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Rolex watch Manual or Self Winding?

Updated on May 18, 2015

Which Rolex to Get?

So you are thinking of getting a Rolex. Whether you are a first time buyer or a seasoned Rolex veteran, there are things to consider in terms of what type of Rolex to get.

But first things first. Do you know enough about the Rolex Company?

Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, a young twenty four year old German whose company Wilsdorf & Davies was a distributor of time pieces based in London. It was Wilsdorf’s vision to have a watch worn on the wrist that had many faults, unreliable and not aesthetically attractive to the eye. He took it upon himself to gather small mechanisms with precise movements from a Swiss manufacturing company in Bienne. Wilsdorf wanted to start making wrist watches that not only had the precision to tell the right time but also the luxury to wear it in your hands. Thus he started making wrist watches that had manual winding, wherein the crown of the watch is wound by hand every day to operate the watch continuously. The reason for this is because the power comes from manual winding makes the internal spiral mainspring which turns the gears to move the hands of the watch. When the spring loses energy as the watch runs through the day, the seconds or mechanism behind the watch face will stop moving. Usually, the manual winding will store energy for about two days, allowing the watch to keep running through the night while at rest or stationary.

Three years after embarking on the idea of wrist watches, it is said that Wilsdorf juggledrandom letters in the alphabet butcould not get it to sound right. He kept in mind that the name had to be short, easy to remember and fit the watch dials in the face. But the story goes that while ridingthrough Cheapside,Londonon the upper deck of a horse drawn carriage “a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”

In 1910, Rolex had earned its reputation for quality movements focusing on the movement of chronometric precision and became one of the leading watch companies. It is considered to be the first wrist watch tobe awardedthe Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision granted by the Official Chronometer Certificationof the Bureau Officiel in Switzerland. Four years later, Rolex was given another award, the Class A Precision from the Kew Observatory in Great Britain, previously reserved for marine chronometers stamping it place in the watch industry for its brand’s precision.

Nine years after, Rolex had to move to Geneva, knownfor international watchmaking.In 1920, the company became known as Montres Rolex S.A. Registered in Geneva.

Rolex Oyster, the first manual winding waterproof anddustproof wristwatch was then launched in 1926. It had a sealed case for optimal protection and the Rolex makers took the challenge to prove that this watch was waterproof. They made a youngEnglish swimmer named Mercedes Gleitze wear the Oyster while crossing the English Channel in ten hours. The watch functioned perfectly at the end of the swim. It was in this instance that Wilsdorf recognized the importance of marketing and advertising to gain prestige and publicity.

By 1931, Rolex now energized with the reputable background of precision, waterproof casing and prestige went on to invent andthen patented theperpetual rotor, considered the first self-windingmechanism ever made in the world. Also known as perpetual winding, the automatic watch uses an internal moving weight that winds or rotates when the person moves the arm. This transfers energy to a power reserve that keeps the watch working. Inside a self-winding watch is a semicircular piece that hasa bit of weight and affected by gravity. As you move your wrist, the piece will move because it is almost always pointed toward the ground. As you walk with the arm swinging back and forth, the piece follows the same movement inside the watch. Also known as self-winding or perpetual movement, automatic watches wind themselves using an internal moving weight that winds or rotates when the wearer moves their arm, transferring energy to a power reserve and keeping the watch working.The Rolex self-winding has the mechanism that winds the mainspring to power the watch. In other words, one does not have to wind the crown periodically to keep the watch running.This watch does not need batteries as it is considered clean energy powered by humans. To the watch aficionados, this became the heart of every modern automatic watch, true to its art form and ingenious system.

In 1933, the Oyster by Rolex was used by the crew to fly over Everest over an expedition and was very satisfied with the performance on high altitude surface. Two years after, Rolex set up a living laboratory to fine tune and test the technical performance of the Rolex Oysterself-windingwatch in different settings and in sports, be it in motor racing, aviation, and various expeditions. In 1935, Sir Malcolm Campbell known as the king of speed and one of the fastest drivers in his time gave his stamp of approval when he wore his watch in his various car races using his Bluebird.

The model Rolex Datejustself-winding chronometer watch with a date window in the watch dial was launched in 1945. Rolex chose to use the Jubilee bracelet with fluted bezel to distinguish this as the pillar of the Oyster collection.

Rolex went beyond the function of telling time for aself-winding wristwatch by adding functions that would aid the wearer during their sports and professional activities. Scientific explorations, aviation, mountain climbing and deep sea diving are some of the outdoor activities that were tried and tested with the Rolex.

The year 1953 became a busy year for testing theRolex Oyster Perpetual. In the Sir John Hunt Expedition in 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay reached the Mount Everest summit and celebrated the success by launching the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer that was catapulted to iconic status. The same year launched the first diver’s self-winding watch, the Rolex Submariner. With the rotatable bezel that allows the divers to read the immersion time and a guarantee of waterproof depth of one hundred meters or three hundred thirty feet.

Meanwhile, international flights that would cross several time zones in different parts of the world push Rolex to answer the demand of the jet age time. In 1955, the dual time zone Rolex GMT- Master self-windingwatch with the two tone bezel to mark the daytime from nighttime hours was developed for the airline pilots and became the official watch of several airlines; one of them is Pan American World Airways.

Noting the demand for wristwatches for the ladies in 1954, the firstRolex Oyster Perpetual Ladydateself-winding watch was released, then in 1957 the RolexLady Datejust with the date chronometer in a smaller size to fit the lady’s wrist.

The Rolex OysterPerpetual Day-Date self-winding watch was introduced in 1956. Using a more luxurious material, the eighteen carat gold or platinum with the signature President Bracelet had the date and day of the week spelled out in two windows of the face of the watch along with its number dials. This is considered one of Rolex’s top of the line models and remains in high demand for influential personalities. In the same year, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss self-winding watch made with ferromagnetic alloys that had two components. Its major feature of withstanding magnetic fields of up to one thousand gauss with its shield protection toresist magnetic interference. Tested by European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN engineers, the Milagauss was classified as a perfect magnetic shield and able to meet the demands of the scientific community.

After the death of HansWilsdorf on July 1960, Andre Heiniger took over the company and continued the Rolex legacy.

The Rolex CosmographDaytona self-windingwatch was in1963 as a new generation chronograph designed for racing drivers and baptized in the iconic name Daytona. It is made to be sturdy, waterproof, and robust and has a featured tachymetric scale on the bezel for calculating average speed.

Four years after in 1967, the Rolex Sea Dwellerself-winding watch with helium escape valve in its case for the long decompression phases in hyperbaric chambers. It became the choice of professional deep sea divers because the helium from the gas mixtures during decompression was no risk to damage the watch along with its waterproof guarantee of six hundred ten meters.

In 1971, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer IIself-windingwatch with a twenty four hour hand which is valuable to distinguish night from day when one is beneath ground. Seven years after, theRolex Sea Dweller 4000 self-winding watch was launched in 1978 with a waterproof depth of one thousand two hundred twenty meters.

After more than a decade, in 1992 two watch models were launched. TheRolex Pearlmaster which is an updated Lady Datejust. Rolex involved itself with yachting and became sponsor to many renowned offshore races. Thus the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht- Master self-winding watch was launched in three sizes to fit different wrist bands.

In 2007, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II regatta chronographself-winding watch was launched as the first watch with a programmable countdown with mechanical memory. The innovation lies in the rotable ring command bezel that allows an interaction of the movement and the case giving the yachtsmen the signal when the line is crossed after the starting gun.

The next year 2008, the Rolex Deepseaself-winding watch for deep sea exploration with a technical innovation where the ring lock system allows the watch to withstand water pressure as heavy as the weight of three tons crystal.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky Dweller self-winding watch was launched in 2012 for world travelers who rely on dual time zones with an annual calendar that needs only one date adjustment in a year. In the same year, the Rolex OysterPerpetual Deepsea Challengeself-winding watch was presented to the public as an experimental diving watch. It is certified twelve thousand meterswaterproof and built to resist extreme pressures in the deepest reaches of the oceans, setting the record for this watch to be the deepest diving watch in the world.

These are important rules to follow when one needs to maintain a Rolex self-wind watch:

  • Place the watch on a flat stationary surface to reduce the risk of a Rolex self-winding watches to slip from your fingers or accidentally fall.
  • Hold on to the crown and slowlyunscrew it to loosen from the watch. Turn the crown counterclockwise until you feel it release from the watch body. You will notice it will pop out slightly from the side of the watch.
  • Wind your Rolex by using your thumb and index finger to slowly turn the crown clockwise 360 degrees or a full rotation. You have to do this at least 30 to 40 times to fully wind the Rolex watch. If you do this a few time, the watch will not fully wound. Do not worry to overwind a Rolex as there is a device built in to prevent this.
  • Screw back the crown into the body of the Rolex by returning to its normal position. Gently pushing the crown towards the watch and screw itback by turning it clockwise. Your Rolex watch is now wound.
  • If you've wound your watch and it doesn't immediately start working, leave it alone for a little while or you can wear the watch in your wrist and rotate it back and forth. It may need a little motion for the watch to start working.
  • When finished with the manual winding, wear the watch and move around. A Rolex watch that stays motionless without movement for forty eight hourswill not wind by itself and will need to be manually wound to restart. It is best to just wear your Rolex on if you do not want to manually wind it.
  • Ensure you send your watch for repair in a certified Rolex Service Center if it still does not work. By taking your Rolex self-wind watch to a local certified and authorized dealer, the person can properly assess the watch. If it is cannot be fixed, the dealer will take care of shipping your Rolex to a factory in Switzerland for repairs.


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      What a neat story about how the company got its name. Thoroughly enjoyed. I'm not sure I could be trusted with a manual watch, but then again let's just say I'm not exactly in the market for a Rolex. Good information nonetheless!


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