The logo of this Swiss watchmaker Rolex is a five-pronged crown, which couldn’t be more apt given that Rolex is the legitimate king of watches. Famous in all corners of the planet and also a benchmark of quality, ask anyone that’s the best luxury watch brand and you will find the exact same answer: Rolex. It’s no wonder some of the most powerful characters ever have worn Rolex watches, including Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Sir Winston Churchill.
Synonymous with success and power, some of history’s most brilliant characters, from Winston Churchill to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, have worn Rolex watches.
Beyond the abstract concept of luxury, there are some very strong reasons why Rolex watches occupy the position they do. Since it was founded in 1905, Rolex has been credited with popularising the wristwatch for men. By patenting the first waterproof watch case, optimizing the automatic winding motion, and receiving the very initial chronometer certificate on a wristwatch, Rolex is a powerhouse of technological innovations and a stickler for precision. In addition to its technological might, Rolex has generated these legendary men’s and women’s watches that the very first base stones – including the Oyster, the Perpetual and the Datejust – are still being manufactured now. With tweaks and ever-improved substances added across the way, Rolex has essentially remained faithful to its original layouts.
Rolex is still the top manufacturer of COSC-certified chronometers, and although the company prides itself as hermetic as its Oyster watches in regards to divulging information, manufacturing figures could be anywhere between 800,000 to 1 million watches a year; a drop in the ocean when compared to the jolt of 10 million imitation Rolex watches which pop up throughout the globe each year.
As we delve into the history of the world’s best-known Swiss watchmaking business, some fairly curious facts surface: Rolex was not originally a Swiss company, its creator wasn’t a watchmaker by livelihood, or for this matter Swiss, and the provider isn’t by any stretch of the imagination an older watch firm. His aptitude for English gave him a good head-start at college, and one of his early tasks involved composing trade letters from a pocket watch export company in La Chaux-de-Fonds to customers in the US and England.
Hans Wilsdorf, the enigmatic and highly private German business maverick, married a British girl and maintained his British nationality until his death in 1960.
Wilsdorf then moved to London, the capital of world finance and trade, married an Englishwoman, embraced a British nationality and setup shop in 1905. Wilsdorf, the enigmatic and highly private German businessman, then left London and chose his company to Geneva in 1919, to be nearer to his Bienne supplier, although he never gave up his British nationality. He died in 1960 at Geneva.
Wilsdorf had a hunch there was a rewarding market for specialised excellent products – watches which nobody else was creating. His first move was to get guys to wear wristwatches. Dominated by the pocket watch, guys were loath to wear what they considered female bracelets and damned if they were to exchange their hefty pocket watches for something smaller. Warfare would soon change the prevailing bias as soldiers found strapping their watches on the wrist hammered up both hands for combat and helped officers synchronise assaults.
Conquering the offender that smaller movements were tantamount to less accuracy, Wilsdorf invested in the standard of his Swiss movements and, to prove it, in 1914 he acquired the world’s first wristwatch chronometer rating from Switzerland and a Class A certificate of precision out of London’s Kew Observatory. “It is not with low prices,” he remarked,”but, on the contraryit is with enhanced quality which we not hold the current market, but improve.”
Another challenge for the German entrepreneur was to create a watch impervious to water and dust, which seeped in through the glass and crown. The Rolex Oyster watch are the world’s first totally waterproof timepiece and the genesis of the company’s strong identity. To ensure no water could flow into the motion, the bezel, caseback and winding crown were all screwed down. The fluting of the bezel, which would turn into a distinctive trait of the Oyster family, was in fact used to screw the bezel and caseback on the middle case with a special tool produced by Rolex watches.
The Rolex Oyster watch of 1926 was the world’s first totally waterproof watch. Model shown here with an octagonal instance and fluted bezel.
After the Rolex Oyster watch had been developed and tested, Wilsdorf needed to get the message out to the public and happened upon a fantastic marketing plan. He would test the Oyster in real life conditions by pinning a wristwatch on Mercedes Gleitze’s bathing suit for her cross-Channel swim in 1927. Even the London stenographer emerged after 10 freezing hours from the water with her Rolex Oyster watch in excellent condition, and Wilsdorf took a full-page advert in the Daily Mail to showcase the Oyster’s impeccable performance – a precursor in the usage of winning testimonials. This formula would develop into a very persuasive marketing tool, and athletes of all areas, cultural statistics and professionals that needed a rugged work companion all led to Rolex watches’ solidity as a reliable brand.