ROLEX: Then & Now

By MW Desk

From taking a deep dive into the depths of the Mariana Trench to the invention of the first waterproof watch, the storied history of Rolex is a story worth telling and retelling

Like the ‘one ring to rule them all’ in the famous book Lord of The Rings, one watch brand is considered the King in the industry: Rolex. This is a brand synonymous throughout the world with luxury and even beyond. Known for its technological innovations and legendary design codes, every chapter in the incredible history of the Swiss watchmaking powerhouse is inspired and revolutionary.

The early days of Rolex started with its founder — Hans Wilsdorf (1881-1960)— a visionary genius who set up the firm Wilsdorf & Davis with his partner in 1905 in London. The company specialised in distributing wristwatches in Great Britain and the British Empire. With his rare capacity to embrace all fields of the company’s activities – from technology and communication to organisation and distribution for over 50 years, Rolex climbed the ladder of success with great enthusiasm.

Hans Wilsdorf foresaw that the wristwatch was destined to become an everyday object — for men as well as for women — provided that he could prove it to be a precise, waterproof, robust and reliable instrument. Much of the products Rolex produced during his time were inspired by his personality and work.

The year was 1910 when a Rolex wristwatch — Hans Wilsdorf had invented the name ‘Rolex’ to sign his creations in 1908 — obtained the first certificate in the world granted to such a watch by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne, Switzerland. By 1914, a different Rolex watch received the first Class A certificate accorded to a wristwatch from the prestigious Kew Observatory. These accolades further confirmed Wilsdorf’s vision of the apparent compatibility between wristwatches and chronometric precision.

The birth of the name Rolex is an interesting story too. From the beginning, Wilsdorf understood the importance of a brand concept. He acknowledged the need to use a name of his choice to sign all his present and future creations. The visionary wanted a short name (five letters maximum), easy to pronounce in any language, pleasant sounding, easy to remember, and uncomplicated to inscribe elegantly on the dial and movement of his watches. That’s how he came up with the name Rolex, which, frankly, meets every criterion mentioned above.

This fundamental brand identity element emerged in the 1930s with the Rolex crown and Rolesor. The crown as the brand’s logo was registered in 1931, while the patented material Rolesor appeared in 1933. This exclusive name was given to designate the combination of two different materials, gold and steel, on a Rolex watch.

Apart from the excellent watches that Rolex produces, one of the most fascinating parts of its success story is Wilsdorf’s skillful communication. The brand’s “Testimonee” concept began when Wilsdorf decided to test the Oyster in 1927 with Mercedes Gleitz swimming across the English Channel equipped with the Oyster watch. This success story was advertised on The Daily Mail’s front page, leading to the birth of the Testimonee concept. This moment marked the beginning of a beautiful association between Rolex and exceptional personalities from all fields whose accomplishments bear witness to the excellence of Rolex watches.

Talking about the Oyster case, it was the passion and efforts of Hans Wilsdorf that led to the development of the first waterproof watch in the world in 1926. It set the foundation for Rolex to become the leader in creating emblematic watches like the Oyster Perpetual Datejust and the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date. By the 1950s, Rolex entered the world of “Professional” tool watches. Beginning with the Oyster Perpetual Explorer to the Oyster Perpetual Submariner Divers’ watch, Rolex has been a massive player in producing tool watches for every professional endeavour.

Since the onset of the 21st century, Rolex has made a commitment to protect the planet. From the launch of its Perpetual Planet initiative in 2019 to its Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Rolex has been instrumental in bringing awareness to environmental challenges and the planet’s fragility. It is the beginning of a new era for the prestigious brand.

Reproduced with permission from Mansworldindia.com

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