Diamond rings, gold chains, designer cufflinks—jewelry has long been a means by which to tell the outside world about inner grandeur, and perhaps no single item better achieves this than a Rolex watch. What started out as a practical timepiece has grown into one of the most influential luxury jewelry brands, expressing the fact that sometimes culture rewards quality.
Better Than The Best
Rolex didn’t earn its reputation as the top luxury watch brand in the world for no reason. Beyond the simple fact that they are made with the highest possible quality of materials, Rolex watches undergo scrupulous craftsmanship in every aspect from the clasp to self-winding mechanisms hidden beneath the beautiful exterior.
Today, Rolex features a wide offering of watches, from women’s to gem-set to functional, this company defines luxury wristwatches for the entire world.
From Vision to Fame
Rolex would not exist without the inspired efforts of a young Hans Wilsdorf who, at the age of just 24, began a timepiece distribution company in 1905. He quickly recognized the potential for wristwatches to revolutionize the industry, but they were widely considered inaccurate at the time. Wilsdorf believed he could create a wristwatch that was not just functional, but also beautiful.
Wilsdorf created the name Rolex out of thin air—it had no significance whatsoever, only that he liked the way it sounded, appreciated that it was short, and thought it would like good when scrawled on his watches. Thus, he unwittingly created a name that would eventually become synonymous with luxury.
In 1914, Wilsdorf had his Rolex watches certified by the British government for accuracy and durability; his were the first wristwatches to ever pass such a test. By 1919, Wilsdorf resolved to relocate from London to Switzerland, which is why the company is currently headquartered in Geneva.
Seven years later, Rolex made history by producing the first waterproof watch. The body that allowed for this airtight seal was called The Oyster. In 1931, Rolex developed the self-winding mechanism that further asserted their watches’ technical dominance.
In its early years, Rolex worked hard to associated itself with adventurers and athletes, asserting that it was a watch suitable for any activity. Rolex held on to this method well into the 21st century (long after Hans Wildsorf had passed), but the company had also taken on a new public image, one of luxury and class which it still maintains today.
Miles Ahead of The Rest
Whether it is because of the fact that Rolex developed and patented much of the technology that makes their watches so popular, or simply due to brand recognition, no other watch company in the world holds a candle to Rolex in terms of luxury watch market share.
Though certain other Swiss collector’s watch brands do exist, like Patek Philippe, their impact is negligible in comparison with Rolex’s. Additionally, other brands for whom watches are a staple item (like Fossil) do not have the same status as Rolex, meaning they compete for entirely different demographics. In fact, Rolex is the only brand that only produces watches ranked in the Top 10 Luxury Brands in the world.
Some of Rolex’s biggest competitors may be other luxury jewelry producers, but Rolex is even valued higher than such recognizable brands as Cartier and Tiffany & Co (both of which are older than Rolex by at least 50 years). All of this points to a relatively empty playing field for Rolex, so it seems likely that they will continue to enjoy unbridled success.
Playing to Its Strengths
Much like in the early days of the company, Rolex has enjoyed modern success thanks to many high profile celebrity endorsements. Rolex still employs professional athletes as an important part of its marketing strategy, with one of the most successful being Tennis champ Roger Federer.
Three of the ten athletes who receive the most money from endorsements (one of them being Federer) are Rolex brand ambassadors. The other two are golfers Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth. A number of non-athletes have recently made appearances in Rolex ads as well, like director James Cameron.
Beyond celebrity endorsements, Rolex has made a series of smart marketing moves, like sticking to striking visuals and clipped copy, that keep the brand feeling modern. Its “Every Rolex Tells A Story” campaign tugs at the emotions of consumers.
Old companies like this one sometimes exhibit an aversion to change, but Rolex has moved seamlessly into the 21st century without totally abandoning the tactics that got it this far.
Much like its home country, Rolex has managed to stay largely neutral in terms of any news stories. Perhaps the most troubling news to ever plague Rolex was no fault of the company’s at all.
Because of their ever-increasing value, Rolex watches have been faked pretty consistently for the last few decades. Though Rolex has taken measures, like etching practically microscopic logos in the face, counterfeits still pop up (some of them quite convincing).
There’s little that Rolex can do to prevent this, so the only real method of remedy is educating the public in how to spot a fake. Still, an untrained eye may have a hard time pointing out a counterfeit, so always be wary of a deal that seems too good to be true.
Staking Global Superiority
At a value of $9.1 billion, Rolex ranked at number 78 on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands 2019. This is no small feat for a company that makes watches, and nothing else. With consistently high product output for more than 100 years, it’s no wonder that Rolex’s watchmakers (situated in 100 different countries) stay so busy.
Perhaps even more telling is the fact that, for the fourth straight year, Rolex has been rated the world’s most reputable brand. Whether it is Rolex’s commitment to authenticity (both in their products and in their messaging), or their unparalleled ability to avoid scandal, it is clear that the company’s character resonates with the masses.
What started as a dream in the mind’s eye of a 24-year-old entrepreneur has grown into one of the strongest global brands, and it doesn’t appear that the time is growing anywhere near to running out on Rolex.