Top 10 Most Popular Rolex Watches

Top 10 Most Popular
Rolex Watches

Founded in 1905 in London by German watchmaker Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex has reached the highest peaks of technological advancement. One of the best-known luxury watch brands in the world, Rolex has perfected timepieces that are visually stunning, as well as perform well in every harsh environment on the planet.

The Deepsea Special has plumbed the 36,201 ft depths of the Mariana Trench, the Explorer has ascended to the 29,000 ft summit of Mount Everest and the GMT-Master has floated in zero gravity in space. When precision and durability are required, the brand has proved its superiority, time and time again.

Wilsdorf was described as a visionary entrepreneur when he introduced the watch-making world to his Rolex brand. After being orphaned at 12, he was sent to boarding school by his uncle. Wilsdorf excelled in maths and languages, which led to the launch of his career in watchmaking.

In 1900, he moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland to work as an English-speaking clerk for watch firm Messrs Cuno Korten. Responsible for winding hundreds of pocket watches every day, he became familiar with all grades of timepieces, learning how they were manufactured from scratch.

He moved to London in 1903 and after working for a watch-making company, he saved enough money to set up his own business in 1905 at London's Hatton Gardens with business partner Alfred Davis. Initially called Wilsdorf & Davis, the company produced high-quality timepieces at affordable prices.

It became known as Rolex in 1908, a brand name Wilsdorf plucked from thin air as he rode on the top deck of a horse-drawn double-decker bus travelling along Cheapside! Soon afterwards, the Rolex brand was registered in Switzerland.

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Evolution of the Rolex Empire

The manufacturer's ability to perform better than its rivals began in 1910 when a Rolex was the first watch to receive the hallmark Swiss Certificate of Precision. It then received Kew Observatory's prestigious Class A Precision Certificate in 1914, an accolade previously reserved only for marine chronometers.

As well as crafting beautiful luxury watches, Rolex excelled in making technically advanced timepieces. When professional British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel in 1927, she was wearing the Rolex Oyster, the first waterproof watch in the world and the inspiration for today's modern diving watch.

Her name was used to market the Rolex Oyster, assuring the brand worldwide publicity. Similarly, in 1953, another celebrity of the era, Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, wore a Rolex Explorer on his expedition to ascend Mount Everest's peak for the first time.

Famous Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard wore a prototype Rolex Deepsea Special to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean in 1960. The watch survived unscathed, proving the undeniable endurance of Rolex watches. In 1971, the Rolex GMT-Master was taken to the moon by American NASA astronaut John "Jack" Swigert on Apollo 14.

Rolex proved its superiority and reliability in the world of luxury watches by surviving in the most challenging places of our solar system. In the decades since its launch, Rolex has created some of the most iconic collections in the world, cementing its place as one of the top watchmakers in history.

Who Wears Rolex Watches?

This has led to Rolex watches being worn not only by top sports people and celebrities but also by people from all walks of life who have followed the lead of their idols. The most famous people who have worn the brand include former US President Barack Obama, who has been spotted in a Rolex Cellini.

The third richest man on the planet, business magnate and investor Warren Buffett wears a Rolex Day-Date, while US President John F Kennedy famously had a Rolex Day-Date too. He reportedly couldn't wear it publicly, as it was given to him by the actress Marilyn Monroe.

After singing Happy Birthday Mr President to JFK at his 45th birthday celebration in 1962, she gave him the prestigious watch, bearing the inscription, "Jack, with love as always, from Marilyn". The watch finally surfaced in 2005, when it sold at auction for a relatively modest £100,000.

Film star Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona became the most expensive watch ever sold. An avid racing driver, he was said to have worn his Cosmograph Daytona daily for 15 years, before gifting it to his daughter's boyfriend in 1984. It sold for £14.7 million at Phillips auction house in 2017.

So what is it about Rolex that makes it probably the most famous and popular watch brand on the planet? Read our guide detailing the ten most popular Rolex watches and why they have stood the test of time.

Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner, created in 1953, was the first wristwatch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres. It was created after Rolex board member and diving enthusiast René-Paul Jeanneret came up with the idea of an elegant diving watch that could also be worn every day.

After enlisting the help of his friend, renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, to support his case, the Rolex Submariner went into production. The sporty design featured a new rotating bezel, enabling divers to monitor their oxygen level and the time spent underwater.

Rolex Submariner watches are still very popular today and have retained or increased their value on the pre-owned market.

Rolex Daytona

Launched in 1963, the highly-accurate Rolex Daytona is a chronograph designed to meet the precise demands of professional racing drivers. The Swiss chronograph enables drivers to measure average speeds up to 400 kilometres per hour.

It shares a strong association with Hollywood actor Paul Newman, a keen racing driver, further boosting its reputation. Introduced in 1988, the second generation quickly sold out and collectors spent years on the waiting list to purchase one.

The discontinued Rolex Daytona reference 116520 luxury chronograph is a must on the pre-owned market, thanks to its classic style and reliable movement, although it is tough to find.

Rolex Datejust

The Rolex Datejust was launched in 1945 as the world's first waterproof, automatic watch with a date function. It has always held its place in the rankings as one of the most famous and popular models produced by Rolex, reaching iconic status today.

As well as having unique features, it comes in a massive variety of styles. Collectors can choose from multiple precious and non-precious metals, while it comes with or without diamonds. There's always a Datejust for every occasion.

With the distinctive magnifying "bubble" over the date display, the Datejust's functions and mechanics became the inspiration for many a modern watch. It has retained or increased its value and is recognised as playing a crucial role in horological history.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual was released in 1945. Modelled on the 1926 Rolex Oyster, the world's first waterproof watch, it is the purest and simplest of all Rolex watches. Its design provides a clear and precise display of the time, with its two defining features being its clean aesthetics and self-winding perpetual movement.

The famous perpetual motion mechanism was designed by Rolex in 1931. It gives the watch a constant source of energy without having to manually wind it. Famous as being the watch of the 1953 Everest expedition with Sir Edmund Hillary, it is a masterpiece of technical prowess.

Its revolutionary winding crown is screwed onto the watch case, with a secure interface protecting the watch's mechanism from any harmful elements of the outside world. Introduced in the 1930s, the iconic Oyster bracelet, with flat three‑piece links, completes the look.

Rolex Yacht-Master

The iconic Rolex Yacht-Master and Rolex Yacht-Master II were inspired by Rolex’s connections with the world of sailing. The model, first released in 1992 in 18-carat yellow gold, was designed to meet the needs of professional sailors. A women’s model was launched in 1994.

The Rolex Yacht-Master II regatta chronograph featured a programmable countdown offering precise synchronisation. This enables the perfect timing of a yacht race. Its iconic design mirrors nautical aesthetics, thanks to its bezel that resembles a yacht’s steering wheel, with pushers reminiscent of racing yacht winches.

The Rolex Yacht-Master is created in 37 mm, 40 mm and 42 mm case sizes. They all have a water resistance rating of 100 metres, with a triple-locking winding crown system, like Rolex luxury diving watches.

Rolex Air-King

The Rolex Air-King pays homage to aviation and the pioneers of flight. Released in 1958, it has a 40 mm case in Oystersteel and a distinctive black dial, marked with large 3, 6 and 9 numerals, plus a minutes scale for accurate navigational time-keeping.

The design has created a functional and aesthetically pleasing timepiece. It is one of the brand's more affordable models, with the current list price being around £6,000.

Older models have a 34 mm case diameter, making them smaller than their modern counterparts. They also have a unique charm of years gone by that makes them highly collectable on the pre-owned market.

Rolex Day-Date

Launched in 1956, the Rolex Day-Date is associated with the rich and famous. It has been worn by more world leaders than any other watch. Its celebrity owners have included British wartime Prime Minster Winston Churchill and US President Dwight Eisenhower. This association gives it the nickname, President.

The newer 40 mm model in particular is always in the spotlight. It was one of the first luxury watches to display the date by month as well as the day of the week.

It is available in several different metals and is an ideal gift, depending on your budget. The 18-carat gold and 950 platinum variations are at the high end of the scale. There are other more affordable options to suit most budgets.

Rolex Sea-Dweller

The famous Rolex Sea-Dweller is the ultimate divers' watch. It is ultra water-resistant, as it's designed for the conquest of the deep. It was launched in 1967 and was the fruit of several decades of discussions with professional divers.

Waterproof to a depth of 4,000 feet, it features luminescent hands and Chromalight hour markers, providing a clear blue glow that can be seen even in dark underwater conditions.

The Rolex Deepsea model is waterproof to an amazing 12,800 feet, making the collection the timepiece of choice for many professional deep sea divers and intrepid adventurers.

Rolex Explorer

Launched in 1953, the Rolex Explorer is the chosen timepiece of many explorers and adventurers. It offers extreme precision, reliability and robustness, even under the harshest conditions.

The next generation Rolex Explorer II has a Chromalight display, luminescent markings and a vibrant orange 24-hour hand. This enables underground and Polar explorers to differentiate between day and night.

It is fashioned from highly-polishable Oystersteel, a material which maintains its beautiful appearance even in extreme conditions. Its celebrity fans have included the Hollywood actor Steve McQueen, who wore a Rolex Explorer II.

Rolex Milgauss

The Rolex Milgauss can withstand the strong magnetic fields that scientists are exposed to in the course of their work. The reliability and accuracy of an average watch can be affected by a magnetic field of 50 to 100 gauss. This is why the Milgauss, released by Rolex in 1956, is highly sought-after, as it is resistant to up to 1,000 gausses.

Easily recognisable by the orange electricity bolt forming its seconds hand, the Rolex Milgauss is marketed as being designed to meet the needs of the scientific community when working among electromagnetic fields.

Rolex released its scratch proof crystal of green sapphire version in 2007. Exclusive to the Milgauss, it provides the crystal in modern versions with its distinctive green tint.

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