Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in London in 1905 at just 24 years old, when it would distribute timepieces. However, he soon dreamt of a watch that would be worn on the wrist. At the time, wristwatches weren’t very precise but Hans foresaw that they could become something that is not only elegant but also operate with precision. In order to convince the public of the reliability of the innovative timepieces, he had created. He equipped them with small precise movements from Swiss manufacturer Bienne.
The name Rolex would not come until three years later, in 1908, when Hans registered the trademark for the company. He wanted his watches to have a name that was short and easy to say in any language that also looked good on their dials.
When speaking on the name, He said, “I tried combining the letters of the alphabet in every possible way. This gave me some hundred names, but none of them felt quite right. One morning, while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along Cheapside in the City of London, a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”
In 1914, the first-ever Rolex watch was awarded a Class A Precision Certificate by the Kew Observatory. This was an incredible achievement for the brand considering that this classification was normally online given to specialised marine chronometers.
Soon, the Wartime taxes imposed on luxury goods during the World War caused Hans to leave England and in 1919, Rolex found its new home in Geneva, Switzerland. The levies on silver and gold, which were the main metals used in production, were much cheaper than in England and allowed Rolex to continue producing watches.
Rolex’s innovation continued and in 1926 the company created the world’s first ever waterproof and dustproof watch, which marked a major step forward. It was given the name Oyster after its hermetically sealed case that provided unmatched protection for the movement inside.
Following this, in 1931, Rolex invented and patented the world’s first ever self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor. This innovative system is now at the heart of every modern automatic watch, a true testament to the greatness of the invention.
Again, in 1945, Rolex was responsible for yet another leap forward in watchmaking. This year signified the launch of the first ever self-winding wristwatch to indicate the date in a window on the dial. It became the pillar of the Oyster collection and remains one of their most popular models to date, becoming available in a variety of styles for men and women.
The early 50s saw Rolex develop watches that went beyond simply telling the time and served as tools for those who wore them. These watches were intended for more professional activities like deep-sea diving, aviation, mountain climbing and scientific exploration. Of course, these watches became associated with everlasting enthusiasm and became known as the “watches of achievers”.
Then, international travel was developed and pilots began to fly through several time zones in a short period of time. At this point, it became important to know the time zone in various places in the world for the first time ever and Rolex responded by making a watch to match this need.
1967 saw the launch of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, which was waterproof to a depth of 610 metres, an incredible number for the time. This timepiece was developed for the needs of professional deep-sea divers – the case was equipped with a helium escape valve that made decompression possible without risking damage to the watch.
This was later bested 11 years later, with the Sea-Dweller 4000 which could reach double the depth of its predecessor.
In 1985, Rolex became the first watchmaker to use 904L steel, most commonly used in high technology, aerospace and chemical industries. All of Rolex’s steel watches are now manufactured from their own 904L superalloy, now known as “Oystersteel”. It is comparable to precious metals with anti-corrosion properties and can acquire an exceptional sheen once properly polished.