Genius in Five Letters: The History of Rolex and the Submariner

In London, England in 1905, a 24-year-old Hans Wilsdorf had a vision to create a wristwatch that was as elegant as it was reliable.

Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis had already established their own shop and were importing Swiss movements and placing them in quality cases. But Wilsdorf wanted more.

He envisioned a name for his timepieces that would be easy to remember and pronounce in any language. He called it Rolex. One theory is that he believed the name “Rolex” was onomatopoeic, which sounded like a watch being wound. He registered the name and quickly opened an office in Switzerland and by 1915 the name Rolex was registered.

The most important factor to the Rolex Company in creating these new watches was that the movements be of the highest quality. This chronometric precision that the makers of Rolex watches insisted upon was what catapulted the company’s rapid ascent. Rolex soon received the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, granted by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne – the first wristwatch in the world to receive this prestigious mark.

Rolex timepieces were then honored with Great Britain’s Kew Observatory’s Class A precision certificate. From that moment on, these quality watches became synonymous with precision.

The company then moved to Geneva in 1920, and Rolex began waterproofing its timepieces. Given the name the Oyster, this watch featured a hermetically sealed case, providing optimal protection. Proving its amazing craftsmanship, the first Rolex lasted 10 hours in the water, when Mercedes Gleitze, a young English swimmer, crossed the English Channel wearing her Rolex. The watch was in perfect working condition when she arrived on shore.

Throughout the years, motorsports, aviation and other sporting expeditions were the real-life laboratories that tested the quality of Rolex watches. Of course, the brand always exceeded even the loftiest aspirations.

In 1953, the Submariner was launched as the first divers’ watch. This masterpiece was waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, or 330 feet, while its rotatable bezel allowed divers to read their immersion time. Stainless steel 904L is utilized in high technology, aerospace and chemical industries, where maximum resistance to corrosion is essential, and this is the material Rolex uses for its steel watch cases. This superalloy is extremely resistant and highly polishable, while maintaining elegance during the harshest conditions.

More than 60 years after its unveiling, the Submariner is still a favorite among divers. Updated with improved water resistance, new movements, and numerous small cosmetic changes, this watch can now reach 300 meters, or 1,000 feet, under water. Rolex celebrated the watch’s 50th anniversary by launching the Rolex Submariner-Date anniversary edition (Model 16610) in 2003. This collector’s edition includes distinguishing features such as a green bezel and Maxi dial; in 2008 a new case from the GMT II was introduced for the Submariner-Date, which includes heavier lugs and a crownguard. A cerachrome bezel and updated clasp featuring a quick adjust function were also added.

When you read about the rich history of Rolex, and the unparalleled status of its iconic timepieces, like the Submariner, it’s easy to see why so many yearn for this brand and its products. More often than not, however, many admirers have a hard time wrapping their head around the hefty price tag that comes with a new Rolex. Before the age of the Internet, it was hard to find pre-owned Rolex watches in excellent condition. But these days, it’s different. Customers from around the world trust the online service of Bob’s Watches.

Bob’s is the world’s first and only pre-owned Rolex exchange where consumers can buy, sell and trade used Rolex watches at a true fair market value. The company believes in complete transparency and publishes the current buy and sell values for each Rolex model, making it the online marketplace for aficionados looking for the best deal. Devoted exclusively to the used-Rolex market, Bob’s Watches prides itself on obtaining stellar results for its customers. The company’s business philosophy is built on integrity and trust, which is exactly why it has become the leading online destination for used Rolex timepieces. And unlike other online watch companies, Bob’s carries an actual inventory of watches: Each and every watch at is in stock and ready to sell.

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