special kind of company. They are respected, admired, and valued across the globe. And all they make is watches. Here are 10 interesting facts that you should know about Rolex.
Although many watch aficionados understand that Rolex uses it’s own type of steel, most don’t know much about it. Stainless steel comes in a variety of types and grades, with most watches made from a type of stainless steel called 316L. Rolex, however, is the only one using 904L steel. Rolex used to use the same stainless steel that every other company is using, but in 2003 their entire production line changed to 904L, though it was as early as 1988 that they released their first 904L steel watch with several versions of the Sea-Dweller. Harder and more rust and corrosion-resistant than other steels, 904L steel can take and hold a polish incredibly well. This is why steel Rolex watches look different than other steel watches.
It’s no surprise Rolex engages in research and development. Any manufacturing company that wants to survive in the long term should invest in the future. Rolex doesn’t just have one department, they have several different types of exceedingly well-outfitted professional science labs at their facilities. They don’t just research or design new watches – they research more effetive and efficient manufacturing techniques while ensuring that quality improves as well. From mechanical engineering and manufacturing labs to chemistry labs, they cover all the bases.
3. Rolex Movements Are Hand-Assembled & Tested
One of the biggest misconceptions around the web is that Rolex uses machines and robots to build all of their watches. This happens when a company doesn’t communicate much on the topic, sometimes due to fears of competition using their methods. Rolex watches are in fact given all the hands-on attention you’d expect from a fine Swiss-made watch. Rolex has the most sophisticated watchmaking machinery in the entire world, but only for the automated tasks that humans have never been especially great at.
It would be a massive understatement to suggest that Rolex takes quality control seriously. Throughout Rolex facilities, employees know that the method is to check, re-check, and check again. If a Rolex watch is going to fail, it will do so BEFORE it leaves Rolex.
Large teams work on every single movement produced, and this is before being sent for COSC chronometer certification. Once they come back the movements are checked again, and then cased for several days and tested with simulated wear before being sent to a retailer.
4. Rolex Has Their Own Foundry
While Rolex still has suppliers for steel, all the gold, and the platinum that Rolex uses is made in-house. 24k gold comes into Rolex where it is turned into 18k yellow, white, or Everose gold (their own version of 18k rose gold). Large kilns are used to melt and mix the metals, where they are then turned into the cases and bracelets we know and love. Because of their control of the production and machining of the gold, they are able to ensure the highest quality control and produce the most beautiful watch parts in the industry. Rolex is the only manufacturer like this, making their own gold with a foundry in-house.
5. Rolex Loves Technology
You might think a watch company would hold back against the wave of future technologies – but instead, Rolex is leaning in. Rolex manufacturing philosophy holds that if a human can do something better, let them do it – if a machine can do it better – let the machine do it. The only reason more companies don’t use machine processes in manufacturing is the increased cost and lack of production demands. Without robotic help at Rolex facilities, they would not be producing the watches at the same pace and the same level of quality that they do.
The center of Rolex’s manufacturing automation is in the master supply room, where massive columns of parts and assemblies are sorted and picked using robotic servants, storing and retrieving trays of parts or watches. Watchmakers at Rolex needing parts just need to place an order in the system, and it is delivered to them within minutes.
While modern and automated technology is a large part of the Rolex manufacturing process, the machines and robotic equipment are only there to help with human watchmaking techniques.
6. Rolex is More Secure than Fort Knox
It’s no surprise that Rolex put extra effort into security around its facilities. With extremely meticulous security checks and even a super-secret safe several stories underground, every person and thing at Rolex are scanned and cataloged. In fact, every individual Rolex movement has a unique serial number, photographed and matched with a case that has it’s own unique serial number. If that watch is ever serviced, watchmakers can learn everything they need to know about it and it’s service history. To access the Rolex safe you need to enter a bank vault door and an iris scanner. When they move parts from one location to another, they use highly discreet armored trucks. Rolex is incredibly serious about their safety and security.
Every single Rolex Oyster case is tested for water resistance. Watch manufacturers tend to do this by using an air-pressure tank. They place a watch at the center of a small chamber filled with air – and if the pressure changes, it means that air is leaking into the case. At Rolex, this is step one – all cases are tested before and after the movement and dial is placed inside. Dive watches at Rolex, however, receive a much more intensive treatment. This is because Rolex actually tests every single Submariner and Deep Sea watch in actual water, to be sure that they are water resistant to 300 meters.
After this test, the watch is heated up, a drop of cold water placed on the crystal – this helps test for condensation inside the case. After this, optical sensors scan the cases for trace amounts of water. Less than one in every thousand watches fail this test. Deep-Sea watches get even more intense, as Rolex developed a high-pressure water tank with COMIX in order to depth-test these watches. The machine takes over an hour to complete the test, and measures every watch to a pressure equivalent to 12,000 meters deep.
8. Rolex has an Army of Gemologists
Rolex has rather preposterous standards for the materials it sources from suppliers, including metals, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Rolex has a gemological department whose primary goal is to buy, test, arrange and set diamonds and stones in Rolex watches. One of their most important tasks is checking incoming stones to ensure they are real, even though in years Rolex has been testing diamonds, only two in 20 million have ever been fake. It’s a testament to how important quality is to Rolex that they even take the time to perform these tests. Not only are these real diamonds – but these are the most beautiful diamonds in the world, only ever IF in clarity, and D-G in color (these are the four highest color grades of diamond – closest to white).
9. It Takes a Year to Make a Rolex Watch
As suspicious as this sounds, it is still true today. Although Rolex will produce nearly a million watches each year, no shortcuts are ever taken in the manufacturing process. The company is focused with laser precision on producing only the best watches, continually striving to improve on them. Rolex could reduce this time, but this would mean not making parts in-house, not putting Rolex watches through the battery of testing they undergo – these two factors are among the main reasons Rolex is as respected as it is – it just would not be worth it.
10. Rolex Makes Everything In-House
It’s been mentioned a few times above, so it’s no surprise that Rolex makes nearly everything in-house. They produce their own bezels, bracelets, cases, dials, movements, and even gold and diamond cutting all done in-house with impeccable quality and efficiency. By making everything in-house, Rolex remains truly independent.
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