Some luxury brands are so iconic they become household names, and while this might seem like a good thing, it can also be tricky since one of the markers of luxury is exclusivity. As a name synonymous with high-end timepieces, Rolex must walk a fine line between accessibility and exclusivity. The Rolex commitment to horology is reflected locally through its Lebanese distributor A&S Chronora, who have an even thornier path to trek in a country that is plagued with third world problems as well as strong competition from an enigmatic saturation of luxury goods.
Lebanon has always been an important gateway market to the rest of the region, and even though the country is small, it is an avant-garde hub for luxury as well as a highly influential and well-respected market that serves as a reference for the Gulf nations.
2015 marked the launch of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40mm with a new-generation movement, the Caliber 3255. A&S Chronora gave the timepiece a warm Lebanese welcome with a one-of-a-kind public exhibition at the brand’s downtown Beirut boutique, as well as a series of private workshops for handpicked aficionados. The first in the Middle East and one of only a handful internationally, the exhibition was dedicated to the “president’s watch” (as it is also known for its popularity with national leaders) and showcased beautiful photos, archival material and interactive panels, all in a bid to highlight the true essence of Rolex. Though it is unusual for an exclusive brand like Rolex to hold such a public event, A&S Chronora wanted to share something they are very proud of with the public.
At the workshops, which were held in collaboration with Executive, guests heard about and inspected the inner workings of a Rolex and even attempted to build a watch movement themselves. They also visited the after-sales service atelier to observe certified Rolex watchmakers at work. This was the first time the public was allowed to see how things are done behind the scenes and observe how delicate and intricate the process is. The workshops were an opportunity for A&S Chronora to interact with watch lovers on a new level and their efforts were clearly appreciated. Many attendees had more questions than time permitted and others, many of whom were already wearing Rolexes of their own, voiced their newfound respect for the product as well as all the craftsmen who create it.
One Rolex watch takes a whole year to make (sometimes more), and that’s not counting years of research and development. Every piece inside a Rolex is created in-house, and the brand even makes its own tools — a Rolex watch is made using only Rolex instruments. There are hundreds of skilled workers who toil over each of the tiny parts of the movements. So what separates the average Joe who recognizes a classic Rolex model and knows it’s “expensive” from a genuine enthusiast is the understanding of the materials’ value and the extent of the workmanship that goes into each timepiece.
While the brand is already very well respected, not many people get to see just how much attention, time and effort is poured into every single watch. Those visiting the Rolex exhibition were able to enjoy a wealth of information not normally available to the public, and privileged guests at the workshops got a truly exceptional peek into the world of Rolex craftsmanship — a perfect example of how the brand manages to smoothly blend luxury and mass appeal, while navigating the Lebanese market.