Rolex Oyster - The watch of pioneers
The Rolex Oyster cannot be described in any other way than as the milestone it is. The introduction of the first waterproof and dust impermeable watch in 1926, equipped with a hermetically sealed housing to provide its clockwork a maximum of protection, made big waves among watchlovers in the roaring twentys. In order to back the claim of offering perfect protection against water and dust, the wristwatch first had to stand against the waves of the English Channel. In the following year, the young englishwoman Mercedes Gleitze swam through the channel in an exhausting effort that lasted over 10 hours, faithfully accompanied by the Rolex Oyster on her wrist that survived unscathed, standing as an irrevocable proof of the technical mastery underneath the Rolex crown.
For celebrating this accomplishment, the newspaper daily mail published a full page ad on their frontpage, completed with Mercedes Gleitze who became known as the first brand ambassador of the Swiss watch manufacturer.
Not even the sky was the limit as the first mission to overfly the mount everest in 1933 was equipped with the Rolex Oyster, eagerly persued by the press and praised by the airplanes crew.
Rolex solidified its position as save haven and port of call for adventurers in the 1930's by supplying celebrities and role models of the time with their wristwatches. Amongst high-performance athletes like the skier Jean-Claude Killy or the mountaineering couple Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay, racing drivers were particulary popular as brand ambassadors. The Rolex Oyster therefore became the prefered accessory adorning the wrist of personalities like Sir Jacky Stewart or Sir Malcolm Campbell. The latter wrote history on the 4th of september in 1935 when he became the first human to ever cross the 300 mph border with a land vehicle. Behind the steering wheel of his bolide "Bluebird" and with a Rolex on his wrist, the englishman broke this speed record for the ninth time since 1924. Campbell shared his enthusiasm about the Oyster in a letter sent directly to the Swiss watchmaker.
"In the meantime, I have been using my Rolex wristwatch for some time, and it measures time perfectly despite the somewhat adverse conditions."
Sir Malcolm Campbell
The release of the first Datejust in 1945, to this day the cornerstone for todays Oyster collection, paved the way for the subline to become frankly the most popular and saught after products among the roster of Rolex watches, being the first wristwatch chronometer with an automatic self-winding mechanism that displays the date in a viewing window on the dial, a design choice being a trademark till today.
Other collections followed in the aftertow of the second world war, conquering the elements as models like the Air-King, first exclusively designed for the British Royal Air Force, were released to the open market. More specialised watches like the Submariner line, following in the footsteps of its ancestor which crossed the British channel, became the first watch to be able to withstand a water depth of up to 100m and cemented its place as probably the most popular diving watch of all time, not litte indepted to its appearance on the wrist of James Bond himself.
Innovation was a huge driving force on the way towards new sublines, resulting in models like the GMT-Master which was released in 1954, the same year as the aforementioned Submariner, was designed in collaboration with the now defunct Pan American Airways and can be seen as the spiritual succesor of the Air-King line as a useful tool for their pilots and navigators.
The Day-Date, released just two years later, supplemented the dial with a display of the weekdays and thereby displaying inclusivity and customizability like never before by adding language, making the wearer feel home wherever he is and at the same time further building upon the basis the Datejust set by applying even more functions to an artform that is seen as perfect until someone yet again breaks the glass sealing, showing that art is never finished but ever changing - and never boring.