Category Archives: History Of…

This is where we post the history of a plethora of topics. We love sharing how a company was founded, what they did to succeed and so much more. The History of… has over 100 posts of content and we love writing short bios of the companies you love!

History of the Rolex Oyster

Contrary to what many people may think, the Rolex Oyster is not a brand line. The term Oyster refers to a waterproof feature that put Rolex ahead of the pack in the luxury watch business. If there is a single feature that gave Rolex absolute advantage over its competitors, it must be the unveiling of the waterproof Oyster model. Much as it may not seem to be a big deal today, in the 1920’s a waterproof watch was a big dream. However in 1926, Hans Wilsdorf, a marketing genius and co-founder of the Rolex SA company broke the code and patented the first ever water waterproof, dustproof watch.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 16234

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 16234

The story of the oyster cannot be told without mentioning Mercedes Gleitze. She was the first Englishwoman to cross the English Channel from France to England, and an instrumental component in the marketing of the oyster. In her 1927 vindication swim across the channel, Gleitze wore a Rolex Oyster that had been provided by Wilsdorf. After swimming across the channel, Rolex turned her into a celebrity figure and used her ordeal across the icy waters of the channel to market the impermeability of the watch. The oyster was marketed as being able to defy the elements. It could withstand water, dust, heat, cold and other devastating conditions and still maintain perfect timekeeping ability.

Ladies Rolex Datejust 69173 Two Tone Diamond Bezel Watch

Rolex Datejust 69173 Two Tone Diamond Bezel Watch

The perpetual winding mechanism is another innovation that earned Rolex a lot of respect in the watch-making business. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual model combined ‘element defying’ qualities with an automatic winding mechanism. The perpetual winding mechanism allows the watch to maintain its superb chronometric performance. Ever since the early twentieth century, Rolex SA has come up with other beautiful watches based on the Oyster Perpetual technology. The Rolex Submariner, Deepsea, Yacht-master, Milgauss, Explorer and Daytona are just a few of the models based on this technology.

Ladies Datejust 6917 18K Gold Oyster Bracelet

Ladies Datejust 6917 18K Gold Oyster Bracelet

Rolex SA has defined its business model on refining the available designs rather than coming up with new timepieces. This works well to give Rolex watches a classical, timeless sophistication that is a deep part of their heritage. Furthermore, the fact that archetypes are not regularly changed gives the watches a high resale value. You can own and use a Rolex for more than five years and still sell it at a price close to the original. This is not the case with many other brands that lose value drastically.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 6718 Ladies Watch

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 6718 Ladies Watch

This classical timepiece has gained a lot of popularity worldwide due to aggressive marketing. Being a luxury brand, it can only be associated with the high and mighty in society. At least four former American presidents have been known to be avid Rolex admirers. These include; Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Celebrity figures such as Bruce Willis, Usher, Martin Luther King Jr., Ellen DeGeneres and a host of other public figures have been spotted with Rolex timepieces. As a result of its association with celebrities and people in the upper echelons of society, Rolex has become a status symbol. The watch is more than a mere functional timepiece-it is an expression of your taste for finer things in life.

Spotlight On: The Van Cleef and Arpels Zip Necklace

American-born Wallis Simpson certainly had a hand in changing the course of twentieth century history. Had she not met Edward VIII he would have remained King of England and not settled for the title, Duke of Windsor. But did you know she was also responsible for the zipper’s ascent to the title of jewelry icon? Yes, we’re talking about the Duchess of Windsor and the ordinary, plebeian zipper. Like the Duchess, the zipper had American origins. Invented in the late 19th century, it debuted as a fastening for boots. Today it enjoys popularity on jeans, sweaters, hoodies, jackets, purses – you name it.

A darling of society, the Duchess just happened to be talking, in 1938, to Rene Puissant, the artistic director of the Van Cleef and Arpels Maison, and Alfred Van Cleef’s daughter when she suggested (and wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall?) that perhaps Ms. Puissant could model a necklace after the zipper.

The first zip necklace drawing for the Duchess of Windsor by Van Cleef and Arpels

The first zip necklace drawing for the Duchess of Windsor by Van Cleef and Arpels

Well, the seed was planted but more than a decade would pass as the Maison nurtured the idea. Finally, in 1951, the zip necklace made its debut. Fashioned out of diamonds, round and baguette, in platinum mountings, the zip necklace is not only the epitomie of sophistication, but it actually functions like a zipper. Its closure can be slid up or down, giving the wearer the choice of leaving it open or closing it like a choker, or even wearing it as a bracelet. This spirit of playful functionality marked it as a creation worthy of the Maison name, and was responsible for its continued recreations through much of the 50′s.

The styling elements of the Van Cleef and Arpels zip necklace have outlived the Duchess of Windsor and gone on to appear in their twenty-first century collections. Various reincarnations have included

The 2005 Collier Zip Annees Folles Collection Couture which featured a zip necklace of white gold with round princess cut and baguette cut diamonds.

Collier Zip Annees Folles

via Diamonds in the Library

And 2011′s Collier Zip Collection outdid itself with a bounty of variations. All shared the classic combination of diamonds set in white gold, but were set apart by the choice of companion gemstones they included:

white cultured pearls and lapis lazuli surrounded by white mother of pearl

Van Cleef & Arpels Collier Zip with cultured pearls diamonds and lapis lazuli

chloromenalite, turquoise, and chrysophrase

Van Cleef and Arpels Zipper necklace in turquoise diamond and chrysoprase

sapphires and multi-colored cushion cut sapphires

Sapphire and diamond Van Cleef and Arpels Zip necklace

Sapphire and diamond Van Cleef and Arpels Zip necklace

Today’s celebrities are restoring the zip necklace to “it’ status, and they’re choosing their own way to wear it - backwards, probably inspired by the necklace’s role in the Oscar Award-winning film, the King’s Speech. Eve Best, who played The Duchess of Windsor, wore the necklace with the zipper enclosure hanging down her back, where it was gracefully framed by the gown’s low, draping back.

We don’t know if the dress was fashioned after an actual creation worn by the Duchess but we do know that one of her original zip necklaces is still around. It was featured in an exhibit running from late 2012 through February 2013 at Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

Viking Jewelry Discovered

Dating as far back as 1,300 years at a farm site in Denmark, archaeologists have uncovered various pieces of Viking jewelry, even some that contain gold. While many people know Vikings as raiders, they also had artistic skills, demonstrated in the craftsmanship in the jewelry that has been discovered.

Viking Jewelry Unearthed in Denmark

via Yahoo

Dating from the late 7th to the early 11th centuries, the area now called Vestervang is the home to many pieces of Viking jewelry. The largest island in Denmark, Zealand, is where most of the jewelry was found through metal detectors used by archaeologists and volunteers. Yet, the findings have puzzled archaeologists because the modest farm site shouldn’t have held so many lavish goods.

One of the pieces found was a heart-shaped animal head. Possibly part of a necklace, the copper alloy piece displays an image of a heart-shaped animal head with circular eyes and rounded ears, and measures 2.9 inches. Experts say that this may have been part of three similar images, with only one surviving. In the image, three-fingered paws or feet and marked elbow joints rest above the creature’s forelegs. Moreover, the neck is covered by a beadlike chain.

Viking Jewelry Unearthed in Denmark

Three masked figures, all with a drooping moustache, give the humanlike mask an animal character. Also adding to this idea are two horns or ears that emerge above a circular mark between the eyebrows. This, according to experts, is indicative of Viking age art.

Another piece found predating the Viking-age farm site, created sometime between 500 and 750 A.D. in continental Europe is a golden Christian cross mystery. A waffle form holds inlaid gold and a central wheel cross in relief as the decoration. Moreover, forming an equal-armed cross and covered with semiprecious stones or transparent red glass is some of the waffle gold. A mysterious, but beautiful piece.

Who Better to Inspire a Jewelry Line than Cleopatra? MANIAMANIA Says Nobody.

ManiaMania has long been known to create promotional videos that make viewers highly interested and spark up conversations about the line. Recently, ManiaMania released a promo video featuring snakes, ornate headpieces, and lavish jewels that surely take viewers back to the times of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. The line is called the Babylon Collection and hearkens to the time of the illustrious queen. Everyone can remember what Liz Taylor wore in her epic film Cleopatra but the pieces featured in this line are ten times as out there as the pieces that were crafted specially for the film.

The Babylon collection is theatrical enough to appeal to even the most out there wearers but is still totally wearable for those that do not really like having tons of attention on them. With headpieces gaining steadily in popularity, thanks to those lovely Kardashians, it stands to reason that the headpieces in this collection are beautiful, eye catching, and incredibly stunning. These pieces put wearer’s in the mind of ancient Egypt and it is easy to see how wearers could forget that they aren’t royalty themselves. This collection is stunning and incredibly interesting.

MANIAMANIA Babylon bangle

Babylon Bangle in Silver with Chlorite via Bessie Head

Bangles, arm bands, and other incredibly on trend pieces are part of this lavish and extensive collection that are capable of making anyone stop and stare. There are tons of collections out there that claim to be inspired by Cleopatra and other great bejeweld queens but this collection truly stands out among the pack.

La Belle Russe Earrings in Gold with Smokey Quartz

La Belle Russe Earrings in Gold with Smokey Quartz via Bessia Head

Though most aren’t going to be able to afford tons of great pieces from the Babylon collection, the promotional video is well worth a watch and it is also well worth your time to stop by the site and look at some of the pieces, even if owning them is out of the question for anyone but royalty.

When Harry Winston Met Swatch

Harry Winston famously provides jewelry for Hollywood stars every year. Swatch recently purchased the jewelry icon for one billion dollars and adds its stamp to the company’s colorful timeline.

Harry Winston, harry winston portait, harry winston history, harry winston swatch

Humble Beginnings

As a young 12-year-old man in 1908, Winston recognized quality gems. He purchased his first two-carat emerald for a quarter and sold it for $800. Eventually, he started his own business buying and selling quality gems and jewelry to luxury clients.

Sibling Rivalry

After Harry passed away in 1978, his sons Ronald and Bruce split the company’s shares. Ronald assumed leadership of the company while Bruce contentedly pursued a jet-set lifestyle.

talk to me harry winston, harry winston watch, harry winston sold, harry winston swatch

Growing Up

Under Ronald’s leadership, Harry Winston unveiled its first watch in 1989. The bi-retrograde platinum watch with a perpetual calendar was the first of its kind.

Meanwhile, the company’s leadership began unraveling. Ronald tripled his income, a decision Bruce challenged. Ronald sought to purchase his brother’s share numerous times over the next few years. Bruce refused to sell until Fenway Partners, a private equity group, purchased his shares for $44 million in 2000.

Aber Sale

In 2003, the company underwent further changes. Aber Diamond Corporation completed a friendly takeover and acquired 51 percent of Harry Winston for $85 million. They purchased the remaining shares for $157 million in 2006.

Swatch Futures

The world’s most lucrative watchmaker, Swatch Group joins Harry Winston’s timeline as they pay $750 million to the Harry Winston Diamond Corporation. Additionally, the Swiss-based group assumes $250 million in accumulated debt.

Harry Winston Diamond retains its diamond mining business as Dominion Diamond Corporation.

With its recent acquisition, Swatch adds high-end jewelry and gem-studded watches to its popular line. They also gain the Geneva production company and 535 global employees, an investment that no doubt will only provide immense future dividends.

Jennifer T for Raymond Lee Jewelers, South Florida’s premiere source for buying and selling luxury watches and designer jewelry.