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Swiss luxury watches with crown
The Pilot Watch Magazine
16 June 2024

Masterful timepieces for every wrist

Few brands are more synonymous with glamour and wealth than Rolex. The story of the Swiss luxury watchmaker began in 1905, when Hans Wilsdorf, then a 24-year-old German emigrant, and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis founded their own watch manufactory in London under the name Wilsdorf & Davis. The two young entrepreneurs manufacture stainless steel cases on site, import mechanical movements from Switzerland, assemble them into finished watches and eventually sell them to jewelers. In 1908, Wilsdorf changed the company name to a fanciful designation he created, registered the new name as a trademark, and a few years later moved the company headquarters to Biel, Switzerland – it was the birth of the famous brand with the crown in its logo, the beginning of Rolex.

Long before his competitors, Wilsdorf recognizes the lucrative market for wristwatches and invests in the development of timepieces for the wrist. To date, these have only been worn by women as a decorative accessory, while men still swear by their traditional pocket watches. But with the production of ever smaller movements, wristwatches are now also becoming increasingly popular in the male world. At the latest when the first pilots with a watch on their wrist appeared in magazines, the middle-class watch lover also wanted to adorn himself with the insignia of heroic pilots – until today. Wristwatches from Rolex convince ladies and gentlemen – and the market. The success story of the Swiss watch manufacturer is gaining momentum.

Wearing a Rolex watch allows you to enter a world of unlimited possibilities.


Innovation and progress of a brand

Hans Wilsdorf knows how to position the Rolex brand on the market far beyond the borders of Switzerland with ever new developments and models. For example, in 1926 Rolex presented the world’s first patented waterproof watch and in 1931 the Perpetual rotor – known today as the automatic movement or self-winding. This was later followed by innovations such as the automatic date and weekday display, special hairsprings, shock absorbers and bezels – some of which were protected by over 500 patents.

Although Rolex sees its main focus in particular in the development of mechanical timepieces, the watchmaker’s research department is significantly involved in the construction of the first quartz movements in the 1960s. Nevertheless, whether automatic or quartz movement, Rolex uses only the best components and materials for the production of its timepieces – including, of course, excellent pilot watches. Highest precision and accuracy are guaranteed. The Air King line created by Hans Wilsdorf in 1958 – a German’s watch in honor of the United Kingdom’s air forces – is held in particularly high esteem among pilots.

Rolex and Tudor

Since 1936, the watch brand Tudor, founded ten years earlier by the Swiss watchmaker Philippe Hüther, belongs to Rolex. Hans Wilsdorf, a businessman through and through, did not want to leave the somewhat cheaper segment to his competitors without a fight. So he acquired the trademark rights from Hüther. His idea was to establish Tudor as a sister brand alongside Rolex for price-conscious buyers. The plan worked. Even today, Tudor enjoys great popularity among watch enthusiasts worldwide thanks to its attractive ladies’ and men’s collections – and the trend is rising.

Spectacular expeditions and events

Rolex repeatedly attracts special attention by supporting spectacular expeditions and sporting events. Rolex chronometers have been involved in attempts to swim the English Channel, conquer Mount Everest, and explore the deep sea. In 1935, Sir Malcolm Campbell set the world record for land speed racing with a Rolex on his wrist, and in 1962 the brand with the little crown – incidentally an idea of the founder himself – became the official timekeeper at the Daytona International Speedway race track.

Rolex is also a founding member of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a sponsor of the Greenroom at The Academy Awards, and a valued supporter of the world’s most prestigious musical events, including the Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert and the Salzburg Festival. From the very beginning of the company, Hans Wilsdorf has been an unconventional leader, positioning Rolex in ever-changing contexts.

Rolex and the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation

On July 6, 1960, Hans Wilsdorf dies in Geneva, and the Rolex company is transferred to the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. This foundation was established in 1945 after the death of his first wife, and today is particularly committed to the successful further development of the Rolex brand – true to the vision of its founder. The non-profit organization also supports the fields of art and culture, awards scholarships and promotes social commitment. In addition to Rolex, sister brand Tudor is also part of the foundation.

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