Rolex is a luxury watch manufacturer based in Switzerland. Originally founded as Wilsdorf and Davis by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England in 1905, the company registered Rolex as the brand name of its watches in 1908, and became Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. in 1915.
Rolex SA and its subsidiary Montres TUDOR SA design, manufacture, distribute, and service wristwatches sold under the Rolex and Tudor brands. In 2018, Forbes ranked Rolex as the world’s 71st most valuable brand. As of June 2019, of the top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auctions. In particular, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona currently holds the title of the second most expensive wristwatch and the third most expensive watch ever sold at an auction, earning USD$17.75 million in New York City on October 26, 2017.
Rolex is the largest manufacturer of Swiss made certified chronometers. In 2005, more than half the annual production of watches certified by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) were Rolexes.To date, Rolex still holds the record for the most certified chronometer movements in the category of wristwatches.Rolex mostly produced mechanical watches, but it has also participated in the development of the original quartz watch movements.
Material-wise, Rolex first used its “Cerachrom” ceramic bezel on the GMT-Master II in 2005, and has since then implemented ceramic bezel inserts across the range of professional sports watches.They are available on the Submariner, Sea Dweller, Deepsea, GMT Master II and Daytona models. In contrast to the aluminum bezel which it replaced, the ceramic bezel color does not wear out from exposure to UV-light and is very scratch resistant. Rolex also uses 904L grade stainless-steel. Most Swiss watches are made with 316L grade steel. Rolex uses the higher grade, as it is more resistant to corrosion.
On October 26, 2017, a Rolex Daytona (Ref. 6239) wristwatch, manufactured in 1968, was sold by Phillips in its New York auction for US$17.75 million. The watch was originally purchased by Joanne Woodward in 1968 and was given by Joanne to her husband Paul Newman as a gift.The auction price set a record at $15.5 million, plus buyer’s premium of 12.5%, for a final price of $17,752,500 in New York City. As of 2018, it is the most expensive wristwatch and the second most expensive watch ever sold at auction.Notably, “[a]t the time that Newman gave the watch to James Cox [as a gift], the watch was selling for about $200.”
On May 28, 2018, a Rolex Daytona “Unicorn” Ref. 6265 was sold in auction by Phillips for US$5.937 million in Geneva, making it the second most expensive Rolex timepiece ever sold at auction (as of 2018). The most expensive Rolex (in terms of retail price) ever produced by the Rolex factory was the GMT Ice reference 116769TBR with a retail price of US$485,350. A Forbes magazine article on the Swiss watch industry compared the retail value of Rolex to that of competing brands Corum, Universal Genève and IWC.