Why innovation isn’t what you first think to Rolex…

When discussing analogue, digital and smart watches, one has to be aware that the different brands with their very unique traditions vary immensely in their attitude to innovation and development. Looking at today’s digitalization, one often associates innovation with the creation of new disruptive technology and a great number of watchmakers is looking into creating their own version of a smartwatch.

However, there is no doubt that, today, Rolex has no interest in creating a smartwatch in the near future. And, still, there are and have been one of the most innovative brands in the past. Among other creations, Rolex was the first to introduce the perpetual winding mechanism, the first to introduce the date window and the first to introduce a dual time zone watch. (1)

People which are not so familiar with the brand, but only know Rolex for its prestige and expensive watches might even be surprised that they actually developed the first deep sea diving watch and still create watches which excel in this area. In 1967, Rolex patented the so called Helium valve, enabling the glass shielding the clock face to survive deep under water with a pressure build-up (2).

To them, innovation isn’t about creating a new digital watch, but about improving and developing their mechanical watches to new standards which is why they continuously hand it patent rights to shield their development from competitors’ eyes. (3)

There is no word for what they do: The Rolex Way.

Indeed, Rolex has introduced their very own way to describe the core value of their company, its innovative efforts and its overall advancement: The Rolex Way.


rolex way cape

It becomes apparent that Rolex marketing strategy is focussed on their prestige, tradition and superiority. To Rolex, they will never compare themselves to or even see themselves in the same industry as companies like Apple which is why their innovative strength focusses on different aspects. They might as well sell watches, but digital and analogue, mechanical watches are indeed very different pieces of technology and art, and serve different purposes to the people that wear them. There are no words for what they do. (4)

Many people who would by a Rolex wouldn’t to be seen wearing an Apple watch. To them, wearing a classic mechanical watch has turned into a statement: They do not strive to earn the latest digital innovation, but appreciate classics and tell the world they value traditional, long-lasting values higher than short-lived fame of an Apple watch that will loose value as soon as its next version is announced (5).

Looking at the value of a Rolex today, at its continuous prestige, one can easily assume that the value of their watches won’t fall drastically over the next decades, but rather increase. This is also simply due to the fact, that those watches are timeless pieces which can be passed on from one man to his son or grandchild, giving them a very personal touch.

And this connotation if exactly what Rolex strives for in its continuous innovation and marketing strategy: They focus their innovative strength on creating the best mechanical watch on the market which retains traditional values while exceeding every other watch on the market. They want their watch to be of outstanding quality, while limiting its availability through price and availability, making their watches an investment which not everyone can afford. This shows that Rolex is very consistent in differentiating their brand from competitors, understanding what their customers see in them and which values they need to mirror when fulfilling the need of their customers. It enables their customers to engage with the brand, to identify their own lifestyle or career with the prestige and development of Rolex, because its target customer will never rest with something not a 100% perfect, but will always strive to innovative himself, his surroundings, his lifestyle, his accessories or job to ensure he will keep his privileged position and show this to people which are not quite in the same position.

Alix Rekersbrink



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