Among the company’s innovations are the first self-winding watch; the first waterproof watch case; the first wristwatch with a date on the dial; the first watch to show two timezones at once; and most importantly the first watchmakers to earn the coveted chronometer certification for a wristwatch. To date, Rolex still holds the record for the most certified chronometer movements in the category of wristwatches. Another little known fact is that Rolex participated in the development of the original quartz watch movements. Although Rolex has made very few quartz models for its Oyster line, the company’s engineers were instrumental in design and implementation of the technology during the early 1970s.
The first self-winding Rolex watch was offered to the public in 1931, powered by an internal mechanism that used the movement of the wearer’s arm. This not only made watch-winding unnecessary, but eliminated the problem of over-winding a watch and harming its mechanism. Rolex was also the first watch company to create a truly waterproof watch ? another milestone from novelty to functional timepiece. Wilsdorf even went so far as to have a specially made Rolex watch attached to the side of the Trieste bathyscaphe, which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The watch survived and tested as having kept perfect time during its descent and ascent. This was confirmed by a telegram sent to Rolex the following day saying “Am happy to confirm that even at 11,000 meters your watch is as precise as on the surface. Best regards, Jacques Piccard
Rolex has also made a reputation in watches suitable for the extremes of deep-sea diving, aviation and mountain climbing. Early sports models included the Oyster Perpetual Sea Dweller 2000 (in 1971). This watch featured a helium release valve, co-invented with Swiss watchmaker Doxa, to release helium gas build-up during decompression. Another sports model is the GMT Master, originally developed at the request of Pan Am Airways, to assist pilots in transcontinental flights. The Explorer and Explorer II were developed specifically for explorers who would navigate rough terrain ? such as the world famous Everest Expeditions.
On the more glamorous side, Ian Fleming’s James Bond character wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual in the series of spy novels. In the early EON production Bond films, Commander Bond wore a Rolex Submariner. However, for the Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan, James Bond’s standard issue watch is an Omega Seamaster. This is due in part to Omega being open to jointly promote their association with the films producers .