Rolex is one of the most secretive, successful and most recognized brands in the world. Earlier this week Rolex did something very unusual.
Rolex opened up the doors to showcase a set of new Rolex movement manufacturing buildings in Bienne, Switzerland, so I thought I would take you on a tour of the new facility, but first I thought I would begin with an overview of all the major Rolex buildings in Switzerland.
Rolex World Headquarters
Today, Rolex is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland but this was not always so. As a matter of fact, Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex headquarters in London, England in 1908, and moved it to Geneva in 1919.
Rolex headquarters is the epicenter of all things Rolex. This Rolex facility houses all the senior executives, as well as the international marketing department, and the Rolex R&D design center.
Rolex Headquarters today in Geneva Switzerland
Rolex Foundry, Case & Bracelet Making Facility
Today, Rolex is a vertically integrated company, which means they produce and manufacture 100% of the components used in their watches. Rolex is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, but has facilities located all over Switzerland.
The photo above shows the Rolex Plan-Les-Quates facility which contains the Rolex foundry where Rolex melts gold, platinum and steel to use in the production of their watches. The photo below shows liquified gold being poured at the Rolex foundry.
Rolex Plan-Les-Quates site today in Geneva Switzerland
Rolex also builds and assembles Oyster cases and bracelets at the Plan-Les-Quates facility.
Rolex Dial and Bezel Facility
The Rolex facility in Chêne-Bourg, Switzerland specializes in dial making as well as making watch hands, bezels and crystals.
Rolex watch cases and bracelets, as well as all parts are made with CNC machines, but all parts are still hand assembled by Rolex trained master watchmakers.
The Rolex facility in Chêne-Bourg workshops also specialize is inserting precious stones onto dials and on bezels as seen below.
Rolex Movement Making Facility
This last week, Rolex completed a new manufacturing facility in Bienne, Switzerland that specializes in making all movements for their watches.
Rolex cases, bracelets and dials have always been made in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as final assembly. Rolex movements have always been made in Bienne, Switzerland. The founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf wrote in his memoirs:
"We want to leave to our factory in Bienne exclusively the production of watch movements, while we ourselves create in Geneva, case models adapted to the refined taste of the Genevans."
Many years ago, Hans Wilsdorf made a partial investment in Aegler, and in 2004 Rolex completely bought-out the Aegeler/Borer family to obtain 100% ownership in Aegler S.A. For more than a century Rolex made all movements in Bienne, and then transported them to Geneva for installation into the final casing.
Rolex is one of the most secretive companies in the world, and today we are in for a real treat, because for the first time in history, Rolex is giving us a glimpse of their world-class facility where all their watch movements are made.
The first photo below shows the extension of the new Rolex manufacturing facility in Bienne, Switzerland, which now consists of over 250,000 cubic meters of space.
Rolex Building 7 Just Completed in 2012 pictured above
All movement parts, from hairsprings to mainplates, are made in Bienne. Rolex does not publish their annual production output, but it is estimated approximately 2000 employees produce 50 million movement components annually–which end up in more than 750,000 Rolex automatic movements assembled per year in Bienne.
[Note: How do we know that Rolex produces more than 750,000 movements annually, if Rolex is a privately-held company that does not publish such numbers? Because the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, is required to publish the exact number of movement (COSC) certificates for each brand, and in 2011, they published Rolex figures at 751,000 COSC movements.]
Before the movements are installed into Rolex cases in Geneva, they first travel to the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, where they are tested for Swiss Chronometer accuracy, and assuming they pass, are award the prestigious C.O.S.C. certification.
This next photo shows the entire Rolex campus located in Bienne, Switzerland, in an industrial section, known as Champs-de-Boujean, with the Jura mountain range seen in the background.
Before we examine the all new extension, let's take a trip back in time to learn about the history of Rolex movement making in Bienne, Switzerland.
Founder of Rolex
Hans Wilsdorf (pictured below) founded Rolex in 1908 in London, England. If you are not familiar with The Hans Wilsdorf Story, you are in for a real treat.
Hans Hilsdorf, Founder of Rolex pictured above in 1905
Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex originally partnered with Aegler (in 1905). Aegler S.A. was located in Bienne, Switzerland, which specialized in making high-quality watch movements. Jean Aegler, founder of Aegler S.A. is pictured below. He passed away in 1891, at which time his son Hermann Aegler took over the family business.
Jean Aegler, Founder of Aegler S.A. is pictured above
Aegler S.A. original movement making headquarters were erected in 1878 and located in Bienne, Switzerland on a hillside that overlooked Bienne's Old Town. The old Aegler manufacturing facility is pictured below in this 1955 photo.
Notice the Rolex signs on the two buildings pictured on the right side of the photos below. The Rolex extension was erected in 1914 by Hermann Aegler. Today these buildings are are officially a Bienne landmark, which represents a significant chapter of Bienne's watchmaking history.
The Aegler/Rolex Bienne Factory is picture above in 1955
Aegler S.A. was founded in 1878 by Jean and Anna Maria Aegler at a time when Bienne was becoming a significant watchmaking capital.
The Aegler/Rolex Bienne Factory is picture above in 1955
Aegler was renowned for making very precise, small watch movements, which is exactly what Hans Wildforf was looking for to place into his Rolex wrist watches.
In the photo below we see a Rolex draftsmen in 1955 at the Aegler facility working on designing the first true "in-house" Rolex movement, known as the Caliber 1500, which was formally introduced in 1957.
The Rolex Caliber 1500 ended up being a work horse movement and was used by Rolex in watches up until 1990. It is fascinating to see that the draftsman had to stand up and draw a movement. The Rolex Caliber 1500 was the first Rolex movement that instantly changed the date. Rolex began replacing the Caliber 1500 in 1977 with the Caliber 3035. The Caliber 3135 Rolex movement eventually began replacing the Caliber 3035 in 1988.
The Aegler/Rolex Bienne Factory is picture above in 1955
For many decades, Aegler grew as Rolex grew and they continued as the primary supplier for Rolex movements. This next rare vintage photo shows Aegler watchmakers making Rolex movements in the Aegler facility in Bienne, Switzeraland.
The Aegler/Rolex Bienne Factory is picture above in 1955
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The First Waterproof Self-Winding Watch
The Development of the Rolex Oyster in 1926 was an incredible horological achievement, but the challenge was it made it more difficult to manually wind the watch because you had to unscrew it first, then wind it, then re-screw the Oyster crown. After Hans Wilsdorf successfully brought the Rolex Oyster to market, he turned his attention to the other Achilles' heel of wrist-watches, and that was the lack of their ability to self-wind themselves.
Inventing the automatic, or perhaps auto-magic, wristwatch which could wind itself represented the dream of the ages in the horological world. For centuries, many famous watchmakers tried to perfect the automatic or self-winding watch, but none were successful. This fascinating Rolex ad from the 1950s tells the story about how Rolex's brilliant chief technical director, M. Emile (Emil) Borer figured out how to perfect Abraham-Louis Perrelet's self-winding watch he invented centuries prior in 1770.
Chief Technical Director
Aegler Workshop. Beil, Switzerland
Emile Borer, (pictured below) the Chief Technical Director of Rolex was mentioned in the ad above, as having been the person at Rolex who is credited with figuring out how to make the automatic movement work correctly by inventing and perfecting the modern rotor system.
Emile was the son-in-law of Jean Aegler. Jean Aegler was the founder of Aegler Workshop, who provided Rolex with all their movements. Emile Borer joined Aegler Workshop as an engineer during World War I, and he soon become responsible for developing new technology. In 1944, Emile Borer became the General Manager of the Aegler Workshop, which remained the primary supplier of Rolex movements until Rolex purchased Aegler Workshop in 2004.
In 1931 Rolex patented the Perpetual rotor which automatically wound the watch, thus eliminating the need to ever wind it again!!! This not only made it more convenient but also more accurate because the wrist watch would never stop automatically winding itself, so long as you wore it.
For those too young to remember, manual-wind wrist watches, required you wind them daily which was an inconvenience for most people, although some people, like train conductors liked it ;-))))))
The watch pictured pictured above and below was made in 1931, and Rolex put an exhibition caseback on it to easily show potential consumers how it worked. As you can see in the photo below there is a rotor that says "Rolex Auto Rotor" which automatically spins clockwise or counter-clockwise just from the movement of your wrist, thus "Automatically" winding the mainspring. In other words, even the slightest movement of your wrist (using gravity) will wind the watch, thus keeping the mainspring at optimum tension.
Rolex based the design of their perpetual rotor system on one that Abraham Louis Perelet developed in 1770, and in the years before Rolex perfected their methodology, there was a company named Harwood that created a self-winding rotor system that only moved clockwise, but had many challenges.
By creating an auto-winding or self-winding wristwatch, Rolex once again revolutionized the watch–and again, Rolex was not the first to explore creating a self-winding watch, but Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex were the first to perfect it, patent, and mass market it successfully.
The patent on the Rolex perpetual eventually ran out in 1948 at which time everybody was free to develop their own automatic rotor systems that used gravity to wind their movements–and they did...
Rolex Movement Making Facility
Earlier this week, Rolex showcased their all-new expansion to the press.
This following photos were all taken on site at Rolex's all-new Building 7 located in Bienne, Switzerland where all the Rolex movements are made.
This all-new structure began construction in 2009. It was designed to be extremely efficient and comfortable. The two photos below show how the skylights flood the building with natural light all-day long.
This next photo (below) shows a super, state-of-the-art robotized storage system, which allows Rolex to store and later recall watch movement parts.
Felix Baumgartner just became the first free-falling human being to break the sound barrier, by leaping from the stratosphere high above New Mexico, from a balloon-lifed capsule.
In doing so he set an all new world record by becoming the first man to jump to earth from high up in the earth's stratosphere at 24 miles up, and he actually flew or moved faster than the speed of sound. He did this on the 65th anniversary ofChuck Yeager's original Speed Of Sound Record.
Felix's mom is pictured below as she looks up at her son as he is attempting to set his world record. A few readers sent in this image pointing out it appears she is wearing a ladies Rolex. Definitely looks like an Oyster bracelet to me.
Below we have a clip from the all-new Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007, where former James Bond actor, George Lazenby tells the story about how he tried so hard to mimic Sean Connery, all the way down to wearing the same Rolex Submariner.
Nobody Does It Better
So who is the best 007 of all time? Some would say Sean Connery, and some would say Roger Moore. Daniel Craig is also superb, with a twist ;-) Here is the Official Trailer for Skyfall, which hits theaters on October 25th, 2012.
San Francisco is in the middle of hosting the America's Cup Sailing Tournament, and Sailing on San Francisco Bay offer some to the best sailing conditions and views on earth.
The Rolex Big Boat Series also takes place annually on San Francisco Bay. The Big Boat Series was established in San Francisco in 1964, and has taken place annually every year since. Rolex became the title sponsor of the Big Boat Series in 2005. Here is a video from the 2011 series.
An Amazing Life with a Rolex Daytona Keeping His Time
The Paul Newman Daytona
Steve McQueenis known as, "The King Of Cool," but it can be argued that the other ultimate cool guy was Paul Newman. As a matter of fact, in 2008, upon Paul Newman's passing, California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger said:
"Paul Newman was the ultimate cool guy who men wanted to be like and women adored. He was an American icon, a brilliant actor, a Renaissance man and a generous but modest philanthropist. He entertained millions in some of Hollywood's most memorable roles ever, and he brightened the lives of many more, especially seriously ill children, through his charitable works. Paul was one of a kind. The beloved film star will be missed by a world of fans and admirers."
This is an amazing story about an amazing man who was a living saint and sinner as well as a dynamic, creative American entrepreneur and a very famous movie star, film director, and race car driver.
Paul Newman ended up being more closely associated to the Rolex Daytona than any other man on earth. This is perhaps due to the fact that in many ways Paul Newman was the living embodiment of the Rolex Daytona, or perhaps it was the other way around? Especially since both are strikingly handsome, timeless, cool, sporty, racy, rugged, mystical, charismatic and sturdy.
Over the years, I have researched and published all my findings on Jake's Rolex World that have to do with the fabled "Paul Newman Daytona." I decided to take all the vast information and photos of Paul Newman and consolidate them into this definitive and thorough article.
In this fascinating article we are also going to explore Paul Newman's legendary status in the collectible Rolex world and specifically, we are going to separate the fact from the fiction once and for all on everything having to do with, "The Paul Newman Daytona." We are also going to explore many other aspects of Paul Newman's amazing career.
The Rolex Daytona is a really interesting watch and its history is filled with irony. When Paul Newman first started wearing his Rolex Daytona in 1972, Rolex could not give them away. It was very common for an, "Exotic Dial Daytona" which today is worth $150,000 to sit on store shelves for years without selling for $300.
The supreme irony is that one of Rolex's least popular models models ended up becoming their most popular. From the early 1990's until 2008, if you walked into an authorized Rolex dealer (AD) and asked to purchase a stainless steel Rolex Daytona, they would laugh and tell you that there was a three year waiting list.
So how did this all change? It is hard to say exactly. It is probably a combination of brilliant marketing on Rolex's behalf as well as happenstance, coupled with the fact that Paul Newman made it as iconic as he was. It is also interesting to note there is a strange correlation between the fact that as soon as Rolex completely stopped advertising the stainless steel Rolex Daytona, sales took off. To the best of my knowledge, Rolex has not advertised the stainless steel Daytona since the late 1960's.
I don't know if it is true, but it has also been argued over the years that Rolex historically has only met 80% of market demand with supply, thus perhaps increasing demand. As I mentioned, I don't know if that is a fact, but it sure does sound good =)
The Paul Newman Daytona
Some people who do not know any better (because they don't read Jake's Rolex World Magazine) think there is a mystery behind why there are models of now vintage Rolex Daytona models that are named, "The Paul Newman Daytona."
The truth is that I solved this mystery years ago, and once again, I put together this definitive article to separate the fact from the fiction–once and for all.
The term, "The Paul Newman Daytona" is a bit of an oxymoron. There really is no "Paul Newman Daytona" per se. The truth is that Paul Newman was a huge Rolex Daytona fan and owned and wore at least 5 different Rolex Daytona Models in his lifetime.
In this first part of the article I will document all of these 5 different Rolex Daytona models in chronological order.
So where did the term, "The Paul Newman Daytona" come from? In 1969 Paul Newman starred in a movie named, "Winning" with his wife, Joanne Woodward along with Robert Wagner.
In the movie, "Winning," Paul Newman played a race car driver and he was so inspired by auto racing, he ended up starting his own career as a race car driver. There was speculation that was later disproven that suggested he wore a Rolex Daytona in the movie "Winning" due to the fact that he wore a stainless steel chronograph wrist watch in the movie.
Some would say the term, "The Paul Newman Daytona" came from overzealous auction houses and vintage Rolex dealers who wanted to charge a premium for selling models of Rolex Daytona models that Paul Newman actually wore and I believe this played into creating and elevating the mystique. The idea is that if Paul Newman wore this watch and was one of the coolest guys in the world, you will also be really cool if you wore the same Rolex Daytona watch.
Ironically, my research led me to Rolex itself as the possible source for publicizing the fact that Paul Newman was a huge Rolex Daytona fan. Apparently at some time in the late 1970s or early 1980s Rolex sponsored the publishing of the following books on Paul Newman's career. The cover on this first book published in French has a publicity photo of Paul Newman from the movie, "Winning."
This second book cover (pictured below) also sponsored by Rolex shows Paul Newman with an exotic dial stainless steel Rolex Daytona on a Fatstrap. This Rolex Daytona model [Reference 6241 or 6239] is a manual wind Daytona and it is perhaps the image that created the phrase, "The Paul Newman Daytona."
Rolex is renowned for their strategic marketing skills, so the obvious question is whether or not Rolex was so adroit that they were able to create this amazing mystique by associating the Rolex Daytona with Paul Newman? Rolex historian, John Brozek actually asked Paul Newman in an interview and Paul Newman said he never had any association with Rolex.
If Rolex created this connection quietly, it makes them brilliant marketing geniuses. The other possibility is that it just happened, and that later on auction houses grabbed the ball and ran with it, which is my best guess.
It is fascinating to realize Paul Newman was deeply inspired by his Rolex Daytona watches and Rolex was equally inspired by Paul Newman wearing their watches–either way, it ended up being a perfectly symbiotic relationship.
Regardless of how it happened, this image is the money-shot:
Paul Newman Daytona #1
Exotic White Dial with Outer Black Dial & Matching sub dials
[Rolex Reference 6239 or 6241: 37mm Manual Wind]
When most people think of, "The Paul Newman Daytona" they think of the exotic dial version as seen below. The reason it is called "the exotic dial" is because it has a black outer track that runs around the edge of the dial that matches the subdials. Many people, including me, think this is the best looking Rolex Daytona ever made.
Note: Just for the record, the watch on the left side of the Jake's Rolex World header (at the top of every page on Jake's Rolex World) is and has always been, the same stainless steel Rolex Daytona with a white dial model Paul Newman is wearing in the photo above.
So what stainless steel with white dial model of Rolex Daytona exactly is Paul Newman wearing in the photos above and below? It is not known for certain, but can only be one of two models. The photo below from Bernhard's collection is a Rolex Daytona Reference 6241 and is most likely very similar to the watch Paul Newman is wearing in the photo above and in the photos below.
The only detail I can't confirm for certain is whether he is wearing the version with the red sub-second indices (pictured below) or the version of the dial with white sub-second in indices? My best guess that he is wearing the model seen below because in the image that is located three images down, where he is wearing a purple racing suit, I believe I can just barely see the red sub-second indices. It also appears that the chronograph push buttons are on slightly longer stems on Paul's actual watch.
The watch in the photo below is NOT of Paul Newman's actual watch. I simply wanted to share this image (below) to give you a frame-or-reference of what Paul Newman's watch would look like close-up.
In my opinion, the combination of red, white and black with stainless steel is amazingly sporty, striking and timeless!!! I also like the minimalist writing on the dial of the watch and think it looks better without the C.O.S.C. designation on the dial. There is an absolute purity to this Rolex Daytona that puts it in a class by itself.
It is interesting to note that Paul Newman only ever wore this watch on a 3-piece military Fatstrap. In other words, I have never seen a photo of him wearing it with a Rolex Oyster or Jubilee bracelet as pictured above.
It is also interesting to note that Paul Newman used to wear his white dialed Daytona quite a bit, and then all of a sudden in the early 1990s it was never seen again? Maybe he lost it or gave it away?
Some people love the look of a Rolex on a Fatstrap while others can't stand it. I personally like it very much and think it gives the watch a unique, cool, retro vibe.
The idea has been put forth that Paul Newman started wearing the black dial Rolex stainless steel Daytona [Reference 6263] before he began wearing this white dialed one, but this is virtually impossible since I discovered a photo of him wearing his white dialed version in 1972 as pictured below with his son. I totally remember those, "Chiquita Banana" t-shirts from my childhood and think I had one, along with my Farah Fawcett poster =)
I would conclude, based upon photographic evidence that he was wearing both Rolex Daytona watches in 1972, so if it is true he started with the black dialed version, he had to acquire and start wearing the white dialed version that same year.
1981 Formula 1 Final Round Director
The United States hosted the final round of the Formula One Season in 1981 in Las Vegas, Nevada which was known as the Caesars Palace Grand Prix and Paul Newman was the race director. Paul is pictured below on October 17, 1981 sporting his trademark stainless steel Rolex with an exotic white dial on a leather wristband.
Historically Rolex has always been extremely secretive and discreet, and no journalists in the past have ever been invited "INSIDE ROLEX" to explore and report on all four Rolex Manufacturing faclities in Switzerland.
In November 2013, this changed when Rolex invited Jake to take an unprecdented journey into the heart of Rolex to learn and report on everything he witnessed and learned.
This Super-Detailed 3 Part Story is a "MUST READ" story for anybody who wants to really understand what really makes Rolex tick.
The Hans Wilsdorf Story: Founder Of Rolex
Rolex is one of the most recognizable brands on earth, but very little has been known about its real history. If you really, really want to understand what makes Rolex tick, I very highly recommend you read the fascinating story of Rolex's amazing founder–Hans Wilsdorf.
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