How Rolex claimed the oyster.

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The Oyster, an amazing creature

In many ways, the oyster is a remarkable creature. It cannot walk or swim, it is a hermaphrodite, and it is – unlike other shellfish – built asymmetrically. According to evolutionary theory, organisms change over generations. That’s not the case for the oyster, it is timeless. She has been the same for centuries, both in shape and anatomy.

As small as the oyster is, her influence is huge. She filters the water, she is one of the greatest sources of protein, and she is an inspiration to numerous creative minds. It’s gnarled shell, the pearl-clad interior, the pearl, and the complex flavor, do not leave us unmoved.

An appropriate quote has been recorded from Thomas Huxley, an English anatomist and contemporary of Charles Darwin. This 19th-century scientist wrote, “When you slide the succulent oyster along your palate, few people are aware that you are swallowing ‘a piece of engineering’ far more complicated than a watch.”

The oyster has a heart, a mouth, intestines, a stomach, and gills. All of this is packed into two shells that are normally open, but snap shut when there is danger. Its gills filter about 60 gallons of water per day, a stellar performance for such a small shellfish. If the oyster falls dry at low tide, it closes its shells and waits six hours until the tide comes in. She has an internal clock that responds to the tides.

Hans Wilsdorf and the Rolex

Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf developed the first waterproof watch in 1926. This timepiece distinguished itself from other, often poorly running wristwatches of the time. Wilsdorf managed to seal the watch case ingeniously hermetically from dust and water. According to the story, Wilsdorf was at a party where he tried to open an oyster without a proper oyster knife. This gave him an idea for his waterproof watch: it was the birth of the name Oyster. Dismantling the Rolex Oyster also required special tools.

To draw attention to his revolutionary invention, Hans Wilsdorf recruited a 26-year-old secretary from Brighton named Mercedes Gleitze. He convinced her to wear the Rolex Oyster in her attempt to swim the Channel from France to England. She made that crossing in October 1927; she wore the Rolex with a ribbon around her neck. After a swim of more than 10 hours in the cold water, the watch was undamaged and still ran perfectly on time. With this historic achievement, Gleitze became a legend and the first Rolex ambassador.

Rolex Mercedes Gleize
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