The History of the Oyster
A shining example of Rolex’s innovation in the world of watchmaking is the introduction of the first waterproof and dustproof case, the Oyster, in 1926. Just one year later, Rolex proved its case to be waterproof on the wrist of English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, who wore it while swimming across the English Channel—the swim took over 10 hours and the watch worked perfectly throughout.
The specially-designed Oyster case was fitted with an innovative system featuring a screw-down bezel, screw-down case back and screw-down winding crown. In those days, the bezel was fluted, allowing it to be screwed onto the middle case with a special Rolex-invented tool, and this fluting distinguished Rolex watches in the marketplace. Today, Oyster bezels are no longer screwed onto the case, but several models still have the distinctive fluting.
The promotion with swimmer Mercedes Gleitze mentioned above launched the Testimonee concept, and Rolex has been working with exceptional individuals ever since to link their excellence with that of the Rolex watches they wear.
Today’s Testimonees include Roger Federer, Jordan Spieth, Sir Jackie Stewart, Placido Domingo, Lindsey Vonn, Tom Kristensen and more.
Rolex and the rest of us are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Oyster case this year—an innovation that continues to have impact today.