Among the company's innovations are the first waterproof watch case; the first wristwatch with a date on the dial; the first watch to show two time zones at once; and the first watchmakers to earn chronometer certification for a wristwatch. To date, Rolex still holds the record for the most certified chronometer movements in the category of wristwatches.
Rolex participated in the development of the original quartz watch movements. Although Rolex has made very few quartz models for its Oyster line, the company's engineers were instrumental in design and implementation of the technology during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, Rolex collaborated with a consortium of 16 Swiss watch manufacturers to develop the Beta 21 quartz movement used in their Rolex Quartz Date 5100. Within about five years of research, design, and development, Rolex created the "clean-slate" 5035/5055 movement that would eventually power the Rolex Oysterquartz. The first self-winding Rolex watch was offered to the public in 1931, preceded to the market by Harwood which patented the design in 1923 and produced the first self-winding watch in 1928, 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 the first water resistant watch to 330 feet. Wilsdorf even had a specially made Rolex watch attached to the side of the Trieste bathyscaphe, which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The watch survived and tested as having kept perfect time during its descent and ascent. This was confirmed by a telegram sent to Rolex the following day saying "Am happy to confirm that even at 11,000 metres your watch is as precise as on the surface. Best regards, Jacques Piccard".
Rolex has also made a reputation in watches suitable for the extremes of deep-sea diving, aviation and mountain climbing. Early sports models included the Rolex submariner and the Oyster Perpetual Sea Dweller 2000 (in 1971). This watch had a helium release valve, co-invented with Swiss watchmaker Doxa, to release helium gas build-up during decompression. Another sports model is the Rolex GMT Master II, originally developed at the request of Pan Am Airways to assist pilots in transcontinental flights. The Explorer and Explorer II were developed specifically for explorers who would navigate rough terrain—such as the world famous Everest Expeditions.
At the moment Rolex possesses sole rights stores in many urban centres of the world, such as: Toronto, Paris, London, New York, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Sidney, Tokyo, Dubai, and Wellington, among others.