As one of the world’s most widely recognized and highly regarded luxury watch brands, its influence and reputation of class, elegance, and style reach worldwide, inspiring generations of consumers and appreciators of the brand alike. With over a hundred years of history of success and innovation, Rolex watches boast the patronage of famous figures such as Paul Newman, James Bond, and more. It is no way that today the company continues to strive for excellence as one of the world’s leading watch manufacturers, and so many people covet the “crown for every achievement”.
In 1905 in London, brothers-in-law Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the company that would eventually become what we now know as Rolex. They soon opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and renamed the company to Rolex; Wilsdorf chose this name due its resemblance of the sound of winding up a watch, and its ease of pronunciability across languages. It was also short enough to fit on the face of a watch and catchy enough for people to remember.
In 1910, a Rolex was the first wristwatch in the world to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne. Only a few years later in 1914, they were awarded a Class A Precision Certificate by Kew Observatory, an achievement that previously had been granted almost exclusively to marine chronometers, timepieces that are used as portable time standards by the military. From this early date in the brand’s history, the Rolex name would become synonymous with precision and accuracy, a feat that would continue to be upheld up until today.
After the first World War, Wilsdorf moved the company’s base to Geneva, Switzerland due to post-war taxes on luxury imports. In 1927 the company manufactured the first ever waterproof and dust-proof wristwatch, and named it the “Oyster”. It featured a case that was sealed air tight, preventing interference with the movement, or the watch’s inner mechanism, to the highest degree possible. The next year, Mercedes Gleitze, the first person to woman to swim across the English Channel, did so while wearing an Oyster, which proved to be in perfect working condition after the 10 hour swim.
In 1931, the company invented the first ever self-winding wristwatch, which used a system known as a Perpetual rotor, a semi-circular plate that moves freely within the watch. This mechanism would become the basis for all automatic watches across the industry. Two years later, members of the first expedition to fly over Mount Everest were equipped with Rolex Oysters. In 1935, Sir Malcom Campbell, the “king of speed” who broke the word record for land speed nine times between 1924 and 1925, wrote a letter to Rolex stating “I have now been using my Rolex Watch for a while, and it is keeping perfect time under somewhat strenuous conditions”.
" Throughout the next half of the 20th century, the company would continue to make monumental strides in watchmaking history and technology, rightfully earning its reputation as leaders of innovation, luxury, and prestige."
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay led the first successful expedition to reach the top of Mount Everest and did so while wearing Rolex watches. To celebrate this feat the Oyster Perpetual Explorer was released to commemorate the event and quickly became an accessory of iconic status. Throughout the next half of the 20th century, the company would continue to make monumental strides in watchmaking history and technology, rightfully earning its reputation as leaders of innovation, luxury, and prestige. In 1960, Hans Wilsdorf would die, leaving the company to be run by his trust, but not before establishing Rolex as one of the world’s great leaders in timepieces.
Today Rolex continues to enjoy its reputation of peak luxury, its watches being highly coveted and regarded as great symbols of status. The company’s contributions to science, convenience, and all while staying indisputably elegant are undeniably significant. It is no wonder that generations have enjoyed Rolex wristwatches, and more will likely continue to admire and seek these accessories as symbols of adventurism and ultimate success.