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Rolex is the brand of Swiss wristwatches and accessories renowned for their perceived quality and exclusivity, as well as their cost (they sell for several thousand dollars). The watches have become status symbols of the wealthy. Rolex is an integrated manufacture (like Jaeger LeCoultre), meaning that it manufactures its own watch movements as well as the case parts. This is rare today, with many watchmakers such as Omega which formerly used its own movements simply re-decorating ETA or Valjoux movements and manufacturing just watchcases, dials and bracelets. Rolex watches generally have a reputation for durability and accuracy.

The company was founded by Hans Wilsdorf, a German businessman who registered the trademark Rolex in 1908. The word was made up but its origin is obscure: One story, never confirmed by Wilsdorf, is that it came from the French term horlogerie exquise, meaning exquisite watch industry.

Wilsdorf's original company, Wilsdorf & Davies, was founded in London in 1905, but he switched the name to Rolex as part of a drive to popularize wrist-watches, which at the time were still considered a novelty largely for women. The company moved out of Britain in 1912 for tax and export-duty reasons. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Among the company's innovations was a self-winding watch in 1931, powered by an internal mechanism that used the movement of the wearer's arm. This not only made watch-winding unnecessary, but eliminated the problem of over-winding a watch and harming its mechanism. Rolex was also the first watch company to create a truly waterproof watch, even attaching a watch to the side of a bathyscaphe which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Rolex has also made a reputation in watches suitable for deep-sea diving, including the Oyster Perpetual Sea Dweller 2000 in 1971, the first watch to incorporate a gas release valve, to dispense helium during decompression. Ian Flemming's James Bond character wore a Rolex in Flemming's books, and in the early EON production Bond films, Bond was seen to wear a Rolex Submariner.

Among modern Rolex watches are the Air-King, GMT II (replaced GMT), Submariner, and Yacht-Master. Most Rolexes have a case design called the Oyster. Dressy designs are called Cellini. Types of Rolex bracelets are the Oyster, the Jubilee, and the President.

Like many high-priced brand-name accessories, Rolex watches are often counterfeited and sold in markets around the world that cater to tourists. These fakes are mainly produced in China and Taiwan and retail for about $30. Even the self-winding mechanical movements are sometimes copied, giving fakes that laymen will find difficult to distinguish from the originals, although fakes are usually less dependable and typically appear more crudely made to the trained


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