Rolex has its origins in London in 1905, where it was founded by Hans Wilsdorf at the age of 24. Hans had dreams of a watch worn on the wrist which was actually able to tell the precise time – something which didn’t happen with the wristwatches on the market. Using Swiss mechanisms, Hans set out to win over his public. His persistence proved worth his while and by1910, Hans developed the first watch to be granted the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision from the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne, Switzerland. Rolex was on the way up. This award was consolidated in 1914 with the Kew Observatory award for class “A” precision certificate. This award had previously just been awarded for marine chronometers, so from this point forward Rolex was intrinsically linked with precision.
In 1919, Rolex moved to Geneva in Switzerland, considered to be the natural home of excellent time keeping and kept pushing the boundaries of science wit the first waterproof watch in 1926. Called the ‘Oyster’, the watch is hermetically sealed to protect against not only water but also dust and dirt. Never shy of proving a point, the Rolex Oyster claimed its waterproof ‘stripes’ when it was worn by Mercedes Gleitz, when she swam the English Channel is 1927. The Oyster was, of course, perfectly dry at the end.
The 1930’s saw Rolex go from strength to strength with the invention of the world’s first self-winding mechanism and faced many sporting challenges with success. Sir Malcom Campbell wore his Rolex when he repeatedly broke the world land speed record.
Always keeping the consumer in mind, 1945 saw the creation of the Datejust, which allowed the date to be displayed in a window on the dial of self-winding watches. It did take a decade, though, for this to move to women’s watches.
Rolex took a slight, although natural, change of direction in the 1950’s, when watches became more like equipment for diving, mountain climbing and scientific discovery. Rolex was put to the test when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, wearing Oyster Perpetuals. It was also during this time, that Rolex was able to be taken under the sea to a depth of 100m without consequence The Rolex later managed a depth of 10,916. Straddling time zones became part of Rolex’s repetoire when the GMT Master became the official watch of many airlines, including Pan Am.
In 1956, The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s pre-eminent particle physics laboratory, confirmed that the Milgauss watch could resist magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss.
In 1971, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer II was dedicated to polar explorers, speleologists, and all those pushing the boundaries of exploration. The watch featured a distinctive 24-hour hand, an invaluable aid around the poles and beneath ground when you can’t tell night from day.
Rolex’s links with yachting were strengthened in the 1990’s with the launch of the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master and that link, based on sponsorship, is still going strong in 2014.
On March 26th, 2012, filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron descended into the Mariana Trench, making the first solo dive into the deepest point on earth, and the only dive into the trench since the two-man Trieste expedition of 1960. The only thing that both voyages shared was a Rolex.
The history and innovation that has surrounded the Rolex story has contributed in making the Rolex brand one of the best watches for holding its value, which in turn has made it perfect as an asset that can stored by high-end pawnbrokers offering watch loans.