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 Perpetual watches.
Inspired by knowledge gained from this fascinating chapter of human adventure, the Explorer, launched in 1953 to celebrate the historic 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.
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.
Designed as a navigation aid for professionals criss-crossing the globe, the GMT-Master 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 night-time hours.
In 1956, the 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 Lady-Datejust was the first ladies’ version of the Rolex date chronometer, carrying its heritage of timeless elegance and functionality in a smaller size.
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.
Deep Sea Special
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.
The experimental watch
The deepest dive
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 Deep Sea Special experimental Rolex watch that had been attached to the outside during the historic dive.
The Cosmograph 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.
1967 saw the launch of the Sea-Dweller, waterproof to a depth of 610 metres (2,000 feet). 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.