The Five Greatest Innovations By Rolex

Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis and, since day one, has been pushing the edge when it comes to new watch innovations.

Many of these innovations don’t only affect the watch market but have an impact on the whole world.

But what are the most remarkable innovations the Rolex brand has ever come up with?

Which innovations changed everything?

Read this post about the five greatest innovations by Rolex to find out more.

The Worlds First Waterproof Watch

26 years after Hans and his brother-in-law Alfred founded the Rolex company, they achieved something that had previously been considered impossible by anyone.

They created the first waterproof watch, calling in the Rolex Oyster.

Two things had to do the job of keeping the chronometer-certified movement sealed away from water.

First, a hermetically sealed case meant the watchcase had to be closed to be completely airtight.

Secondly, a screw-down crown was designed so that the watch could be wound up and the time could be changed while the watch kept its airtight seal.

And with success, the watch was waterproof.

The Rolex Oyster protects its movement just like an oyster protects its pearl; that’s where the name Oyster comes from.

Hans had the watch displayed in retailers’ shop windows in a fish bowl filled with water to show the public the Rolex Oyster’s capabilities.

But that was not enough for Hans; he wanted to put his invention to a tougher test.

In 1927 he gave swimmer Mercedes Gleitze a Rolex Oyster to put on when she tried to swim across the English Channel.

Mercedes ended her swim after 10 hours, fearing she would go into hypothermia and freeze to death.

The watch, though, survived the swim and remained undamaged.

After this achievement, Hans placed and full-page advertisement for the Rolex Oyster on the front page of the Daily Mail.

Awareness of the brand exploded after the world heard of this record.

The test that the Rolex Oyster had just passed has helped Rolex get the reputation they have today.

The Rolex Oyster (Source: Bob’s Watches)

First Automated Date Function

Whenever I think of a Rolex watch, the first one that comes up in my mind is the Rolex Datejust.

This watch was released in 1945 for Rolex their 40th anniversary.

The Rolex Datejust stood out from all other watches for a couple of things, it was self-winding, water-resistant, and it had an automated date function displayed at the 3-hour mark.

The date would change every day at midnight without the need of the owner to remember to change it.

At the time, Rolex was known for making watches connected to a specific activity (tool) as their Submariner was made for divers, and their Daytona model was made for racing drivers.

The Datejust didn’t just tick one box; it was made for everyone that would wear it daily.

The day the Datejust was released, it was only available in 18-karat yellow gold.

It was fitted with a new style bracelet Rolex had designed, called the “Jubilee” this bracelet has grown to be an icon for many Rolex watches.

Rolex designed the Datejust with an oyster case; this was also written on the dial.

Nowadays, all Rolex models are water-resistant and have “Oyster-Perpetual” written on the dial to show that.

The Rolex Datejust (Source: Rolex)

Twin-Lock Crown System

The Rolex Oyster used a screw-down winding crown to make itself waterproof.

Although this worked for the Rolex watches that were produced after the Rolex Oyster.

That changed in 1953 with the introduction of the Rolex Submariner.

Rolex tested the watch in corporation with the Institute for Deep Sea Research in Cannes.

They documented 132 successful dives ranging from 12 to 60 meters deep.

Some dives were taken with the crown pulled out to the time setting position, and still, there was no sign of water inside the watch.

To conclude its capabilities, the watch was taken to a depth of 120 meters below the surface for over an hour.

After arriving at the surface, no sign of leakage was detected, while the watch was 20 meters below its rated depth.

The Rolex brand achieved this record with a new twin-lock crown system.

They invented the twin-lock crown with two O-ring gaskets made out of a synthetic material rather than the single metal gasket from the previous Rolex Oyster models.

This new mechanism created two sealed zones.

It created one O-ring gasket under the crown, which kept moisture outside; the second O-ring (therefore the name Twin-lock) was located inside the tube surrounding the winding system to keep water out even when the crown was unscrewed.

This Twin-lock system is still used on plenty of Rolex models today.

Rolex Twin-Lock System (Source: Rolex Forums)

Dual Timezone Watch

In the 1950s, Rolex got a request from the airline Pan Am.

Pan Am wanted a watch that could display dual timezones to help their pilots during trans-Atlantic flights.

Rolex answered with the Rolex GMT-Master.

In 1954 Rolex introduced the GMT-Master with the reference 6542.

The watch had two significant innovations.

The first was the date magnifying glass, also known as the “cyclops”. This was a new feature before being introduced in 1953 on the Datejust.

The second was the dual time zone complication.

This dual time zone was handy for pilots and those travelling across different time zones.

The ability to track local or home time was convenient for commercial pilots.

The watch was able to accomplish showing dual timezones due to a 24-hour hand that completed one full rotation every 24 hours and the bi-directional bezel, which could be rotated to allow the wearer to see the home time once they had adjusted their watch to the local time they had flown to.

Although most people underappreciate the Rolex GMT-Master due to the fact that it was released in the same year as the Submariner.

But there is no doubt that this had an impact on the whole watch industry and still is a fantastic innovation by Rolex.

Rolex GMT-Master Reffrence 6542 (Source: Xupes)

Easylink And Glidelock Systems

The last inventions that I want to mention aren’t the most spectacular but for sure the most convenient for the wearer of a Rolex watch.

First is the Easylink system.

This 5mm extension system on the bracelet allows the wearer to increase or reduce the size of the bracelet by 5mm.

The invention was created due to the fact that the wrist shrinks or swells in different conditions.

To ensure that the watch could be worn comfortably at all times, Rolex came up with this clever link to adjust the bracelet without requiring tools.

Secondly, we have the Glidelock system.

You can call this the multiple Easylink system.

The Glidelock system allows the wearer to adjust the size of the bracelet by 2mm increments up to 20mm on the Submariner and Sea-Dweller.

On the Rolex Deepsea, you can adjust the bracelet up to 26mm using the Glidelock system.


So there you have it, the five greatest innovations that Rolex has created in over 100 years.

Looking at them all you can conclude that Rolex is one of the greatest innovators when it comes to watchmaking.

The company has hundreds of patents on its name and won’t stop getting more of those, since they research more advanced innovations daily.


The guy who loves to chat about watches.

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