Look, I know, they’re ubiquitous. They make almost a million watches a year; you probably know a handful of people that have one (or more). But there’s more than one reason why they’re so prevalent. If you ask a random person on that street what the best watch on the planet is? Their answer, unequivocally, will be Rolex.
There’s certainly a reason for this pervasiveness. It’s branding, brand protection, marketing, and many other things. But you don’t get to be known as the best, without actually being the best.
What Makes Them Stand Out?
There’s a number of arguments that can be made to defend Rolex as the king (poorly attempted crown pun intended). Let’s start with the company itself: it’s a true manufacture; it is vertically integrated. They want to, and do have as much control as possible over the entire process. They spend both time and money on research and development.
Their materials (Cerachrome, 904L steel, Everose gold, etc.) are among the best in the world and have come from spending time on proper development. The equipment, processes, methods, and people they employ are absolutely top notch. There is no master craftsman painstakingly assembling a grand complication for upwards of a year or more. But for what they do, Rolex uses the absolute best. The movements themselves may be simple and undecorated, but I implore you to challenge me by telling me they’re not absolute workhorses.
Technology and Movements
They constantly push the cutting edge when it comes to enhancing performance, reliability, durability, and accuracy. Since they produce watches and watch movements in large quantities, they have to make them a bit more “fool-proof.” So in the hands of a more educated consumer and enthusiast, their watches perform strikingly well. Rolex’s new caliber 3255 boasts a 72 hour power reserve, +2/-2 accuracy, and enhanced performance and resilience overall.
Sure, their previous generation of movements was more than acceptable and reliable. When Wayne Gretzky scored point number 190 or so 3/4 of a way through a season, do you think he went “meh, good enough”? Was Vince Lombardi satisfied after a couple of big wins? No, and no. It makes perfect sense that Rolex is never satisfied. They’ve already earned the reputation, now not only do they want to maintain it, but they want to further it.
Styling of the Watch
I’ll argue to the grave that Rolex has some of the best bracelets in the industry in their current generation. But once again, they didn’t rest on their laurels. They redesigned the president bracelet this year, with ceramic tubes and improved screws. The previous generation of the president bracelet performed and held up very well, but the newest iteration is still somehow markedly better. This new technology, and all of Rolex’s improvements, will eventually proliferate throughout their entire product line.
It’s a Rolex Thing
There’s something to be said for what Rolex has been able to accomplish. Human nature urges individuals to seek out the best (food, shelter, etc.) We extrapolate that to less necessitous items. We want a nice car, well made clothing, a computer that is transportable and high-performance. Rolex caters to these wants.
They make the absolute best of the best, in terms of performance and technology. But they also make it for almost everyone. I think it’s admirable and it’s respectable. Many a watch snob’s first exposure to the industry was a Rolex. Many a respected collector’s collection has a Rolex (or a few) in their collection. People are constantly trying to argue against them or point out their shortcomings. I believe this just lends more credence to what they do.
To be known as one of the best, you must be one of the best. When you are at the top, many will hate you and try to bring you down. Rolex knows this, and they embrace it. And you can certainly make a legitimate argument one way or another. But the fact that you’re even having that argument in the first place makes me think in a way Rolex is already winning. Love it or hate it, but to disregard Rolex and not respect them for what they’ve done and continue to do, is simple ignorance.