Interwatches Blog


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(Hans Wilsdorf)

Hans Eberhard Wilhelm Wilsdorf was born in Kulmbach, a tiny village 50 kilometres from Nuremberg in Bavaria in March 22, 1881. He came from a family of ironmongers, a business initially founded by his grandfather Carl Traugger Wilsdorf in 1842. After working in Geneva for Cuno Korten, the watch making company, he moved to London in 1903. Two years later, he was able to start his own watch business. When seeking for a partner, he met through his lawyer Alfred James Davis. The relationship was further strengthened when Davis married Wilsdorf’s younger sister.

The Company called Wilsdorf and Davis was founded and commenced trading in 1905. They traded from offices at 83, Hatton gardens; the heart of London’s jewellery world, but within 18 months they had moved to 44 Holborn Viaduct, less than 500 yards from Hatton gardens and less than a mile from Clerkenwell, then as now the center of the English watchmaking trade.
The business was, at the time, one of importing movements from Jean Aegler’s ebauche factory in the Rebberg, Bienne, and cases and dials from other Swiss suppliers. The watxhes would then be tested for performance by English watchmakers before being cased and shipped to their customers, many of whom were just down the road in Hatton Gardens. The watches were unsigned on the dials, allowing the retailer to place his own name there. On the movement was the simple mark W&D, which also repeated on the inside of the case back, standing, of course, for Wilsdorf and Davis.

Although they started by trading only two watches, the pocket and purse models, Hans saw a small niche in the market and decided to exploit it. He would specialize in wristwatches. “Rolex” word was first registered in Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland on July 2, 1908 and four years later in London on July 6, 1912. The invention of a brand name for the product allowed the partners to differentiate their product from all others. It had to be a word that wouldn’t mean anything in any language (if possible) and easy to pronounce. They came up with ROLEX, it is not known who of them created because there weren’t left any notes or explanation about this. They then began to mark the watches with the new trademark, first on the movement only and then on the inside of the case back.

Between the company’s innovations, we can name the first self-winding watch; the first waterproof watch case; the first wristwatch with a date on the dial; the first watch to show two time zones at once and, most importantly, the first watchmakers to earn the coveted chronometer certification for a wristwatch. According to prestige, Rolex still holds the record for the most certified chronometer movements in the category of wristwatches. Another known fact is that Rolex participated in the development of the original quartz watch movements. Although Rolex produced a few quartz models for its Oyster line, the company’s engineers were involved in design and implementation of the technology during the early 1970’s.

The first self-winding Rolex watch was accessible to public in 1931, powered by an internal mechanism that used the movement of the wearer’s arm. This not only made watch-winding unnecessary but also eliminated the problem of over-winding a watch and harming its mechanism. Rolex was also the first watch company to create a truthfully waterproof watch, another milestone from novelty to functional timepiece. Wilsdorf even went so far as to have a specially made Rolex watch attached to the side of the Trieste bathyscaphe, which went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The watch survived and it was as well tested so that the results obtained would be keeping perfect time during its descent and ascent.

Rolex has also a trascendental reputation in watches suitable for the extremes of deep-sea diving, aviation and mountain climbing. Sport models include the Oyster Perpetual Sea Dweller 2000 feet in 1971. This watch features a helium release valve co-invented with Swiss watchmaker Doxa that dispenses helium during decompression. Another similar model is the GMT Master, originally developed as a consequence of a Pan Am Airways request in order to assist pilots in transcontinental flights. The Explorer and Explorer II were developed specifically for explorers who would go through rough environments, such as the world famous Everest Expeditions.

On the most glamorous side, Ian Fleming’s James Bond character wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual in the series of spy novels. In the early EON production of James Bond films, Commander Bond was seen wearing a Rolex Submariner.

Among modern Rolex watches are the Air-King, Datejust, GMT Master/GMT II, Submariner, Sea-Dweller, Daytona Cosmograph, Day-Date, Oyster Perpetual and Yacht-Master. Most Rolex watches have a case design called the Oyster. Dressy designs usually fall under the sister brand called Cellini. The third line in the Rolex Empire is the lesser expensive, but high quality, Tudor brand. The primary types of Rolex bracelets include the Jubilee, Oyster and the President.
Rolex SA, the current company name, is not a public corporation. In fact, it is a foundation initiated and originally established by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred James Davis. According to establishing documentation, the Rolex SA Company can never be sold nor even traded on any stock market.



Filed under: Brands History, luxury watches, Mens, Rolex, Rolex Accuracy, Rolex Chronograph, Rolex Datejust, Rolex Day Date, Rolex Day Date President, Rolex Explorer, ROLEX HISTORY, Rolex Lady's Watches, Rolex Movements, Rolex Oyster, Rolex Perpetual, Rolex President, Rolex Prince, Rolex Quartz Watches, Rolex Sea Dweller, Rolex SeaDweller, Rolex Submariner, ROLEX THE KEW “A”, Rolex Watch, rolex watches, Watch, Watches, Womens

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