Why Are Rolex Watches So Expensive

Rolex is one of the oldest watch brands available, and one of the most popular in the world. Today, these Swiss luxury watches have come to represent success, status, dependability, and above all quality. But is it really worth the high-end price tag or is it just part of the mystical allure that surrounds the brand? We’ll answer these questions for you and more in this article.

Table of contents

Reasons Why Rolex Watches are so Expensive

1. Designing Costs Are High

The process of watchmaking is a painstakingly scrupulous procedure that can be extremely taxing and requires great patience and dedication. It is also very expensive.

A Rolex watch has an extremely high cost in-house development expenses for both the design and the expert craftsmanship. Having the movement designs developed and put together can be quite expensive.

Rolex has its own research and development departments run by experts in the watch trade. They employ the most up to date, innovative equipment and tools available. Furthermore, they are constantly dreaming up new manufacturing techniques to outdo and remain far ahead of their rivals.

And there’s more. Rolex makes it a point to only use the most knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced scientists in their laboratories. In this manner they guarantee that they can provide the ultimate research on top quality lubricants and oils to keep their machines functioning first rate.

There’s also a test room where the case for Rolex watches, bracket, and movement are thoroughly tested. Perhaps they cannot achieve perfection, but Rolex is never going to stop trying. There’s yet another room where they research materials.

2. Use 9041 Stainless Steel

A classic watch exquisitely designed with unequalled perfection is what gives Rolex watches the upper hand over their competitors. One of the ways in which they achieve this is by making use of the 904L stainless steel. You might not think this is all that important, but think again. This steel is impressive, more polished looking and stronger than the cheaper, regular 316L steel normally used by other watchmakers.

The 904L stainless steel was introduced to the public in 2003 under the name of Corrosion-Resistant Super Alloy. Moreover, the machines and tools that created the 904L stainless steel are not the same ones used today. These machines are aways the latest, up to the minute ones available. Thus, the company doesn’t use the same tools and machines to create the steel over and over again.

3. Stand the Test of Time

If you’re looking for a watch that can truly endure any type of abuse, you’ll never be able to find anything better than a Rolex, no matter how hard you search. For other watches, any change in temperature, altitude, humidity, and movement would be the death knell. Not for a Rolex luxury watch though.

4.  Movements Assembled By Hand

Naturally, you can assume that Rolex uses robots to make their watches, but they are only given simple tasks to perform, such as sorting, filing, and cataloging. Humans do the more complicated jobs like assembling bracelets and watch movements. Every single watch is double checked and tested by human hands to make absolutely certain they are of high quality. When you consider this, you realize that you really can’t put a price tag on such diligence and single-minded dedication.

5. Quality Driven

Every detail of the Rolex production process is quality controlled. They also melt down precious metals such as silver and gold themselves, that are then used in their products.

6. Using Precious Materials

Rolex further has a large team of gemologists. These are experts who specialize in incorporating precious materials like diamonds and gold into Rolex watches. What’s more, the company also enlists the services of conventional jewelers to assist them in handpicking and hand setting diamonds and other precious stones.

Amazingly, there’s still more. Rolex is probably the only watchmaker that creates timepieces made out of real gold rather than paint.

7. Water Resistance

Rolex employs some materials that are able to tolerate water depths of up to 300M. The company uses two testing methods to ensure these water levels. First, their diver watches are tested under pressurized tanks prior to being tested in water. The same methods are used to test Rolex Deep Sea watches.

All Rolex Oyster case watches are strictly tested for water resistance. The way that this is done by watch manufactures is by the use of an air-pressure tank. A watch is put into a small air filled chamber, and if the pressure changes, it is an indication that air leaked into the case. Every single Rolex Oyster, as well as Oyster dive watches receives this air pressure treatment. Actually, each case is tested both before and after a movement and dial are put inside.

The treatment for dive watches is completely different. Once a dive watch has been pressure tested, Rolex tests the water resistance of each Rolex Submariner and Deep Sea watch in water. This is a test that isn’t normally done by watchmakers. Submariner watches are put inside of large tubes full of water to be certain that they are water resistant to 300 meters. This test is far from simple, as Rolex uses a complicated system for determining if water entered the case.

Once the watches are out of the tank, they are then heated and a drop of cold water put onto the crystal to determine if condensation forms. An optical sensor is then employed to scan them for any water.

8. Flawless

Every single watch that leaves the Rolex factory is critically examined with the highest level of scrutiny for any indications of defects, no matter how small of insignificant they may seem. Each watch is then given a unique serial number and photographed and categorized.

9. Value

As long as it remains in good shape, you can be certain that your Rolex watch will steadily increase in value. With Rolex being such a great investment option, these watches have become very popular among the rich and famous, and also those who want to gain a bit of prestige.

10. Year to Make

It takes a year to make one Rolex watch. While Rolex may produce over a million watches a year, there are absolutely no shortcuts taken in the manufacturing process. Rolex is primarily interested in efficiency and high quality.

11. Virtually Everything Made In-House

Considering all of the above, it probably doesn’t shock you to learn that Rolex makes virtually everything in-house. Currently, the only major parts that Rolex doesn’t make for all of their watches are the synthetic sapphire crystals and many of the dial hands.

An excellent example of their exacting standards is how Rolex makes each of their watch dials. All of the dials are made in-house, and one of the most awesome things about this process is that all of their applied hour markers are set individually by hand. Other brands normally have machines perform this procedure, but Rolex learned that a human eye is better trained to notice problems. So individual hour markers are applied and riveted by hand. Dials are dropped from 20 cm up in the air to be certain that none of the hour markers fall out. This is a deliberate and time consuming process, and it is part of the many procedures of making watches at Rolex that is done by a skilled human.

12. Security

Besides there being an incredible amount of precious metals and jewels around, Rolex also has many completed watches which are extremely valuable and require safekeeping. To this end, Rolex uses a series of exceedingly painstaking security checks, plus they have a high-tech safe that is situated several floors underground.

Furthermore, watch assembly employees have a system on their desks that requires their ID badge be docked at all times once it has been identified with a fingerprint scan. Absolutely everything is scanned and cataloged. To impress upon you even more the lengths to which Rolex will go, each Rolex watch movement has a unique serial number that is photographed and matched with a case that also has another one of a kind serial number. This is so that when the watch is serviced, a watchmaker can easily learn everything he needs to know about it.

And finally, gaining access to the Rolex safe necessitates entering a bank vault door and passing through an iris scanner that identifies you by your eyes. When Rolex parts are moved from one location to another, they travel in unmarked, probably heavily armored, trucks.

History of the Rolex

The Rolex brand was first created in London in 1905, but moved to Switzerland after WWI. Henceforth, Rolex has continued improving without stopping, providing richly elegant watches for those fortunate enough to be able to purchase them.

It cannot be stressed enough that Rolex is a futuristic, forward-moving company with over 500 patents to its credit. And while all Rolex watches are basically hand-assembled, some machinery is still used during the manufacturing process. However, Rolex produces their own gold, cases, bracelets, dials, bezels, and movements in-house, to assure the highest efficiency and quality.

History of the Rolex Submariner

For over 60 years the Rolex Submariner has been one of the highest in demand watches available. With the passage of time, the Submariner has been improved and updated to give it a more modern design, yet it still maintains its signature Submariner look. This amazing watch has a lengthy and fascinating history, which can further explain its distinctiveness, high quality and expensive price tag.

The Submariner was made for the exclusive purpose of being a diver’s watch. Following strenuous testing and development, Rolex was prepared to test their watch in front of the public in September 1953. Swiss scientist, Auguste Piccard, boarded the Bathyscaphe FNRS-2 vessel and descended more than 3,000 meters into the ocean. A specially made Rolex was fastened to the outside of the vessel. Upon emerging, the watch was still ticking, and the case had effectively kept the ocean water from leaking inside.

This stunt caught the public’s attention, so when Rolex introduced the Submariner at the 1954 Basel Fair, it became an instant hit.

Once the commotion subsided, the brand released two new versions of the Rolex Submariner in 1955. The first was akin to the first Submariner, but reference 6200 was quite different, sporting a thicker, differently shaped case, the A296 caliber, and greater water resistance.

In 1959, Rolex brought forth the Submariner reference 5512. The case was now 40mm instead of the regular 36mm and the hour hand had now become their signature “Mercedes” hour hand. Furthermore, this was the first Submariner to be a certified chronometer and to have protective crown guards. The new Submariners of today still have the protective crown guards.

It so happened that in the 1960s, divers developed an issue with their Rolex Submariners. Divers were now able to dive farther than ever before using decompression chambers. Secure within these chambers, the divers inhaled a combination of helium and oxygen gases. The helium, however, penetrated the watch case. While the pressure in the chamber was decreasing, the watch tried to release the helium gases. But the gases couldn’t escape quickly enough, and the result was that the watch crystal popped off due to the pressure.

Rolex had the solution. They went ahead and designed and patented the first helium release valve. In the beginning, they produced Submariners with the helium release valve. In 1966, however, they made a new line of Sea-Dwellers. Nowadays, the Sea-Dwellers have the helium release valve while the Submariners do not.

Oyster Case

The Oyster case was invented by Rolex in 1926, and made a significant change in the history of present day watchmaking. It was the first waterproof case for a watch in the world, due to its patented system. A symbol of endurance and being waterproof, this elegant watch case is an excellent blend of form and function.


Rolex watches are skillfully created with expert knowledge that is continually enriched and passed down from one generation to the next.

Created by Hans Wilsdorf, the Oyster Perpetual was given life due to the knowledge of employees who shared an intense desire for excellence, modernization, and improvement. They work in synch for the purpose of one goal – to come as close to perfection as possible.

Rolex has invested in resources that engulfs a vast array of skills: engineers, designers, watchmakers and a host of other specialists are in constant contact with each other for every step of the development process and manufacturing of their watches.

1. Creating a Prototype

Rolex has prototype makers with multiple areas of expertise to give form and function to components and watches which are newly designed. They operate in total secrecy in order to breathe life into timepieces years before they are ready to be unveiled to the public. Production planners, modelers, engineers and horologists all participate in the process of research, creation, and development.

It is the job of a prototype maker to convert detailed design and engineering ideas into completely functional timepieces or components, with the preciseness necessary in a final model. Many prototype makers have a truly amazing array of specialist skills in various areas of manufacturing and craft pertaining to their teams – ceramics, design, case and bracelet creation, or the mechanical movement – and many keep right on gaining valuable skills throughout their prototyping career. It is this adaptability that permits them to handle a vast amount of components and methods of fabrication.

2. Creating Movements

In a Rolex workshop, focus is the theme. For it is here that Rolex watchmakers carry out the generations old traditions of their art while striving to improve upon them daily. Our watchmakers are right there during the entire process of creating a watch. They make it come alive, guarantee its correct operation, and supervise its maintenance. Whether it be in the laboratory, out on the production line, or in one of their workshops, the watchmakers always work right there beside engineers, designers, and other watch specialists.

From its start so long ago, Rolex has never failed to appreciate the knowledge of its watchmakers, putting them at the core of its mission and guarantee the high quality of their training. The end result is that today, Rolex can have a sense of pride and accomplishment in its fantastic experience in the art of watchmaking.

3. Metal Working

Oystersteel is one of the metals Rolex employs in its watches. What makes this steel so special is that it’s part of a family of alloys that are especially corrosion resistant and gain an extraordinary sheen when polished. Rolex carries out in-house the complete manufacturing process for all of its watch components made from this steel.

It was in the early part of the 2000s that Rolex built its own foundry. Through the genius of this act, the brand has been able to be certain that only the finest, top quality gold alloys are used in its timepieces. The 18 ct gold – white, yellow or Everose – is cast by skilled foundry workers using closely guarded formulas, with the end result being the production of metals of extreme quality and beauty.

4. Ceramic

By mastering the use of ceramic, Rolex has been able to equip all of its watches with Cerachrom bezels or bezel inserts constructed from this high-tech material. This is the result of extensive internal research and the inventing of a manufacturing process exclusive to Rolex, brought about a new era for the company.

The field of advanced ceramics defines a �technical’ ceramic as a material composed of mineral powders and produced at extremely high temperature. It is mainly employed in the aerospace and medical industries, and its production necessitates mastery of multiple specialized processes.

 In its never-ending quest for excellence, Rolex relies upon the skills of its employees developing this material to lead its research, first to master the creation and production procedures, and then to invent new colors.

5. Dial Making

The amazing texture of the colors that are featured on Rolex dials are created by a combination of high-level physics, excellent judgment and chemistry – all skills mastered in-house.

The precise and demanding skill of dial making involves knowing how to handle surface physics and chemistry every bit as much as understanding how to best use a palette of paints and creative flair.

The alchemy of dial colors is taken from a combination of ancestral techniques and 21st century science: from classic enameling or lacquering, to things such as electroplating or advanced thin-film technology which involves using plasma torches or electron beams to coat the dial. This process makes a vast array of dial tints possible.

6. Polishing

This is when the metal surfaces of a Rolex watch are given their amazing final lustre. Regardless of the fact that there is automatic technology that helps, the process has stayed a highly skilled craft, requiring a deft touch and calculated precision.

Several years are required for a polisher – also known as a terminus, a finisher – to achieve the ultimate level of adeptness and assurance. There is a three-year apprenticeship necessary to learn the trade, its tools, materials, techniques and processes at Rolex, and to reach the skill level needed to use them. Once this is accomplished it is followed by approximately five years on the job, in order to master the multiple facets of polishing and gain the consistency, speed, and confidence.

There is a unique approach necessitated for each component, shape and surface. Moreover, each metal has its own character, requiring a different but also delicate touch for each.

7. Tribology

This is the study of friction, lubrication, wear and how moving surfaces interact. A modern, precision timepiece could just grind to a halt minus the work of tribologists and their talent for making components slide, spin or grip to absolute perfection.

 The watch movement with all of its tiny moving parts, the bezel, case, crystal, the bracelet and clasp, machinery, production processes, tools and lubricants, are all examined by these experts, whose intricate science combines the knowledge the chemist, the engineer and the watchmaker.

When used on the mechanical movement, tribology has a powerful impact on longevity, precision and the basic functioning of the watch. Used on the case and bracelet, it affects the comfort, aesthetics and quality.

8. Gem-Setting

Gem-setting and gemology are the two sciences that permit Rolex watches to be graced with diamonds, sapphires and other precious stones. There is strict quality control exercised over the gemstones, through a range of specialist techniques, that makes absolutely the gem-set models sparkle with a uniquely extraordinary intensity.

Once they have undergone a rigorous selection process, the gemstones are given over to the gem-setters. Using movements as delicately precise as those of watchmakers, they set each stone, one by one, into the watches. Theirs is a multifaceted craft. They start out by choosing the layout and colors of the stones together with the designers.

Along with the engineers who are in charge of the external elements of the watch, they then study the future placement of the stones, to prepare as closely as possible the gold or platinum into which the stones will be set. One last polish makes the tiny metal setting gleam, and highlights the stone’s powerful sparkle. This step is repeated nearly 3,000 times on certain diamond-paved dials.

Given all of this emphasis on quality and excellence, is it no wonder that Rolex watches are expensive? However, consider this. If you look at how Rolex watches have progressed with the passage of time, you will discover that they are more about evolution than dramatic changes. This concept of always improving rather than changing is a part of their manufacturing process too. They are continually learning how to improve quality through the use of better techniques and processes. And that is why it takes about one year to make a Rolex watch.

Naturally, Rolex could speed the process up for particular models if needed, but each watch needs so many parts and nearly everything is made from materials found in-house. After the parts for the creating of a Rolex watch are finished, they are then essentially hand-assembled and individually tested. The testing along with the quality assurance process take a long time.

Simply put, Rolex is in a class all its own. There is a real almost mystical quality about the manufacturing process. Truth be told, Rolex really isn’t like any other brand of watch. In fact, the privately owned, independently run company isn’t like most other companies, with 4 manufacturing locations in Switzerland. They are a respected valued, and admired brand, famous worldwide in no small part because they are relatively closed and their operations aren’t public.

These facts, together with Rolex’s zealous dedication to producing high quality items across their enormous production scale, are what make it plain that Rolex watches are well-worth the hefty price tag. Furthermore, Rolex watches also hold their value very well on the resale market. And in spite of all the talk about obsessively high quality standards holding back production, Rolex still manages to make about 800,000 watches annually.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a company with such demanding standards. So all in all, if you are looking to invest some of your hard earned cash in a quality watch that is guaranteed to last longer than any of the other watches you’ve had have managed, then opt for the Rolex brand because their reputation as the best is deserved.

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