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In Depth

Our 100 Year Relationship With Rolex

By Sarah Jayne Potter | 5 minute read

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The history of Rolex and Watches of Switzerland Group

In 1905, Rolex’s German-born British founder Hans Wilsdorf, founded a company in London to produce elegant, reliable wristwatches. He was intent on choosing a universally memorable name for his new venture – a prophetic decision for a company that would go on to become world-renowned. By 1910, Rolex had created the first watch ever to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, and acquired a Class A precision certificate four years later. It relocated to Geneva in 1919, and in the same year, we became the first authorised UK stockist of Rolex within Nothern Goldsmiths, on the corner of Blackett Street, Newcastle. By 1929, Rolex had made the first waterproof timepiece and, in 1931, invented and patented the first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual motor. It’s no surprise, then, that Rolex is dubbed ‘the watch of achievers’. A four-sided golden Rolex clock was installed above our Blackett Street and Westgate Road Goldsmiths stores in Newcastle in 1932. A beautiful golden figure of Venus surmounts both, her outstretched arms intended to symbolise progress. The former of these landmarks is still popular as a romantic place to propose to a loved one and has become known as the ‘kissing clock’ and we are proud to still be trading in the very same site today.

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First Class A Certificate, 1914

We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of our partnership with Rolex with a limited-edition timepiece. Just 70 examples of the 41mm Datejust, and 30 of the 36mm are available. Each model features a rolesor bracelet in steel and yellow gold, a fluted gold bezel and a diamond-dot dial in an elegant design that’s suitably worthy of one of the most eminent watchmakers in history. Two different engravings are available on the case back: an illustration of our Northern Goldsmiths store in Newcastle, or The Watches of Switzerland Group logo – and our CEO, Brian Duffy, will be signing each timepiece’s unique certificate. We’re pleased to be offering a gift with every purchase too: a choice of an engraved handbag mirror or cufflinks. The watch represents more than simply a meaningful tribute to our history – £3,000 from the proceeds of each piece will be donated to The Prince’s Trust, a charity we support at the Watches of Switzerland Group, enabling young people to achieve their dreams.

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First Oyster Perpetual, 1931

The Princes Trust Collaboration

We are truly delighted to be partnered with The Prince’s Trust. Founded in 1976 by HRH The Prince of Wales, the charity supports young people aged 11 to 30 across the UK to develop the skills and confidence they need to live, learn and earn. Too many young people are growing up feeling worthless, without family support, crippled with mental health issues, facing homelessness and with no one to believe in them. Our sale of limited-edition Rolex timepieces marks a new chapter in the partnership, and will generate approximately £300,000 boost for The Prince’s Trust’s early intervention education programmes across the country. Meanwhile, our sister brand Mappin & Webb is thrilled to be a national sponsor for the Young Ambassador Award, which recognises and promotes young people who are exceptional, and inspirational advocates for The Trust. Among the charity’s many celebrity ambassadors is British actor Idris Elba, who was supported by The Trust in the 1980s with a grant to attend drama school.

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The Rolex Centenary Event

On 25 April, we celebrated a century of partnership with Rolex, from 1919 to 2019, with an event at Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, close to where it all began in Newcastle 100 years ago. Guests enjoyed drinks and dinner while being treated to a performance from British soul and R&B singer Lemar. The Millennium Bridge was spectacularly illuminated in green for the event and fireworks lit up the quayside. The evening was hosted by our CEO, Brian Duffy, and The Prince’s Trust’s award-winning Young Ambassador 2018, Tom Rebair, gave a captivating presentation about the charity’s work. The event marked the launch of our limited edition Rolex celebratory centenary models. Guests had the opportunity to view the limited-edition watches and a number of gem-set models while enjoying dessert and cocktails, and returned home with commemorative gifts and memories of what was undoubtedly an unforgettable evening.

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What else can we expect from Rolex in 2019?

If you’re a fan of all things nautical, the latest iteration of the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master – now housed in a 42mm, 18-carat white-gold case – will certainly float your boat. Waterproof to 100m, it features a bi-directional rotatable 60-minute graduated bezel with a matt-black Cerachrom ceramic insert, a black dial with luminous blue Chromalight details, and a screw-down winding crown that benefits from the Triplock triple-waterproofness system. It’s presented on Rolex’s sophisticated new Oysterflex bracelet, which is highly resistant to environmental effects, while its 18-carat white gold Oysterlock safety clasp prevents accidental opening. It’s powered by the new-generation Rolex 3235 calibre, which has a reserve of approximately 70 hours. A highly precise self-winding mechanical movement, it incorporates the Rolex’s anti-magnetic Chronergy escapement. There’s no doubt that the impressive interior of this watch is more than a match for its sleek exterior.

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Rolex’s Datejust collection has a lengthy history, and the elegant and intricately designed new Datejust 31 in Everose Rolesor is equipped with all the quintessential Datejust characteristics of old. The model is decidedly feminine, from its rosé-coloured dial set with diamonds and the trademark fluted bezel to the supple, five-piece link Jubilee bracelet that has been a feature since 1945. The enhancement of the date aperture is another classic inclusion – back in 1953, the Datejust was the first to include the Cyclops lens. This new edition is protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and the Twinlock doublewaterproofness system, making it water-resistant to 100m. Inside ticks Rolex’s self-winding mechanical movement, the calibre 2236, which is fitted with a highly precise, anti-magnetic Syloxi silicon hairspring and has an approximate 55-hour power reserve.

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