Most of us know what a Rolex watch is, but little know what happens in the Rolex manufacture (factory). This manufacture is clouded in secrecy and high-tech security. It is very private and never discloses any figures. It even houses its own gold foundry and produces its own lubricating oils.

Rolex has several sites in Switzerland that have helped it dominate the luxury watch market. At one point in time, there were 27 factories across Switzerland. Now they have been consolidated into three. Its headquarters are based in Geneva while movement manufacturing is done in the new facility at Bienne. Rolex is a true example of an in-house manufacture. They produce all the components needed to make their watches themselves. This even extends to forming the steel, and melting the gold and platinum down to make the watch cases and bracelets at the Plan-les-Ouates site. Chene-Bourg is where the watch hands, crystals and bezels are made and also the site of where the the precious stones are set onto the watches.


Geneva headquarters 

The Plan-Les-Ouates site
Plan-Les-Ouates site

Rolex bracelet
Rolex bracelet

The heart of the manufacturing process is obviously where the movements are made. In Bienne, there are several buildings totalling about 13 football fields all dedicated to pushing out three-quarters of a million movements a year. All the machining, stamping, treatments and assembly are done here. The new building has fours levels above ground, and three levels underground, and its factories also treats its own waste water. These are very ‘green’ buildings, and even include a garden on top of the building to reduce the energy requirements in winter for the building.

Bienne Megasite
Bienne Megasite

"Green" buildingsRolex’s “green” buildings

Where many other manufactures lock up their parts in a large safe every night, Rolex has state-of-the-art robots that control the sourcing of all movement parts. This storage facility has 14 shelves, each around 10m hight with over 46,000 storage compartments storing tens of millions of components.Movement parts stocking and retrieval is controlled by a robot. Rolex employees are delivered parts via a conveyor belts. This conveyor belt network ensures that the watchmakers receive the required parts within minutes. All the routing and delivery is controlled and monitored constantly by computers. Employees have no access to the parts warehouse. Not only is this a storage facility but also a closely monitored high-tech vault.

Parts storage facility Parts storage facility

 

Watchmakers at workWatchmakers at work

Assembling the movement
Assembling the movement

Rolex also design and engineer much of their own equipment. It is purpose made for Rolex allowing them to the flexibility to have complete control of the manufacturing process.

The new facilities provide Rolex with the ability to comfortably double their output. Given the brand’s steady but spectacular growth over the years, no doubt they will be looking to further expand in the future. We look forward to the offerings from Rolex out of the mega-factories.