⌚ The $17M Watch

⌚ The $17M Watch

Did you know that the cheapest Rolex you can buy costs $6,000?

And the most expensive Rolex? It sold for an impressive $17.8M.

Paul Newman’s $17.8M Rolex

Since 1905, Rolex has led the way in wristwatch innovation. With skilled marketing and strategic positioning, Rolex has risen as a global symbol of success. Want to know how they did it?

Here’s what we got for ya:

  • 💰 From $0 to $10B

  • 📚 How to Sell Success

  • 🍿 Status and Pop Culture 

Read time: 4 min 32 sec

💰 From $0 to $10B

For over 100 years, Rolex has been one of the most desirable watch brands in the world.  

But when the company started in 1905, people laughed at the founder Hans Wilsdorf for his ideas.

When Hans opened his company, originally named Wilsdorf & Davis Company, wristwatches were not worn by men. In fact, wristwatches were seen as jewelry for women. 

But Hans had a vision. If he could make higher quality wristwatches, then people would realize they were a more convenient and elegant choice for both men and women.

To make his vision come true, Hans did these three things:

#1- Create a better name. The Wilsdorf & Davis Company is not catchy. Hans wanted a name that would increase brand recognition, so it needed to be short and easy to pronounce. He started jumbling random letters together but nothing stuck. Then, while riding in a horse-drawn carriage, a genie came and whispered Rolex in his ear. Or, at least that’s what Hans says…

#2- Create quality watches. Hans wanted Rolex to be synonymous with high quality. So he accepted nothing less while crafting his watches. In 1910, the Rolex became the first wristwatch to receive a Swiss Certificate of Precision. And in 1914, it was the first wristwatch to get a “Class A” certificate from the British Kew Observatory. 

#3- Prove convenience. When World War I began in 1914, Rolex proved its use for men. Rolexes became popular in the military because the time was accurate and they were easier to glance at than a pocket watch.

Once the wristwatch and Rolex gained popularity, the company continued to change the industry. 

In 1926, Rolex released the first waterproof watch: the Oyster. 

In 1931, they introduced the self-winding perpetual rotor, a new technology that harnesses the movement of your wrist to power the watch, eliminating the need for manual winding or batteries. 

In 1945, Rolex introduced the first automatic watch with a date display on the watch face.

But what made Rolex a $10B company isn’t their technological innovations alone. It’s the way they marketed them to the public…

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📚 How to Sell Success

Hans Wilsdorf had a clear vision for the perception of his watches and knew exactly how to achieve it.

Today, having a Rolex is a sign of success. It’s even written in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary…

So how did he do it?

He associated his watches with high-achievers.

It all started in 1927 when the first British woman swam the English Channel. Rolex convinced Mercedes Gleitze to wear a Rolex Oyster, the first waterproof watch. 

After her 10-hour swim, the watch did not lose even a second of accuracy. Everyone was so impressed that it made headlines around the world. 

This strategy was so effective that Rolex kept sending their watches with other daredevils to show how durable they were.

In 1953, Rolex gave Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first men to stand on the summit of Mt. Everest, a Rolex for their trek.

And famous French submariner and oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau wore a Rolex watch deep into the ocean.

After gaining popularity, Hans Wilsdorf aimed to have the world’s most famous people wear Rolex watches.

Now it is one of the most desirable watches among the rich and famous. It’s been worn by John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Junior, Elvis Presley, and many more.

Rolex has become so popular that pop culture now markets the brand for free.

More on this: 

🍿 Status and Pop Culture

From movies to music, Rolexes are constantly being referenced.

In the James Bond movies, the classic 007 character loved his Rolex watches.

Because Rolex created a desirable brand culture, they didn't need to pay to be featured in the films.

If you search “Rolex” on AZ Lyrics, there are more than 900 results. 

Ayo & Teo were so inspired when they saw a Rolex, that they dedicated an entire song to the watch. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been listening to it while writing this article…

A more famous rapper, Drake, mentioned the watch in his song Nonstop

This a Rollie, not a stopwatch, sh*t don’t ever stop 

When someone buys a Rolex, they aren’t just purchasing a watch; they're buying the status that comes with owning a Rolex.

This creates a desire among customers to share their purchases with others, making Rolex stand out even more.

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