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When Rolex went quartz
How did mechanical-watch king Rolex deal with the arrival of quartz in the 1970s? What follows is an excerpt from the book “Electrifying the Wristwatch,” by WatchTime contributor Lucien Trueb. The book, illustrated with photos of pieces from watch collectors Günther Ramm and Peter Wenzig, tells how quartz-watch technology evolved.
André Heiniger, second Rolex president and successor of the founder Hans Wilsdorf, was a true visionary. His opinion was that the originally very costly quartz watch would soon be totally banal. This already had happened with transistor radios, TV sets, and pocket calculators.
Top-quality mechanical movements would always remain expensive and exclusive due to the large amount of highly qualified labor that is required for manufacturing the parts and assembling them. The inescapable fact that a mechanical device can only tell time approximately could be easily hidden by writing “Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified” (i.e., the COSC certificate) on the dial. This means a daily rate of plus-six/minus-four seconds per day. In due time, every watch brand in the “upscale” sector copied Heiniger’s concept. Wealthy people don’t need an instrument that tells time: they want a beautiful and exclusive object on their wrist.
https://www.watchtime.com/featured/when ... nt-quartz/