History of the Rolex Watch Company is a story about success, precision and luxury. More than a century, famous Swiss watchmaker has been developing their state-of-the-art timepieces, in terms of design, performances and durability. Today, Rolex is a synonym for accuracy and a symbol of the high class.
Rolex products personify the hard work and ingenuity of more than 4,000 workers, from all over the worlds, who craft about 2,000 men’s and women’s watches per day. This makes Rolex the world biggest luxury watch brand.
The story of extraordinary success began in 1905, when German watchmaker Hans Wilhelm Wilsdorf and his English partner Alfred James Davis founded Wilsdorf and Davis Ltd. In 1908, the company was registered as Rolex. There are several stories about the origin of name Rolex. The word was made up and it was probably the best solution for the global market, as it was easy to pronounce and easy to remember.
After a few years of selling pocket and purse timepieces, company made a large step, with its first edition of wrist watches. They were powered by very accurate and affordable mechanisms, which were imported from Herman Aegler’s company. These movements turned out to be important part of the brand’s fast growth.
In the year 1910, Swiss watchmaker used Aegler’s mechanism in the world first timepiece to receive the Swiss Certificate of Precision (COSC Certificate). This certificate is granted by highest watch making authorities in Switzerland. Four years later, Rolex received the class “A” precision certificate, by Kew observatory in Great Britain, which up to the year 1914, was reserved exclusively for marine chronometers.
After that, Swiss watchmaker set its own rigorous tests, for each mechanism, which was aimed to be used in its timepieces and only the most accurate and reliable products finished with Rolex signature. Ever since, brand’s watches have been recognized as a guarantee of the highest quality.
With the end of the First World War, Rolex made a most of increased popularity of men’s wrist watches and the brand was awarded for its numerous innovations, by most prestigious observatories in the world: Kew, Geneva, Neuchatel, and Besancon.
Extreme reliability has characterized all Rolex models, ever since the world first waterproof wristwatch, under the name Oyster, was born back in 1926. New line featured cases with hermetic seals, which guaranty resistance to shocks, pressure, dust, water and any other intrusive element.
The extraordinary case was complemented with the world first self- winding mechanism, in 1931. Thanks to the ingenious Perpetual rotor system, this mechanism provided a superb accuracy, higher then ever before. Ever since, models from the Oyster Perpetual line have been most popular brand’s products.
In 1935, the Perpetual rotor was improved with a new balance wheel, called the “Super Balance”. Two years later, Swiss watchmaker launched its first chronograph, which came with the Valjoux mechanism.
During the Second World War, Rolex Oyster Perpetuals have been highly popular among the British pilots in the Royal Air Force, as a symbol of success and perfection.
In 1945, Rolex introduced the Datejust, the first timepiece to show date through a tiny aperture at a dial. This symbol of luxury and elegance is still the one of the most desirable brand’s models. Several years later, the Datejust exclusively presented the famous Cyclops eye – innovative feature, added to a dial, in order to highlight a date aperture.
Another brand’s icon, the Rolex Day Date, which showed both, the date and the day, was released in 1956 (became popular as “President” watch, after former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who owned one piece).
In the early 1950s, Rolex started manufacturing a special type of watches that served as tools of professionals, such as divers, pilots, explorers and mountain climbers. Under the new Professional line, Swiss brand launched some of the most iconic timepieces.
In 1953, it presented the Submariner – the first timepiece, with water-resistance up to 100 metres (330 feet). Also, the prototype of the Explorer successfully survived the most extreme conditions of Himalayas, at the wrist of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, during the first victorious ascent of Mount Everest. Some 20 years leater, this model evolved in the Explorer II, specially crafted for cave explorers.
More then a successful year was completed with the Milgauss (“watch for scientists”, which is resistant to magnetic fields up to 1,000 Gauss, thanks to the special shield and the Oyster case) and the Turn-O-Graph (origin of all modern sport models). In 1954, the Professional line was refreshed with the GMT-Master watch – specially made for “Pan Am” pilots to simplify timereading on transcontinental flights.
In 1960, Swiss watchmaker presented legendary Cosmograph Daytona. Named after the most famous motor racing circuit in the United States, this superb chronograph marked the beginning of the brand’s close connection with the automobile sport.
In 1971, professional divers got the improved version of the Submariner model. Thanks to the gas escape valve, new Sea-Dweller watch increased water-resistance, first to 2000 feet and few years later, up to 4000 feet.
The Rolex Professional line was completed in 1992, with new Yacht-Master watches, for both men and women, who wanted to conquer a sea. With the Yacht-Master II collection, professional and amateur sailors got the amazing regatta chronograph, with a programmable countdown.
Through the years, Rolex has established a very close connection with the world of sports. Family of Rolex ambassadors is made of elite athletes. Winter sports, tennis, motor-sport, golf and yachting are just some members of the brand’s sport family.
Since 1978, Swiss watchmaker has been the official timekeeper of the most famous tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon. It is also the official timekeeper of the Australian Open and the main sponsor of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Tournament.
Rolex is a proud sponsor of the tennis elite. Some of the best players on men’s and women’s tour are a part of Rolex sport family. Being arguably the best player ever, Roger Federer is a true representative of Swiss watchmaker. The timepiece that he wears is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust. Juan Martin Del Potro and Wilfred Tsonga are upcoming stars of the sport, as well as Rolex ambassadors.
Rolex is also proud to have top WTA players in its family. Justine Henin, of course, is the most successful one. With over 100 weeks as the world’s number one, she is the symbol of brand’s duration and excellence. Karoline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic are the most attractive and elegant Rolex ambassadors. Both of them have reached the first place on the WTA tour and both are wearing the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ladyjust.
A number of established Hollywood actors are ambassadors of Rolex watches. Also, Swiss manufacturer is present in film making and today’s entertainment industry. Keannu Reeves, Orlando Blum, Tom Cruise, Al Pacino are some of the members of a very large brand’s family.
Female actors are also included in this numerous household. Elizabeth Hurley, Jennifer Aniston, Sharon Stone are some of the divas wearing elegant Swiss wrist watches.
Rolex is also a very busy actor in Hollywood movies and shows. The Submariner was the first James Bond’s watch, while the Cosmograph Daytona became extremely popular at the Paul Newman’s wrist, in his racing film “Winning”. Swiss timepieces have a place in movies like “Rain Man”, “Unknown”, “Carlito’s way” and “Deer Hunter”.