For more than a century, Rolex stands apart as the most coveted and most legendary brand of watches in the world. A Rolex connotes many things: the quintessence of the luxury timepiece, a tool of power for movers and shakers, the symbol of passage into adulthood. New labels pop up, styles come and go, but the brand at the top never changes. Ever the record setter—the Daytona that had belonged to Paul Newman was auctioned by Phillips in New York in October 2017 for $17.8 million—it comes as no surprise that Rolex is the most collected watch label in the world.
The history of Rolex is rooted in the visionary spirit of its founder, Hans Wilsdorf. In 1905, young Wilsdorf founded a company in London for the distribution of timepieces, but his true dream was to produce wristwatches—in their infancy at the time, and not very precise—that would be technically durable and reliable, and supremely elegant. The company first concentrated on producing the highest quality movements, and this quest for precision rapidly led to the first wristwatch in the world to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, granted by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne in 1910. Four years later, Kew Observatory in Great Britain awarded a Rolex watch a class A certificate, a distinction that had been previously reserved exclusively for marine chronometers.
From that date forward, the Rolex wristwatch has been synonymous with precision. Over the last 100 years, Rolex milestones include: the first waterproof watch, the first self-winding mechanism, the first wristwatch to fly over Mt. Everest, the first diver’s watch waterproof to 100 meters, the first to withstand magnetic fields of 1,000 gauss, the first to descend the Mariana Trench.
Selected by specialist Fabienne Reybaud, each of the exceptional Rolex watch models in this beautiful handcrafted Ultimate Collection volume showcase the most valuable and technically innovative models the luxury watchmaker has produced, including watches never seen in print before: From the first wristwatch dating to the early 1900s and the first Oyster Perpetual from 1931, to an Explorer worn during Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953 and the Submariner worn by actor George Lazenby in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, they are sure to astonish collectors the world over.