Even if you know absolutely nothing about watches, it’s almost certain you’ve heard of Rolex. The brand has become somewhat of a name for the whole industry — in particular, for the huge and booming market of vintage watches.
But just watch makes Rolex so special? Why has everyone heard of the brand and not so much other quality watchmakers like Longines, Cartier, or IWC?
Well, there’s a lot of reasons. But when talking about the vintage market specifically, we can boil it down to three reasons that explain why vintage Rolex watches are so popular.
1. They’re built for purpose
The polar opposite of many watches today, Rolex models are considered the original tool watch — they’re built with a specific purpose in mind.
Whether it’s helping pilot an aircraft or assist a deep sea dive, Rolexes are the watch of choice for many people who are in need of precision timekeeping. That being said, as the brand marries function with form like no other, a lot of Rolex wearers also simply choose to adorn them as jewellery.
Take the GMT-Master, built with two time zones so pilots can manage jet lag. Or the Milgauss, built specifically for people that work in electro-magnetic environments like nuclear research labs.
2. The brand and heritage
There is no other watch brand with a history and standing like Rolex. Ranked up there today with the world’s most successful brands, Rolex started out like any other humble watchmaking business — albeit it was at the exact right time and in the exact right place.
The company was founded in London in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. Since then, among other achievements, it’s known for creating the first watch to secure chronometer certification, the world’s first waterproof wrist watch, and the first watch to feature a changing date on the dial.
Throughout all this time, Rolex has made all its watches by hand, often using difficult machines and methods simply because they make for better looking results. Adhering to such high standards is what has made the company known as the world’s leading watch brand, loved by everyone from modern watch wearers to vintage watch collectors.
3. The details and design
If there was one reason why vintage Rolex watches are so popular it would be that, as well as having function and heritage, the brand never overlooks even the smallest of details. From the nuances of its dials and bezels to the intricacies on its crowns and guards, Rolex wearers love the details — so much so that one tiny discrepancy or feature can significantly increase the demand of a watch.
Take what’s become known as the ‘Bart Simpson’ dial — a model made briefly during the 60s that features a Rolex coronet insignia that is flatter with shorter tines, much like Bart Simpson’s hair. Such details can take a watch from normally being worth a few thousand pounds to being valued at tens of thousands.