Hans Wilsdorf founded the Rolex Watch Company. Hans was born in Germany in 1881 in a small town called Kulmbach. Together with his brother in law Alfred Davis they formed what was to be an invincible partnership, which would culminate in the production of some of the finest precision timepieces the world has known.
Situated in London under the company name of W&D, Hans was importing Aegler's Swiss movements and fitting them into superlative gold and silver cases. The W&D Company went from strength to strength making quality precision timepieces. In 1908 Hans registered the Rolex Watch Company trademark in Switzerland, the company being symbolised by the Rolex Crown referred to as the “Crown of Excellence". This was to be the start of an all-new chapter in the life of the company. Due to the ever escalating costs of the precious metals i. e. . e. gold and silver used in the watch case and bracelet manufacture and also import tax costs that were being incurred, a decision was made to relocate to Geneva in Switzerland.
In 1910 a landmark achievement in the form of an Official Chronometer Certificate was awarded to the company. This was to be the first time that any wristwatch had achieved this highly acclaimed honour. Pressing ahead with the production of an impressive range of quality precision timepieces 1914 was to be another landmark year in the history of the company. It was in 1914 that Rolex was awarded a posthumous honour this time in the form of a Class A Precision Certificate from the Kew Observatory in England. In this era watches were considered more of a novelty item, with pocket watches being more of the norm. Predominantly the watches available were ladies watches but that was going to change.
Hans was a very astute businessman and had a keen eye for advertising and publicity. He recognised that certain events happening in the world at that time could play a large part in the future of his company. Although not to be the first waterproof watch, they produced the Rolex Oyster, which was certainly to be the most effective waterproof watch. It was in the year of 1926 when an attempt was planned to swim the English Channel. Hans saw this as an excellent PR exercise for the Rolex Oyster, so he sponsored the event and provided a watch for the swimmer. The success of the event and the impeccable performance of the watch in such aquatic conditions raised the desirability and prestige of the Rolex brand immensely.
The next defining event in the production of the Rolex watch was the self-winding mechanism, which was introduced in 1931. Hans termed the mechanism the perpetual motion rotor and this principle is still used in modern day automatic watches. Other refining enhancements to the watch range were the use of metal dials and the incorporation of more durable crack resistant synthetic plastic faces.
In 1950 it was the appointment of Rene Paul Jeanneret into the position of PR manger for the company that proved to be another pivoting point for the company. Rene was a very keen sportsman and had a great influence and direction into the paths that the company took with their precision timepieces. It was this influence that borne a range of highly conceptual Rolex watches.
The first concept watch being the invincible Rolex Sea Dweller, the divers watch of choice. What greater way to show the world the invincibility of the Sea Dweller than attach one to the Trieste Bathyscaphe which dived to depths of greater than 11,000m to the base of the Mariena trench, the watch emerged totally unscathed registering perfect time with no water infiltration. Further models were added to the extreme divers range including the Rolex Submariner and Oyster Perpetual Sea Dweller.
Following the untimely death of Hans Wildorf in 1960, a Swiss businessman took over the mantle of the company called Andre Heiniger. The pursuit for excellence carried on at great pace and the next concept watch was borne. The Rolex Explorer was designed specifically for the adventurous and particularly the mountaineering fraternity due to its extremely robust and precision build. It came as no surprise that an explorer watch was provided to Sir Edmund Hilary prior to his successful ascent of Mount Everest.
The next Rolex concept watch was the famous and sublime Rolex GMT Master. The Rolex GMT Master was designed specifically to assist pilots on transcontinental flights by its ability to be able to monitor different time zones.
Next in the line of concept watches came the ever popular and highly desirable Rolex Daytona, worn by many famous cult actors like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. The Daytona was made for the motor racing enthusiast. Designed to monitor an array of racetrack data including lap times, average speeds with the outer bevel graduate with tachometer measurements.
Rolex today is one of the most prestigious luxury watch brand manufacturers with a reputation for excellence. The Rolex Watch Company is now known as Rolex SA and never can be sold. Due to the incredible workmanship, prestige, creativity and design that go into every individual watch, there are waiting lists worldwide. Look for the Rolex Crown “The Crown of Excellence".
Author David Welton
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