Rolex is the undisputed king of watchmaking with a crown logo to match. Rolex set the standard in immaculate design and precision engineering, which were virtues dear to prolific German watchmaker Hans Waldorf who founded the company in 1905. Few luxury items hold their value like Rolex watches making them the perfect choice for those looking not only for a timepiece to enjoy wearing, but an excellent investment.
When Hans Wilsdorf established his company “Wilsdorf & Davis” in London at the beginning of the twentieth century, the pocket watch was the world’s favoured timepiece. His vision was for wristwatches, however, and after just three years he produced the first wristwatch to be awarded the esteemed Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. In 1919, he relocated his brand to Switzerland and renamed it “Rolex”, a name that could be easily pronounced in a number of languages.
Over the next three decades Rolex led the field in wristwatch production, introducing the waterproof watch, the legendary Oyster, in 1926, the first automatic movement with a winding rotor, in 1931, and the first watch with an automatic date, the Datejust, in 1945. Still, it wasn’t only a pioneering spirit and commitment to extraordinary quality that launched Rolex on the path to greatness. It was also Wilsdorf’s sharp eye for product placement and clever branding.
In October 1927 Mercedes Gleitze became the first woman to swim the English Channel, hanging from a ribbon about her neck was a Rolex Oyster, proving itself as the first truly waterproof watch. After Gleitze and her timepiece made all the front pages a precedent was set and Rolex watches would later find their ways onto the wrists of many of the twentieth century’s most adventurous figures—Sir Edmund Hillary, for his Everest summit, Sir Malcolm Campbell, for his world land speed record attempts, and Jacques Piccard for his expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
As well as able to withstand extreme environmental conditions, Rolex watches became an international symbol of success. It was largely thanks to their connection with US presidents. After sending gold Datejusts to Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower as presents, that Rolex came up with the ingenious idea of the Day-Date, in 1956, a precious-metal-only dress watch with the day of the week written out in full. The Day-Date, later dubbed the “Rolex President” was sent to every US President since. The success metaphor was so far-reaching that even revolutionaries such as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro donned the watches.
The glory years for Rolex
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