Whether you seek adventure at the deepest depths of the oceans or at the highest peaks of the world, there is a Rolex watch for you. Each watch produced by Rolex reflects more than a century of innovation and refinement in engineering, design and functionality. The spirit of Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex, inspires constant progress. He dedicated his life to creating wristwatches so precise and reliable that explorers depended on them, whether at the top of mountains, on the high seas, in polar ice or in the heat and dust of deserts. This was vividly demonstrated by Mercedes Gleitze as she became the first English woman to swim across the English Channel in 1927, with the world’s first waterproof watch, the Rolex Oyster.
In 1953, Rolex went one better and introduced the Oyster Perpetual Submariner, the first divers’ wristwatch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres (330 feet). In that same year, Rolex also created the watch of reference for mountaineers, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer, with the feedback received from explorers who were equipped with Rolex watches during their expeditions over the years. The Oyster case has kept pace with the times, becoming the paragon of robustness that it is today. Here, we explore four of the most iconic Rolex timepieces for the intrepid adventurer.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
As early as the 1930s, Rolex had begun to equip expeditions to the Himalayas with Oyster watches. The purpose was to observe how the watches would behave in the extreme conditions at high altitude. This pioneering move illustrated the company’s ambition to use the world as a laboratory, testing its watches in real conditions in order to continually improve them. The feedback that Rolex received from the members of these different expeditions therefore had a direct influence on the evolution of its watches, making them more precise and robust. One such watch was the Oyster Perpetual Explorer that debuted in 1953.
Just as a watch’s movement is propelled by the motions of the wearer, watchmaking techniques advanced thanks to the explorers’ experiences, and Rolex timepieces have gone on to accompany many more voyages of discovery to the remotest areas of our planet. Polar explorer Henry Georges “Gino” Watkins took several Oyster Perpetual watches with him on an expedition along the coast of Greenland between 1930 and 1931. After the trip, he told Rolex of his admiration for these watches, which had been submerged several times along the way and yet continued to work perfectly.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer in Oystersteel and 18 ct yellow gold with a distinctive black dial and an Oyster bracelet
Introduced earlier this year, this new-generation Explorer is notably released in a yellow Rolesor version (combining Oystersteel and 18 ct yellow gold). The black dial, now lacquered, bears the index hour markers and emblematic 3, 6 and 9 numerals that are the cornerstones of the model’s personality, evoking the determination and spirit of adventure that give rise to great achievements. Its 36 mm case, identical to that of the original model released in 1953, is a nod to an era when the world’s highest peaks were still shrouded in mystery and as yet unconquered.
At the heart of the contemporary Explorer beats calibre 3230, unveiled in 2020. A supreme example of Rolex expertise in mechanical watchmaking, this movement incorporates the exclusive Chronergy escapement and the blue Parachrom hairspring, and offers a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Precise and resistant to shocks, temperature variations and magnetic fields, calibre 3230 is the result of a culture of technical innovation spanning almost a century that is focused on a perpetual quest to improve chronometric performance and robustness.
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Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea
Launched in 2008, the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea meets the exacting requirements of professional divers in terms of resistance to underwater pressure, precision and reliability, while featuring the aesthetic DNA and intrinsic characteristics of the watches in the Oyster Perpetual collection. Amongst its definitive characteristics is the helium escape valve, patented by Rolex in 1967. This safety valve allows excess pressure built up inside the watch case to escape during a diver’s decompression phase in a hyperbaric chamber, without compromising the waterproofness of the watch. The Rolex Deepsea is fitted on the three-piece link Oyster bracelet featuring the Rolex Glidelock fine-adjustment system, developed and patented by the brand. This inventive toothed mechanism, located under the clasp cover, enables fine adjustment of the bracelet length, without tools. The Rolex Glidelock on the Oyster bracelet has 10 notches of approximately 2 mm each, allowing the bracelet length to be adjusted easily up to some 20 mm. The watch can therefore be worn over a diving suit up to 3 mm thick. The Oyster bracelet of the Rolex Deepsea is additionally equipped with the Fliplock extension link, whose fold-out links enable the bracelet to be extended by approximately 26 mm, again without the use of tools. Together, the two extension systems allow the watch to be worn over a diving suit up to 7 mm thick.
Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea in Oystersteel with a Cerachrom bezel insert in black ceramic and an Oyster bracelet
The Rolex Deepsea is the ultimate manifestation of Rolex’s leadership in divers’ watches and the result of decades of collaboration with diving professionals. The Rolex Deepsea pays tribute to the brand’s legacy beneath the waves. The extraordinary characteristics of the watch, complete with unparalleled waterproofness, exacting precision and extreme reliability will suit the man who is looking for a timepiece that will exceeds even his own expectation in performance.
A new-generation divers’ watch, the Rolex Deepsea benefits from the Ringlock system, a case architecture developed and patented by Rolex that allows it to resist the colossal pressure exerted by water at the depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet), equivalent to a weight of approximately three tonnes on the crystal. In deep-sea diving, absolute reliability and security are of the essence. Each Rolex Deepsea must therefore undergo the necessary waterproofness tests required for divers’ watches. To this end, each watch is individually tested to meet this requirement in a specially built hyperbaric tank in Geneva, with an additional safety margin of 25 per cent.
The Rolex Deepsea is equipped with calibre 3235, a self-winding mechanical movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. A consummate demonstration of technology, this movement carries a number of patents. It distinguishes itself with its +2/-2 per day accuracy rating, and its approximately 70-hour power reserve. These are the result of key Rolex innovations such as the paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers, Chronergy escapement and the Perpetual rotor.
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Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller
An elegant watch for world travellers, the Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller is a distinctive timepiece of revolutionary design that blends technological sophistication and ease of use, especially for those who regularly travel to multiple destinations to explore new opportunities.
A technological masterpiece with many patent applications filed over the course of its development, the Sky-Dweller is one of the most innovative watches in the world. It combines a second time zone display with an annual calendar in a way that is unique. This annual calendar is named Saros, after the astronomical phenomenon, and its ease of use is guaranteed by a mechanism of interaction between the rotatable bezel, the winding crown and the movement: the Ring Command system, which allows the user to select the watch’s functions one-by-one and to set them easily, quickly and securely.
The design of the Ring Command system demanded state-of-the-art watchmaking and micromechanical expertise. At the heart of this system are a double cam and levers that engage various gear trains inside the movement according to the function selected. One of these cams is activated by pulling out the winding crown; the other is driven by rotating the bezel to activate setting wheels located in the middle case of the watch.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller in Oystersteel and 18 ct white gold with an intense white dial and an Oyster bracelet
A boon for globetrotters, the Sky-Dweller has two impressive characteristics: displaying the time in two time zones simultaneously and the revolutionary Saros annual calendar. The reference time, in 24-hour format, is shown via an off-centre disc, and the local time is read using conventional centre hands.
The Saros annual calendar is linked to the local time, and the date change is instantaneous; the date can be freely adjusted backwards and forwards. The Saros annual calendar automatically differentiates between 30- and 31-day months. It is operated by a patented mechanism and stands out for its innovative display: the months of the year are indicated in 12 apertures around the circumference of the dial, with the current month marked in red. This 42 mm Sky-Dweller comes in Oystersteel and 18 ct white gold, and is equipped with calibre 9001, a self-winding mechanical movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. With a number of patent applications filed over the course of its development, this movement is one of the most complex developed by the brand. Its architecture, manufacturing and innovative features make it exceptionally precise and reliable.
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Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II
Created in 2007, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II is a unique regatta chronograph dedicated to both experienced sailors and yachting enthusiasts. Developed by Rolex, the complication is designed for the demands of regatta racing. As in any contest of speed, precision and synchronisation are of the essence in a regatta. The Yacht-Master II is equipped with a countdown that can be programmed from 10 to 1 minutes via the Ring Command bezel, allowing the wearer to precisely time and follow each race’s specific official starting procedure, which generally unfolds in three stages, marked by sound and visual signals.
The bidirectional rotatable bezel on the Yacht-Master II in Oystersteel is equipped with a monobloc Cerachrom insert in blue ceramic, patented by Rolex. This insert is made of an extremely hard, virtually scratchproof ceramic whose colour is unaffected by ultraviolet rays. In addition, thanks to its chemical composition, the high-tech ceramic is inert and will not corrode. The numerals and inscriptions are moulded in the ceramic and coloured with gold or platinum using a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) process.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II in Oystersteel with an Oyster bracelet and a bidirectional rotatable bezel with a blue Cerachrom insert
The Yacht-Master II will thrill anyone who loves cutting across the open seas on a sailing vessel powered by the wind and human ingenuity. The watch features its own ingenious touch in its programmable timer capable of “memorising” specific time settings. Even when the countdown has begun, it can be synchronised on the go to match any changes in the official countdown as required. For those familiar with split-seconds chronographs – this regatta inspired complication is analogous with the “fly-back” reset function of the seconds hand, and adjustment of the countdown minute hand to the nearest minute.
The icing on the cake is that this unique nautical complication is easy to use, operated as it is via the Ring Command, a system of interaction between the bezel, the winding crown and the movement, developed and patented by Rolex. This is a technical feat made possible by Rolex’s in-house mastery of the entire watch design and manufacturing process, from the case to the movement.
Driving the Yacht-Master II is the Superlative Chronometer certified calibre 4161, the result of more than 35,000 hours of development and comprising 360 components. Some of these have been grown through a microfabrication technology entirely mastered in-house by Rolex. The movement is fitted with a column wheel and vertical clutch for an instantaneous and extremely precise chronograph start.
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