Watch collectors in the 21st century can’t get enough marketing, and it’s for that reason that the brands of today do things like put out their own magazines, and run brand-focused blogs — but evidently, it’s nothing new. Starting in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Rolex made a series of small brochures. These brochures weren’t necessarily created to accompany the purchase of a new wristwatch, like a catalog or an owner’s instruction booklet would, but to serve as additional reading for owners of Rolex watches across the globe, and those that simply admired the brand.
Earlier this week, I came across a set of high quality photographs showing two of these brochures – titled “Guide to the Rolex Factory” and the “Skin Diver Handbook” – and the photos are just too cool not to share. They truly provide an accurate look at what Rolex represented, and show Rolex’s mastery of marketing during an especially exciting time for the brand. Let’s take a look at these Rolex promotional brochures.
Guide to the Rolex Factory – 1959
I won’t waste your time and discuss the overall strength of the Rolex brand. It’s unparalleled, and you already knew that. What I will say is that a high degree of secrecy and confidentiality has played a large role in this strength. When it comes to the manufacturing process, Rolex has famously kept their cards close to their chest for decades now, and by doing this, they’ve been able to keep producing their incredibly well-made products away from the prying eyes of the competition. There is also very little known about the brand’s current ownership, but that’s a different story for a different day.
Back in 1959, the factory tour policy was no different than that of today. No outside visitors were allowed into the production facilities in order to maintain complete control of the environment. With that said, if you were ever to inquire about the possibility of a tour, Rolex was kind enough to send out a small brochure, with approved interior images, to give you a mere glimpse into what goes on past the factory’s doors.
On the pages of this piece of Rolex-issued literature are several terrific photographs of watchmakers throughout the different stages of assembly, along with a brief amount of beautifully penned text, which explains the brand’s values, manufacturing equipment and select quality control techniques. Above all, the perfectly organized state of all the workbenches stands out to me the most.
At this point in time, the Rolex Submariner had been in production for 8 years, and was proving to be a tremendous success. By 1961, it was the dive watch of choice for commercial divers, the British MoD, notable oceanographers, and underwater explorers, so it’s safe to say Rolex was aware that they were onto something. With this handbook, Rolex celebrated what was quickly becoming one of the brand’s main focuses, by including diving safety tips, an illustrated list of underwater hand signals, and a set of standard American Navy decompression tables.
On the back cover, you’ll also see a 1961 advertisement for an early Ref. 5512 Submariner, that appears to have pointed crown guards, beveled edges on the lugs, and a gilt chapter ring dial. As a lover of vintage Rolex, it’s hard not to imagine being in the position to buy one of these brand new back in the 1960s.
Although these marketing materials were likely cooked up in a conference room Mad Men style, there’s something about them that comes off as so innocent and genuine. Maybe it’s the fact that mechanical watches were necessary tools, and these brochures were, in part, actually instructional and informational. Whatever the case, we love finding old marketing materials and getting insight into what the watch industry was like before they were selling luxury items.by