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08/21/2023
 5 minutes

Rolex Myths: Five Tales About the Luxury Watch Brand That Aren’t True

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
Golden Boy With Retro Flair: The New Rolex Yellow Gold GMT-Master II

As the world’s most famous watch brand, Rolex has been making waves in the watch industry – and beyond – for decades, so it’s hardly surprising that there are so many myths and stories surrounding the brand with the crown. In this article, I’m revealing five exciting Rolex myths that re told time and time again, but aren’t actually true.

Rolex Myth No. 1: The Fabled Rolex Waiting List

I want to start with a Rolex myth that could hardly be more topical: the fabled Rolex waiting list. If you’re an old hand at watch collecting, you’ve probably smelled a rat by now: There is no such thing as a waiting list – at least not in the conventional sense, where all Rolex prospects are noted down and dutifully receive their dream Rolexes one by one. So how does it really work? It varies from dealer to dealer. Typically, an authorized Rolex dealer will take down your request, knowing you’re interested in a particular timepiece. If they give you a realistic waiting period of between, let’s say 6 and 18 months, you can assume that they’ll try to get you what you want. If they give you a dystopian wait time of 3, 5, or even 10 years, it’s just a “nice” way of saying you’re not getting a Rolex, or that you’ll have to buy the model that’s been sitting in the window collecting dust for months and that no one wants. No two waiting lists are alike, and each Rolex retailer does it a little differently. A classic waiting list, checked off customer by customer in the order of the request, is a Rolex myth that just isn’t true.

Die Rolex-Warteliste – Mythos oder Realität?
The Rolex waiting list: myth or fact?

Rolex Myth No. 2: James Bond’s Rolex Submariner

In 1962, the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, was released, launching not only one of the most popular film franchises of all time, but also the career of Sean Connery, now considered an acting legend. But Connery wasn’t the only one to benefit from the first Bond film: the legendary Rolex Submariner was also featured on screen. Many people believe this to be a masterful marketing move on the part of Rolex, who embraced the concept of product placement back when other manufacturers didn’t have a clue. After all, Hans Wilsdorf had equipped Mercedes Gleitze with a Rolex wristwatch in 1927, when she became the first woman to swim the English Channel. A real marketing coup! In the case of James Bond, however, the brand with the crown had nothing to do with the Submariner making it into the first film. At the time, the first Bond movie didn’t have the budget of today’s 007 productions, and as the first in what later would become a world-famous franchise, it was a far cry from today’s films. Since creator Ian Fleming had written a “heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual” onto the character’s wrist in the novels, a Rolex was needed. But the production company couldn’t afford a Rolex, and Rolex wasn’t about to contribute one. As a result, producer Albert Broccoli decided to lend Sean Connery his own Submariner for the movie. This is the watch that appears in the first James Bond film. It was neither a novel marketing idea nor a visionary piece of product placement in the early days – just a borrowed Rolex with a NATO strap that was far too tight on Connery.

Check out some other surprising facts about the Rolex Submariner in an article by Chrono24 Magazine editor Barbara Korp.

Dank James Bond ist die Submariner zur wohl populärsten Uhr aller Zeiten geworden
Thanks to James Bond, the Submariner has become arguably the most popular watch of all time.

Rolex Myth No. 3: Rolex Steel is Harder

Have you also heard that 904L steel is produced by Rolex itself, and thus significantly harder than the types of steel used by many other luxury watch manufacturers? Yes? Then I think we can dispel another myth. Rolex may have come up with a really great-sounding name when it decided to call it “Oystersteel,” but ultimately, Rolex has to buy its 904L steel just like any other company. Furthermore, Rolex is by no means the only luxury watch manufacturer that does this; other watch brands also rely on 904L steel. However, there is actually nothing to the rumors regarding the hardness of 904L steel. It’s about as hard as the 316L steel often used in the watchmaking. I have, in fact, first-hand experience: While my Rolex watches quickly become unsightly despite the utmost care, the bracelet of my Omega Speedmaster Professional seems not to know the meaning of the word scratch, despite admittedly being worn a tad recklessly. It looks like new, even after a year. Of course, Oystersteel is not completely without its advantages: it is more corrosion-resistant than 316L steel. When it comes to finish, 904L steel also has a different sheen. So while 904L steel isn’t harder than other types of steel, it does have its own unique characteristics. The myth of hardness is just that: a myth.

Rolex-Stahl ist nicht härter als andere Stahlsorten
Rolex steel isn’t harder than other types of steel.

Rolex Myth No. 4: Rolex Only Ever Used In-House Calibers

The idea that Rolex has always used its own in-house watch movements is another stubborn myth that’s completely false. It used to be quite common for manufacturers to help each other out with parts and movements, which is why some early Panerai Luminor models actually have hand-wound movements from Rolex. Rolex has also benefitted from the expertise of other watch brands, as in the case of the legendary Rolex Daytona. When the chronograph was first produced, it was powered by a Valjoux movement. Can you imagine? This practice continued well into the 1980s. Then Rolex switched to the Zenith El Primero automatic caliber, which was considered groundbreaking at the time but still wasn’t a Rolex-made movement. In fact, Rolex didn’t fit the Daytona with an in-house caliber until the late 1990s (read more about in-house movements here). This means that Rolex has only been using in-house movements for a little over 20 years. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, that’s pretty surprising, given the brand’s rich history and reputation.

Die legendäre Rolex Daytona besitzt erst seit den 2000er Jahren ein Manufakturwerk
Since the 2000s, the legendary Rolex Daytona has been powered exclusively by in-house movements.

Rolex Myth No. 5: The Rolex Datejust from American Psycho

Once again, we’re stepping into the world of the big screen, which could hardly be more appropriate, given the fact that our last Rolex myth could just as easily be a plot twist from a Christopher Nolan film. The Rolex Datejust from American Psycho has become almost as iconic as the movie itself – so much so that there are really a lot of stories surrounding the watch featured in the film adaptation. Rumor has it that Rolex even agreed to donate a Datejust for the movie – on the condition that the main character, serial killer Patrick Bateman, would not wear the watch in scenes in which he harms people. I watched the movie in its entirety again for this article, just to make sure I wasn’t reporting gossip. The “Rolex Datejust” from American Psycho completely fooled me and many other watch fans, since the watch worn by Christian Bale in the cult film is actually a Seiko SNXJ90, not a Rolex. Did the brand with the crown refuse to support such a brutal flick? Would buying a real Rolex Datejust have broken the production budget? Or was this tiny but fine detail just what the director wanted? Sadly, we may never know.

Nanu? Die Rolex aus „American Psycho“ ist ja gar keine Rolex...
The Rolex from American Psycho is not a Rolex at all.

Do you know of any other Rolex myths that aren’t actually true? If so, let me know in the comments!


About the Author

Donato Emilio Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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