A LEGEND ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE DEEP BLUE SEA
With the “Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller Polipetto” a very special watch is to be sold at auction. The highest standards of quality and technical finesse, constant innovation and brilliant marketing continue to be the secret to the success of this great watch brand.
When Hans Wilsdorf founded the trading company of Wilsdorf & Davis in London in 1905, he already had the vision and success-oriented willpower essential for a pioneer. Gentlemen’s wrist watches were still uncommon at the time, and their selling power was as yet unproven. By comparison, remodelled ladies’ watches were already very popular with female clientele, being regarded more as jewellery than as timepieces. A positive resonance among male customers was conspicuous for its absence at the outset. Although the practicality of wrist watches literally stares you in the face, the pocket watch, or fob watch, was still regarded as an indispensable accessory.
Wilsdorf realised that the introduction of an innovative product would be more likely to succeed if it had its own brand name. “Rolex” was born, a catchy name that would fit onto any watchface, no matter how small. In addition to the name, the primary reason for the continuing success of Rolex has been the emphasis that has always been put on its very high standards of quality. Rolex watches are regularly certified as chronometers – an endorsement of their accuracy and precision.
A milestone was reached with the development of the first dust- and waterproof watch. The “Oyster” proved its “sea legs” as a result of its specially designed case and winding technology. When Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel in 1927, the event turned out to be more than just a great sporting achievement. The Rolex “Oyster” she wore on her wrist worked flawlessly after more than ten hours in the water!
Thanks to Hans Wilsdorf’s marketing genius, the Rolex “Oyster” was given a highly effective promotional boost by appearing on the front page of the Daily Mail newspaper in connection with this sporting achievement. To this day, Rolex continues to be one of the major sponsors of important sporting events.
The Rolex watch was to be further perfected in 1931 through the invention of the self-winding mechanism that relies on the movement of the wearer, the automatic rotor system. Thanks to the self-winding system, the so-called “perpetual” movement, the Rolex “Oyster Perpetual” can be worn constantly without having to be wound up by hand.
The Rolex “Submariner” model, launched in 1953, was guaranteed to be waterproof down to a depth of at least 100 metres. The creation of the practical rotating bezel enabled the diver to calculate an optimal plan for his diving times. As time passed, the constant advance of deep-sea exploration and aquanautics meant that technical innovations and direct collaboration with the target group became inevitable for the watch manufacturer. In addition, divers’ watches have to be capable of being preset for a specific period of time in order to comply with the necessary decompression periods. In 1967, the “Sea-Dweller” was unveiled, which, because of its helium valve, makes decompression possible for a dive of up to 610 metres depth.
The same degree of specialised innovation also developed in other areas. In particular, government bodies and institutions such as the police and the military began to show interest in the continuing development of technically complex time measuring devices. Rolex had the expertise to meet the unique demands of a special-operation watch. This led to the creation of a watch with a matte finish to replace the stainless steel usually used for the housing of the watches. The treacherous gleam of the shiny steel would be too visible during military operations. The link pins are very often fixed to the casing in these models and watch faces are usually black or kept in an inconspicuous colour. The indices and hands are plated with luminous material, ensuring good readability in poor lighting and at night.
The year 2008 was marked by the presentation of the “Deepsea” – a model developed for extreme deep-sea diving – a special event not only for Rolex but also for the diving unit of the Italian State Police, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. For this anniversary, Rolex produced 78 watches in a special edition named the “Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller” with the reference number 1660. It derives its nickname, “Polipetto”, from the little octopus painted on the face. It is a particularly rare series that is very popular among collectors on the international market.