In the early 1950s, Rolex developed professional watches that served as tools and whose functions went far beyond simply telling the time. These watches were intended for professional activities, such as deep-sea diving, aviation, mountain climbing and scientific exploration. The watches generated lasting enthusiasm and became known as the watches of achievers.
In 1953, Sir John Hunt’s expedition, in which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, was equipped with Oyster Perpetuals.
Inspired by knowledge gained from this fascinating chapter of human adventure, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer, launched in 1953 to celebrate the victorious ascent of Everest, immediately acquired iconic status.
Launched in 1953, the Submariner was the first divers’ watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres (330 feet). Its rotatable bezel allows divers to read their immersion time.
We invented the Submariner to work perfectly 660 feet under the sea. It seems to work pretty well at any level.
The first transcontinental flights
As intercontinental travel developed in the 1950s, airliners began to fly swiftly across several successive time zones. For the first time it became important to know the time in various places in the world, simultaneously. It was the dawn of the jet age, and Rolex responded with a watch to match the spirit of the times.
The GMT-Master was developed to meet the specific needs of airline pilots. It became the official watch of several airlines, among them the famous Pan American World Airways, better known as Pan Am. Its most distinguishing visual feature was the two-tone bezel which marked daytime from nighttime hours.
In 1956, the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date made its debut. Available only in 18 ct gold or platinum, it was the first wristwatch to display the date and day of the week spelt out in full in a window on the dial. With the President bracelet, originally created specially for it, the Day-Date continues to be the watch par excellence of influential people.
Rolex watches have long been associated with those who have, over time, guided the destiny of the world. No matter their vision, their domain of excellence, or their achievements, the one thing these exceptional men and women have in common is often their watch: the Day-Date.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world's pre-eminent particle physics laboratory, is at the cutting edge of scientific research into the fundamental secrets of the universe. It hosts the world's highest-energy particle accelerator. In the 1950s, CERN was also one of the first scientific institutions to confirm that the Milgauss watch could indeed resist magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss.
The Milgauss, introduced in 1956, was designed to meet the demands of the scientific community and is capable of withstanding magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss. The major innovation at the heart of the Milgauss' incredible resistance to magnetic interferences is the shield protecting the movement.
Made of ferromagnetic alloys selected by Rolex, it consists of two components, one screwed to the movement and the other to the Oyster case. After rigorous testing by CERN engineers, it earned a reputation as the perfect magnetic shield.
The Lady-Datejust was the first ladies’ version of the Rolex date chronometer, carrying its heritage of timeless elegance and functionality in a smaller size perfectly suited to a lady’s wrist.
In the 1950s, Rolex carried out rigorous testing of an experimental watch, called “Deep Sea Special”. Using the knowledge gained from the making of the ﬁrst two models, the third Deep Sea Special was created to withstand the most extreme conditions - the Challenger Deep portion of the Mariana Trench.
In 1960, the experimental bathyscaphe, the Trieste, successfully descended into the Mariana Trench, the deepest known depression on the Earth's surface. With Lieutenant Don Walsh at the helm, accompanied by Jacques Piccard, the Trieste accomplished a feat so incredible that it forever raised the bar for deep-ocean exploration.
Emerging from 10,916 metres (37,800 feet), the bathyscaphe was in perfect working order – as was the Rolex Deep Sea Special experimental watch that had been attached to the outside during the historic dive.
Daytona Beach, Florida. Long, flat and firm, with hard-packed sand, the beach helped the city of Daytona to forge a legend as the world capital of speed. It boasts 14 world land speed records set between 1904 and 1935, five of them by Rolex-wearer Sir Malcolm Campbell. Over the years, the sand deteriorated. By 1959, a “Super Speedway” was built: the Daytona International Speedway.
This new amphitheatre of motor racing quickly attracted what was to become one of the most prestigious endurance car races in the world alongside the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Although the surface is no longer sand, Daytona still hosts a legendary test of man and machine: the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Launched in 1963 as a new-generation chronograph, the Cosmograph soon gained the name that became the mark of an icon: Daytona. Designed as the ultimate tool for endurance racing drivers, the Cosmograph Daytona was robust, waterproof and featured a tachymetric scale on the bezel for calculating average speed.
A preferential relationship was established between Rolex and the Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (COMEX), whose divers wore Rolex Sea-Dweller watches while working at great depths. The company, headed by Henri-Germain Delauze, played a pioneering role in deep-sea diving and remains a world-renowned specialist in hyperbaric engineering and underwater work.
The relationship between Rolex and COMEX is as strong as ever today, as demonstrated by the hyperbaric tank developed specially by the Marseille company to test the Rolex Deepsea watches.
1967 saw the launch of the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, waterproof to a depth of 610 metres. To meet the needs of professional deep-sea divers, the case was equipped with a helium escape valve so that, during long decompression phases in hyperbaric chambers, the helium from the gas mixtures used could be released without risking damage to the watch.