Rolex pays tribute to the intimacy of traditional watchmaking while also using the best technology available to create the most precise, hand-crafted timepiece possible. Becoming the watch brand synonymous with luxury never came easily, and with nearly every piece of a Rolex watch produced in-house, the watchmaker has control over every step of production. Though the brand is relatively covert in its methods, there’s fascinating information available about the brand’s process.
One of the most interesting factoids about Rolex is the existence of an in-house foundry. The metals used by Rolex are all melted and mixed into unique alloys at the Rolex factory. Rolex is one of the few watchmakers to do have a foundry producing platinum and gold. The gold comes in three shades — white, yellow and everose, a shade of pink gold that is exclusively used by Rolex.
Though gold is a wonderful choice for a luxury timepiece, Rolex is well-known for their steel model sports watches, and even steel gets special treatment. Rolex specifically uses 904L steel for its unique look and durability. The steel is difficult to manufacture, but the specific alloy polishes to the distinct Rolex shine and the metal doesn’t corrode as easily as other variations of steel, so it wears better and longer.
Rolex is known for its tight grip on their manufacturing process; nearly every pieces of a Rolex watch is made by Rolex. The only pieces not made in-house are the hands and sapphire crystal dials. The semi-secretive watchmaker is also known for its hand-made timepieces — not even a robot can be trusted with making a Rolex watch. When a piece is made using a machine, that machine is operated by a living, breathing person.
With nearly 1,000,000 pieces manufactured each year, it’s impressive that Rolex workers hand-assemble their watches at all. The movements and bracelets are assembled by hand, with machines only used manufacture components. The gems are hand-set by 20 in-house gem-setters, using only internally flawless diamonds and high quality gemstones.
Though Rolex uses an impressive amount of manpower for each piece, machines are still necessary for reasons of efficiency and accuracy. When it comes to sorting parts, stones, polishing and more precise manufacturing, machines are used. Though machine use is necessary, Rolex is sure to have every machine run by a person and then checked by person after each step.
Each Rolex has over 200 parts that need to work together seamlessly. The movements are researched and developed by the world’s best watchmakers in-house at Rolex and take an extensive amount of time to create. So much time is put into developing the most technologically advanced movements and materials, the cost of the watch must increase to compensate — this is mostly where the Rolex price tag comes from.
Though information is available online about the Rolex manufacturing process, the watchmaker is still notoriously secretive. Rolex has its own team of scientists who invent and develop new technology to not only improve the watch parts, but also test them. The machines developed are so rarely seen by unapproved eyes so Rolex can remain ahead of its competition and bring consumers the best watch technology possible.