WORDS BY FELIX BISCHOF AND APRIL HOLLAMBY
Rolex, that icon of the fine watch world, was originally founded by Hans Wilsdorf in London in 1905 and has celebrated many landmarks in its time. While its heritage models — the Daytona, the Submariner and the Datejust — continue to top wishlists for their timeless design and superior performance, the Swiss brand continues to innovate. From customized classics such as the GMT-Master II to newer models like the Sky-Dweller, Rolex watches are a sound investment, holding infinite value. Consider this your definitive guide to buying, owning and caring for a Rolex.
Rolex saluted its ruby anniversary by unveiling the iconic Datejust model — an 18-carat gold timepiece that made history as the first self-winding chronometer wristwatch to indicate the date in a window positioned on its dial. It has continued to inspire a host of variations since: the 1945 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust, with its five-piece link ‘Jubilee’ bracelet and the 1953 Rolex Turn-O-Graph 'Thunderbirds' model, its nickname paying tribute to the US Air Force pilots who were awarded Datejust watches upon their return from far-flung missions. Fitted with a rotating bezel marked to 60 minutes, the Thunderbird Datejust could be used by the pilots to measure time intervals, a function that formed the base of the Rolex Submariner, arguably the brand's most popular model.
Rolex first debuted its Submariner model in 1954 and was crafted as a diving watch. It allows deep-divers to keep track of passing time with its ingenious Chromalight display: the watch's hands and hour-markers are coated or filled in with Rolex' emblematic luminescent material, which gives off a uniform, blue glow that lasts up to eight hours. While it looks good worn on dry land too, Submariners are built to perform: signature features include a rotatable bezel engraved with 60 minute graduations, to let divers monitor diving time and decompression stops. More anniversary pieces have since been introduced, such as the Rolex Submariner ‘Kermit’ 16610LV, launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic model — a limited edition piece with a green bezel iteration and black dial.
Produced from 1963 onwards, the Daytona is christened after Daytona Beach, a city by Florida’s Atlantic coast long known for hosting car races. It was one year before the unveiling that Rolex was announced at the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway Racetrack in 1962. The original 1963 design inspired two more generations — issued in 1988 and 2000 respectively – honours its racetrack heritage lineage with details such as a tachymeter scale bezel, used to measure elapsed time and average driving speed.
In 2012, Rolex premiered the Sky-Dweller, the first entirely new model in two decades. The Sky-Dweller boasts 14 patents, including five newly registered ones. Look out for its dual time-zone display: in addition to the local time, the wearer's home (or reference) time is indicated by a small red arrow, its tip pointing towards a 24-hours scale marked on a rotating disc. Then there’s the model's handy 42mm Ring Command bezel: turn the bezel to the left until a click sound is audible to alternate between three positions to change date or time upon touchdown in a new location.
Originally designed in collaboration with Pan Am Airways, the Rolex GMT-Master was issued to crews on long-haul flights, the key feature of the watch was that it allowed the wearer to simultaneously reference two different time zones. A talking-point among collectors are the special colour combinations, which update classic models with vibrantly hued dials and bezels. This includes the GMT-Master II: a special take on this superhero of a watch comes with a black bezel matched with a black and blue Cerachrom (a Rolex patented ceramic and chrome component) display. The sought-after design, which was first shown at watch fair Baselworld in 2013, has become known as the Rolex Batman, not forgetting the Batgirl GMT Master 2.
The Rolex care guide
By João De Brito E Faro, watch supply manager at FARFETCH
How to buy a Rolex
'I have two main rules when it comes to buying a watch. The first one is to buy the seller: it's way more important to purchase from a reputable source who can actually authenticate and guarantee that the watch is in perfect condition. The second is buy what you like and take pleasure in wearing your timepiece.’
How to store a Rolex
'Storing is one of the most important parts of actually owning a watch. Movement is what keeps the watch components oiled, and if you have a vast collection, it's recommended that you store your watches in a watch winder. This will allow constant movement and prevent future expensive repairs.’
How to care for a Rolex
'Send the watch to the brand’s maintenance services from time to time and keep a record of those expenses. Similarly as with a car, the more details and proof you have that you cared for the piece, the higher potential value it will gain.’
How to style a Rolex
'The great thing about sports steel watches is that you can style them quite freely, from a more edgy sporty look to a classic suit. My personal favorite is the Pepsi iteration of the Rolex GMT-Master, nicknamed for its red and blue color combination on the bezel; the Jubilee bracelet gives it a special touch.’