Rolex is celebrating, in 2016, the 90 years of the Oyster, the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch in the world. It was an innovation that transformed watch design forever. Precise, robust and reliable, the Oyster became the timekeeper of choice for explorers and pioneers of all types whose exploits played a part in forging the status of this legendary watch. Today, Rolex has further reinforced the performance criteria that qualify Oyster watches as Superlative Chronometers.
A WATCHMAKING REVOLUTION
The Rolex Oyster was one of the most important watchmaking inventions of its time and, in 1945, talking about the 1926 era Hans Wilsdorf said: “In those days, the idea of a watch impermeable to water appeared quite utopian and without future to the majority of manufacturers and technicians who did not, in fact, see its necessity or utility. At trade congresses and meetings, the ‘waterproof’ watch was held to scorn by specialists and a discussion of the problem provoked sarcasm rather than useful and objective arguments.” However, Mr Wilsdorf persevered and, through a communications drive, made the watch known and appreciated all over the world. “Other manufacturers had to follow the movement which was to exercise an enormous influence on the entire Swiss watchmaking industry… Statistics show that since 1927 waterproof wristwatches, to a value of more than one thousand million Swiss francs, have been exported throughout the five continents. Another and no less tangible result of the development of the waterproof watch is the profound modification it has brought to the manufacture of watch cases generally in Switzerland. Old machinery, incapable of turning out such delicate work, had to be replaced by new and more accurate machines. Millions of francs were invested in this modern technique and the machine industry entered a new era of prosperity. The Swiss watch-case industry itself regained its position as the first in the world and this at a time when it seemed to have most serious foreign competition to face.”