Rolex is a universe of its own: respected, admired, valued, and known across the globe. Rolex does just make watches and their timepieces have taken on a role beyond that of mere timekeeper. Having said that, the reason a “Rolex is a Rolex” is because they are good watches and tell pretty good time. There is a very real mystique behind the manufacture because they are relatively closed and their operations aren’t public. The brand takes the concept of Swiss discreetness to a new level, and in a lot of ways that is good for them. Here is a list of why Rolexes are so expensive.
1. They use an expensive and difficult to machine steel because it looks better.
Most steel watches are make from a common 316L stainless steel. However, Rolex watches are made from 904L steel. 904L steel is more rust and corrosion resistant, and is somewhat harder than other steels. 904L steel, when worked properly, is able to take and hold polishes incredibly well.
2. Their movements are all hand-assembled and tested.
Rolex watches are given all the hands-on human attention you’d like to expect from a fine Swiss made watch. Rolex uses machines for the process sure, but everything from Rolex movements to bracelets are assembled by hand.
3. An in-house foundry makes all their gold.
Rolex makes their own gold. 24k gold comes into Rolex and it is turned into 18k yellow, white, or Rolex’s Everose gold. Large kilns under hot flames are used to melt and mix the metals which are then turned into cases and bracelets. Because Rolex controls the production and machining of their gold, they are able to strictly ensure not only quality, but the best looking parts.
4. Rolex Dive watches are each individually tested in pressurized tanks with water.
All Rolex Oyster case watches are thoroughly tested for water resistance. The way that this is often done at watch manufactures is with an air-pressure tank. A watch is placed in a small chamber that is filled with air, and if the pressure changes at all, it means that air leaked into the case. Each Rolex Oyster, as well as Oyster dive watches begins with this air pressure treatment. In fact, each case is tested both before and after a movement and dial are placed inside of it. Dive watches receive a separate treatment all together. After being air pressure tested, Rolex proceeds to test the water resistance of each and every Rolex Submariner and Deep Sea watch in actual water. This type of test is much less common. Submariner watches are placed in large tubes that are filled with water to ensure that they are water resistant to 300 meters. The test is extremely complex because Rolex employs a complex system for testing if water entered the case. After the watches exit the tank, they are heated up and a drop of cold water is placed on the crystal to see if condensation forms. An optical sensor then scans them for trace amounts of water. Less than one in a thousand watches fail the test.
5. It takes about a year to make a Rolex watch.
Rolex produces almost a million watches a year, but surprisingly, no shortcuts are taken in the manufacturing process. If you look at Rolex watches over time, they are more about evolution rather than revolution. This idea of always improving versus changing goes right into their manufacturing process as well. They are constantly learning how to improve quality through better processes and techniques. The move from aluminum to ceramic bezel inserts is a perfect example. Nevertheless, from starting to shape the parts of the case to testing a completed watch for accuracy, the process takes around one year. Of course Rolex could speed this up for certain models if necessary, but each watch requires so many parts and virtually everything is made from base materials in-house. Once all the parts for a Rolex watch are completed, they are then mostly hand-assembled and individually tested. The testing and quality assurance process is rather intense.
These are only a few reasons why they are so expensive and this should give you some insight into how much TLC Rolex puts in their watches! If you don’t believe me take a look at this video below of a Rolex being disassembled!