Does it take a year to make a Rolex?
Many people says that one is really too long, but Rolex could say that, they must have the mathematical data to support what they have said.
Rolex produces nearly 1,00,000 watches per year with 5,500 employees.. 800,000 of those watches are recorded by the COSC. Rolex also produces pieces that are not certified by the COSC.
That is about 5,000 watches a day as they work about 200 days a year in Switzerland.
I am working for Semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and normal lead time for a Precision Die bonder (USD$230,000) is 8 weeks, it really needs eight weeks to make such an equipment.. as you cannot do anything if there is no application design or drawing released to production to do it., now the semiconductor demand is hot due to the 4K TV, XiaoMei, new IPhone6, Samsung S5 and NOTE IV.. plus numerous gadget of electronics, Automotive and LEDs… The new equipment delivery time is 6 months for a die bonder…!!
Remember the day when European Sweden or German Shipping builders used to put the steel plate at the ship yards for 20 years so as to let the steel plate to release the internal stress, whereas the Japanese ship builder took may be just 2 years to do the same job, that is why a Japanese ship is not as strong and as long lasting than the German ship. Of course the cost of a German Ship say ten thousand tons is 1.8 times expensive that the Japanese ship in the 80s.
Same thing happened for Leica Lens that they let the glass ingot to go for the stress process and they scrutinize if there is tiny bubbles inside the glass, they will scrap it.
Whereas Rolex may be also being an expert in the use of metal, and Rolex has its own metals foundry for steel and gold, they may let the gold or Steel ingot to left for stress release process after machine milling then heating it at another temperature and cool down at a controlled temperature. This is an added process but you know that will improve strength of the metal and the amount of deformation is close to zero.
All manufacturing of Rolex cases, bracelet, mechanical parts are done by automation… somewhat like a Precision Die bonder, all precision part are made by CNC machine, but at the end of the process, all the wiring, module installation, set-up and testing are by hand, like a BMW. Typical time for a BMW is 24 hours to roll off the production line.
As for Rolex, I think it take 5 hours to make a dial, 10 hour to make a case that including the loading and unloading from one stage to another and stress release, probably 1 hours for a bezel, as for the movement parts, if they run in parallel, it may take only 5 hours to make providing there is no queue on the machine including the chrome plating and cleaning processes.
The assembly of the Rolex watch might take up a few persons each takes care of one module.
Total assembly time may be just 3 hours as they need to assemble them, lubricating it, calibrating it. then they have to pass to auto winder for winding test, may be 2 days, and then go to a water pressure checker for water proof test, that may take up 2 hour including transportation.
Then they will be pass to COSC certification, that may takes 3 days excluding waiting time as they are having other Swiss Big Chronometer makers like Tag Heuer and Breitling to be inspected.. then return to Rolex for final QC check and packing. So the manufacturing time if about 1 month min.
It depends on how you describe the manufacturing process, if everything goes serial, it may take a year or more to make a watch. If that applies to Patek Phillippe, it may take 10 years to make one triple Complication Repeater Watch.
“It takes a year to make one Rolex!” is more or less an advertisement for Rolex. That make you feel better for every dollars you spend on your Rolex!
I have not been invited for a plant tour Rolex production line, the data I stated about is based on my studies on various web sites and my understanding through friends, there may be difference with the actual data.
If you have a more accurate data, please update me, I am glad to learn.
HK Watch Fever