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What You Did Not Know About Rolex’s Watchmaking Process
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It’s well-known throughout the watch industry that Rolex guards its trade secrets about as closely as Fort Knox. And interestingly, the mystique that this tight-lipped approach casts over its brand actually adds to its appeal in the eyes of many consumers. But fortunately for us, the Swiss luxury timepiece giant will occasionally allow a journalist or two limited access for a small glimpse of just what makes Rolex tick (pun intended).

Ariel Adams, a prolific writer who presides over the watch authority website A Blog to Watch, was recently allowed inside four Swiss Rolex manufacturing facilities for a brief tour. He was not allowed to take photos, so he reported some interesting facts and tidbits in his blog, 10 of which we will share here:

10 Things to Know About Rolex

  1. Rolex only uses the most expensive steel because it produces a superior look. The grade of steel Rolex uses for its watches is called 904L steel, and almost no other watchmakers use it. Why? Because it’s difficult to work with and requires special tools and expertise. It also produces a flat-out superior watch with a great tactile feel and weight, which you will notice immediately when handling a Rolex watch.
  2. Rolex created its own science lab. From testing new technologies, experimenting with various metals, to meticulously refining their already precise manufacturing process, Rolex uses a multitude of science labs for its watchmaking process.
  3. Rolex assembles all movements, and tests them by hand. Machines don’t build Rolex watches; human hands do. Yes, machines are used to assist in the process, but for the most part a highly-skilled technician does most of the work by hand.
  4. Rolex has an in-house foundry. Incredibly, Rolex manufactures its own gold and platinum. They are believed to be the only watchmaker to do this, which also ensures tight controls on the quality of the metals they produce.
  5. Rolex is very pragmatic when it comes to technology. In a nutshell, their philosophy is this: If a human does this thing better, then let a human do it. If a machine is better served handling this part of the process, then the machine will do just that. Rolex has a stable of expensive robotic machinery, and are able to delegate tasks to either human or machine as they see fit, which gives them an advantage over other watchmakers.
  6. Rolex is obsessive about security. To put it mildly, gaining access to the various areas of a Rolex facility is like something out of a James Bond movie. There are fingerprint scans, security guards, armored trucks, steel vaults, and iris scanners everywhere on the Rolex campus.
  7. All dive watches are tested in pressurized tanks. The undersea watches Rolex makes fall under the Oyster category, and they not only get special treatments that help them withstand pressure, but they are thoroughly tested in special pressurized tanks to ensure their functionality and water resistance.
  8. Rolex has their own in-house gemologists. Rolex has high standards for every part of its manufacturing process, and that includes the diamonds and emeralds that adorn their timepieces. To that end, they employ their own gemologists who are charged with testing, examining, and vetting each stone before it ever gets set in a Rolex watch.
  9. It takes one year to make a single Rolex watch. Astounding. Absolutely no shortcuts are allowed in the long and laborious process of making the world’s finest wristwatch.
  10. Rolex outsources few things, preferring to fabricate in-house. As is obvious by now, Rolex prefers the “hands-on” approach. They make their own movements, bezels, gold, metal, etc. The only thing they outsource are synthetic sapphire crystals and dial hands.

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