AVW are huge fans of Rolex vintage watches. We have a particular interest and specialism in models manufactured in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
So why Rolex? What makes Rolex vintage watches so special? Rolex have long been known as a maker of superior watches and are today the biggest watch brand in the world, with recognition across international markets. On its 2014 list Forbes ranked Rolex No.72 of the world’s most powerful global brands.
A brand founded by Alfred Davis and Hans Wilsdorf in London in 1905, then later moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1919. Since its beginnings Rolex has been at the cutting-edge of new watchmaking technologies confidently pioneering and inventing concepts such as the first certified chronometer, 1910, and the first waterproof and dustproof watch casings in 1926. So confident of their first waterproof watches Rolex showcased them in shop windows submerged in fishtanks.
The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s saw Rolex surge forward in refining features to enhance the capabilities of their watches. In the early 1950s Rolex famously took watches to the depths of the ocean by manufacturing a wristwatch which was waterproof to 100m (330ft) – the depth of a submarine – and aptly naming it the ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner’. Later followed by the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea Dweller, co-developed with Swiss watchmaker Doxa, which had a specialised helium release valve to release helium gas build-up during decompression. In 1953 the Explorer (and later in 1971 the Explorer II) was developed specifically for explorers negotiating demanding terrains. Sir Edmund Hillary the first man, along with Tenzing Norgay, to summit Mount Everest wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on his wrist, which was the ancestor to the Explorer.
Not long after, in 1954, Rolex produced the GMT Master which could show two time zones simultaneously on the one watch face; developed in response to a request from Pan Am Airways for their own crew’s use. This was followed in 1956 by the Rolex Day-Date, the first wristwatch with an automatically changing day and date.
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw Rolex, once again, move the technology of watchmaking forward when their engineers took part in the production, design and implementation of the technology for the original quartz watch movement, working collaboratively with sixteen Swiss watch manufacturers to develop the Beta 21 quartz movement used in their Rolex Quartz Date 5100. Over roughly five years of research, design, and development, Rolex developed the ‘clean-slate’ 5035/5055 movement that would go on to power the Rolex Oysterquartz.
Owning a Rolex vintage watch is an opportunity to own something worthy of its brand status, steeped in a rich history of watchmaking. Whether it’s a Rolex that has seen the top of a mountain, the bottom of the sea or that has brought two different time zones to the same dial it would have indisputably been part of a masterful feat in watch design and engineering.