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Blog: Rolex World's Records

Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved.

First published: 15 August 2023, last updated 12 December 2023.

I make additions and corrections to this web site frequently but, because they are buried somewhere on one of the pages, the changes are not very noticeable. I decided to create this blog to highlight new material. Here below you will find part of one of the pages that is either completely new or I have recently changed or added to significantly.

This entry is from the page about Rolex.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via my Contact Me page.

Rolex World's Records

Rolex watch case backs sometimes have inside a reference to a certain number of "World's Records". It is not known exactly what records these claims refer to, but advertisements say generally that they were records for accuracy at Kew, Geneva and Neuchâtel observatories. All of these observatories carried out tests on the accuracy of timekeeping of watches over a number days in different positions and at different temperatures, and issued results as a number of marks; the higher the number of marks, the better the performance. If a watch passed a certain threshold number of marks, it would qualify to be awarded an “observatory certificate” of a certain class, with a Class A certificate being the best.

The published results of the Kew watch trials, which were relocated from Kew to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington in 1912, don't reveal any absolute records being set by Rolex watches, but the report in 1928 of the 1927 trials says

Another noteworthy result this year has been the award of a “Class A, especially good” certificate for the 10¾ × 6¾ lignes (24 X 15mms.) rectangular bracelet watch sent by Messrs. The Rolex Watch Co., Bienne, which gained a total of 86.5 marks.

Rolex 20 World's Records
Rolex 20 World's Records: Click image to enlarge

This is the event that Rolex advertised in 1928 as their 20th World Record. The watch had a 6¾ lignes movement measuring 15 by 24 millimetres and it was remarked in the letter communicating the results to Rolex that over the preceding 10 years no other watch of 13 lignes or smaller that had received a Kew Class A Certificate had been endorsed as “especially good”.

It appears that the World's Records claimed are not absolute records - the two Rolex watches entered by Aegler in the 1927 trials were placed in 31st and 39th positions - but rather records of accuracy for watches of their particularly small sizes. The achievement of a Kew Class A certificate endorsed especially good by a movement measuring only 15 × 24 millimetres was certainly a remarkable achievement. A later Rolex advertisement says that “No Wristwatch from 11-line down to 5½-line has at any time obtained a Kew Class A Certificate excepting the Rolex.”

An advert by Rolex in 1928 said “The Rolex factories have specialized in the production of small-sized movements since 1878, and the Twenty World’s Records which their movements have gained prove that they have attained to a position of pre-eminence, and constant research and experiments in the laboratories ensure that they will retain that supremacy. “ The World’s Best by Every Test ” is no mere advertising slogan, but the essence of accomplished fact. Many hundreds of Observatory Quality 10½ and 8¾ line movements have been produced during the last few months. Each and every one of them obtained an individual Swiss Official Class “ A ” Rating Certificate, proving that Rolex claims to unusual precision are founded as much on a generally superior method of production as on their World’s Records.”

The number of world's records claimed increases in steps from seven to thirty one. Knowing when the increment occurred can help to identify approximately when an otherwise undated watch was made.

By studying dozens of case backs with British hallmarks, and therefore date letters that pin down the date of hallmarking to a two year period, I have identified the approximate dates when the increments of World's Records occurred. British assay offices changed their date letter punches when new wardens were elected, part way through the calendar year. At the London Assay Office this was at the end of May, for most other offices it was the beginning of July.

If you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via my Contact Me page.

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Copyright © David Boettcher 2005 - 2024 all rights reserved. This page updated December 2023. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.