Rolex has perpetually appeared on the Forbes Most Valuable Brands list, with sales at approximately $4.5 billion. Some of the world’s most famous athletes and celebrities not only proudly wear Rolexes, but also endorse them. And despite the price tag, Rolexes are often worn by divers, sportsmen, scientists, explorers such as astronauts for their accuracy and durability in some of the most extreme conditions. Buying a Rolex isn’t only buying a watch, it’s an investment that grows in value over time.

The one and only - Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona. Photo: Phillips The one and only - Paul Newman's Rolex Daytona. Photo: Phillips

The most expensive watch ever sold at auction is in fact a Rolex watch which used to belong to the actor Paul Newman who came to be the father of the most popular Rolex watch in the world: Rolex Daytona.

Read more about when Newman's watch hit the auction block!

But what’s behind those elegant watch faces (apart from precision-made watch parts)? Aside from being known as the height of quality, precision, and luxury, the Rolex brand is, in fact, shrouded in mystery. Here are a few of the more mysterious aspects of the brand, as well as its relationship to some interesting mysteries.

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The mysterious origins of the name

This is one of the most obscure pieces of the famous brand’s lore. The name rolls of the tongue, invoking the very essence of opulence, like a beacon calling out to watch fanatics and luxury hunters alike. But why Rolex? Where does it come from and what does it mean?

According to the brand’s own history, founder Hans Wilsdorf was searching for a name that was short and memorable in any language, and “which looked good on watch movements and dials.” The company claims he tried to combine “letters of the alphabet in every possible way,” without success. Then one day, as he was riding on the deck of a horse-drawn carriage in London, “a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”

But that’s not the only story of the company’s name. Gene Stone, a chronicler of men’s luxury watches, retells a story in his book The Watch where the name is a contraction of the French phrase, “horlogerie exquise,” which translates to “exquisite clockwork” or “horologic excellence.” Yet another rumor is that Wilsdorf chose the name for its resemblance to the sound of a watch ticking, according to an essay in the NYU’s Stern Business School Newsletter.

The debate over the name’s origins only adds to the brand’s mystique, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Rolex is not originally Swiss

Often marketed as being made with Swiss precision, some watch enthusiasts may be surprised to learn that Rolex only became a Swiss company 14 years after it was founded in London as a partnership between Wilsdorf (originally from Germany) and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis. In fact, the company received the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision from the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne in 1910, nine years prior to moving to Geneva in 1919.

Ever since its move, though, the brand has been referred to as a Swiss watchmaker, despite its true origins.

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Rolex is a true innovator

When we think of luxury watches, we rarely think of innovation. But Rolex was a true innovator of its time. They were the first to introduce a self-winding watch, which they dubbed a “perpetual chronometer.” They pioneered waterproof and water-resistant watches, which were even tested with the Trieste, an early deep-water research vessel that carried a Rolex watch on its outside during its 11,000 meters (36,089 feet) dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

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Rolex was the first watch maker to include dates that automatically advanced, and the first to show two time zones at the same time, an innovation that made them popular with pilots. Indeed, they were likely the first manufacturer to introduce lines specifically designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and terrains.

Since 2005, Rolex was the first watch maker to introduce a ceramic bezel, which is highly scratch resistant and whose color does not fade from extended exposure UV-light, making them a much pursued choice among professional athletes.

Rolex watch helps solves a murder mystery

Possibly one of the most interesting mysteries involving a Rolex watch was a murder investigation. In 1996, a body was found by a fisherman in the English Channel, the only identifiable object on it was a Rolex. Because all Rolex watches are engraved with their serial number and service markings, police were able to trace the watch to its owner, Ronald Platt. Thanks to the quality of the watch, the police were actually able to determine both the date time of death based on the watch’s movements. The evidence led the police to Platt’s business partner, who it turns out was also wanted in Canada for fraud, theft, and money laundering.

These are just a handful of the more well-known mysteries involving Rolex watches. Of course, there are likely many other stories out there. Perhaps no other brand is as shrouded in mystery and intrigue. And perhaps that’s what makes these watches so desirable.

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