CEO: Jean-Frederic Dufour
A brief history: The precursor to Rolex was founded in London by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in 1905, with the Rolex Watch Company established in 1919 when its operations were shifted to Geneva; the company remains in Geneva today. The brand has always limited its offerings to just a few product lines, but makes incremental improvements to new models to ensure that each is the culmination of the advances of its predecessors. Rolex’s contributions to watchmaking include developing the first waterproof case and the invention of the GMT complication.
Currently known for: Rolex today is known among aficionados as the king, and for good reason – it is the single largest Swiss luxury-watch manufacture, and is almost completely vertically integrated, down to smelting its own gold alloys and producing its own hairsprings. This control over production has allowed the brand to maintain exceptionally high quality control, which it backs with a five-year warranty period for all its new watches. Considering the sheer number of watches it produces annually, this is no mean feat.
Key product lines: The Submariner, Sea-Dweller, and Deepsea, a trio of dive watches built to withstand increasingly greater depths; Cosmograph Daytona, a chronograph rooted in automobile racing; Milgauss, developed to withstand strong magnetic fields in scientific research; GMT-Master II, a product of the jet age created to track multiple time zones; Explorer II, another dual-time zone watch, but with an emphasis on exploration; Yacht-Master II, meant for regatta racing; Air-King, the basic model within the sports watch range; Oyster Perpetual, a simple time-only watch harking back to Rolex’s origins; Datejust, Day-Date, and Cellini, ranges of dress watches with different complications in each; and Pearlmaster, the jewellery watch range for ladies.
Prices: Starts from several thousand dollars for Oyster Perpetual basic automatic models, which are the brand’s entry-level pieces.