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Rolex is a notoriously secretive company. In defense of its trade secrets, how dominant it is in the luxury watch field, and how much it has to lose, it doesn’t offer factory tours, and its workshops are locked behind iris-scanning security technology and thick steel doors.
But Ben Clymer, the founder and executive editor of watch enthusiast website Hodinkee, was given that rare glimpse inside, and saw how Rolex actually makes its watches.
And what he found amazed him.
“I was under the impression that it was all machine-assembled,” Clymer told Business Insider, noting that Rolex has its own gold foundry, a full chemistry lab, and testing facilities that “rival NASA.”
“But more impressive than that was the amount of human interaction there was. There were actual people doing the assembly,” Clymer said, adding that this was the most impressive thing he saw during his tour.
“The scale of everything, the detail, the people and perfection, I have to imagine, is unique in watchmaking, if not all consumer products,” Clymer wrote in his post on Hodinkee, noting that there really were “people everywhere” in Rolex’s various workshops.
“A lot of the higher-end brands like to scoff at Rolex and say there’s no human touch to the watch, no humans actually touch it before it ships,” Clymer said. “But that’s completely not true.”
That human touch is what makes luxury watches like a Rolex worth their high price points, Clymer said.
Why does Rolex need all these people? Well, the company does something no one else does: it makes every component of its watches themselves, from the metal alloys to the most minute spring.
“You don’t need to do that,” Clymer told us. “Other brands don’t do that and nobody cares.”
“The fact [is] that Rolex goes so above and beyond.”