1990 Rolex Datejust Turn-o-Graph Thunderbird ref. 16264.
The Rolex is, perhaps, the most iconic dress timepiece in history. Based on the original Rolex Oysters of the 1920s, the Datejust enhanced the Oyster Perpetual line with the date feature. In continuous production since 1945, the Datejust has had countless variants of dial, bezel, casing and bracelets.
Retailed alongside the regular Oyster Perpetual Datejust, the Turn-O-Graph was released in 1953, it shares the same Datejust case but looks like an entirely different animal due to the addition of a large rotating metal bezel.
The addition of the rotating bezel is probably what kept sales of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird fairly low, but is ultimately what makes it such an interesting and unusual timepiece to look at. Rotating bezels are of course commonplace on divers and aviators watches, but are not often found on casual/dress timepieces. Consumers at the time didn’t really know what to make of it and were turned off by the unusual proportions of the bulky bezel.
The concept of a revolving bezel graduated in minutes, was revolutionary. A truly new concept in which initiated the development of the professional Rolex tool watches. The idea was quickly copied by almost every other watch making company in the world.
Rolex was founded in 1905, the goal was to create wristwatches based on 3 challenges.
The first challenge was archived in 1910 when Rolex sent its movement to the School of Horology in Bienne and awarded the worlds first wrist watch chronometer rating.
Realizing the value of a timing certificate, the company decided they would not accept any movement unless it passed a Rolex seven day battery of tests, so Rolex set the timing standard for the rest of the watch industry.
In 1926 the second challenge was achieved with the birth of the Oyster, so-named as it was as impenetrable as an oyster! Although this invention was initially thought of with skepticism and took some notable events to break this preconception, one year later Mercedes Gleitze swam across the icy waters of the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster on her wrist.
All three challenges were completed in 1931 when Rolex launched the first automatic watch. The idea was not new, but it was Rolex that finally perfected and patented the Perpetual self-winding mechanism.
Now the scene was set. Rolex were now producing a watch small enough to be worn on the wrist, impervious to outside elements and which required no winding from the wearer; the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
Forbes ranked Rolex No.72 on its 2014 list of the worlds most powerful global brands. Rolex is the largest single luxury watch brand, producing about 2,000 watches per day, with estimated 2012 revenues of US$7.7 billion. Rolex SA is owned by the private Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, which is registered as a charity and does not pay corporate income taxes.