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When you hear the word watch, what are the first three brands that come to your mind? One of those three names must be Rolex. Isn’t it? The words Rolex and watches have become almost similar. If you look back, you will find that the brand has come a long way since its inception. The journey of Rolex watches was exciting, adventurous, but not an easy one.
Let’s take a glimpse into the history of the brand.
Hans Wilsdorf is the father of Rolex. 19-year old Hans joined a firm that exported watches in Switzerland. That was the time when pocket watches were in trend. As people did not consider wrist watches enough masculine, the concept of wristwatches hardly existed. The concept of watches for women was nowhere to be found.
Moreover, there was another technical issue. The manufacturers found it kind of impossible to include so many different parts and mechanisms in a small case. Also, watchmakers were worried about the moisture, dust, and sweat watches would have to endure. They did not know how to make watches resistant to these unavoidable elements.
But, the young man named Hans was determined to take up all the challenges. 24-year old by then, Hans noticed a gradual change in the lifestyle, fashion, and dress-code. In 1905, he was almost sure that wristwatches are the future. Confident about his vision, the 24-year old devised a business plan. As a result, Hans and his partner Alfred Davis started working, and that’s how the first Rolex was born.
Where did the name “Rolex” come from?
Hans wanted the brand name to be simple and easy to remember. He wanted his brand name to be short so that people can easily pronounce it. But, at the same time, he was concerned about the look of the brand name. He wanted such a name that would look good on the watch.
And, one fine morning, he just got the name. When asked about how he came across the name, he often said that the genie whispered “Rolex” into his ears. If you think a bit deeper, you will find that people worldwide don’t find it difficult to utter the name. In any part of the world, the pronunciation of the word remains unchanged.
Innovation is the mantra.
Rolex always believed in innovation. Then or now, the brand has used the latest technology for its watches. In 1910, the brand was the first one to get the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. In 1914, Hans Wilsdorf also obtained the “Class A” Precision Certificate that was mostly meant for marine chronometers from the Kew Observatory. This certificate helped the brand to attract British customers that valued accurate timekeeping. This particular mechanism enabled the British empire to dominate the seas.
In 1919, as the British taxes increased, Wilsdorf relocated the business to Switzerland. As soon as the production cost reduced, the brand concentrated on the challenge of making watches resistant to dust and moisture. The team successfully made the Oyster, a fully sealed watch case that was even resistant to rain. In 1926, Oyster was launched and became the talk of the town.
You might be surprised to know that the Oyster is the reason behind the “fluted bezel” found in many recent Rolex watches. The fluted bezel is intended to receive a tool to interlock the bezel to the mid-base. In 1931, the brand came up with an auto-winding movement no one thought about; it won’t be wrong to say that the auto-winding mechanism took the mechanical watch industry by storm, taking Rolex to the headlines.
With the outbreak of World War II, when other watch manufacturers tended to ignore the civilian market and focused on catering to the Military, Rolex was the only one to do the opposite. It supplied limited items to the British Military and continued to innovate for the civilians. In 1945, Rolex introduced Datejust, the first watch to feature automatic date jump at midnight.
And the trend continued. The brand never stopped innovating. With the mantra of innovation, the transformation of the brand is almost indeed remarkable. To make it clear, in 1957, a Rolex Submariner was priced at $150, while in 2017, it retailed for $7500.
Design consistency is what Rolex believes in.
While the world revolves around trend, Rolex sticks to consistency. Yes, design consistency is what made them another name for luxury watches. If you take a closer look at the designs since the beginning, you will find that the brand has only made conservative and incremental changes to its designs. Hardly any changes have been made to the aesthetics. Some experts believe that the brand’s 20-century designs were so aesthetically enriched that they hardly needed any change. Unlike other watchmakers, Rolex never found the urge to hover around the changing trends. And, the result of strict adherence to the legacy designs is visible. Design consistency, no doubt, has made the trendsetter for ages.
The list of firsts and how they happened.
With Oyster, the list begins – Oyster, the first waterproof watch. Rolex is the first brand to become a certified chronometer watchmaker. When it comes to auto-adjusting dates, Rolex is the pioneer. The never-ending list of firsts has gifted the world with much-coveted Rolex watches like Rolex Daytona, Rolex Submariner, and many more. The brand is the first one to introduce the idea of wearing a watch high in the mountains and deep into the sea. Even in terms of marketing, Rolex showed the way. To promote the idea of wearing a watch while performing extreme activities, the brand started working with renowned personalities and athletes. In 1927, they endorsed a young marathon swimmer, a female, to promote its new range of Oyster watches. This young lady spent 10 hours in the English Channel with a Rolex Oyster wrapped in her wrist. I hope you can easily imagine the outcome.
Last but not least, the brand has always chosen the best material for the watches: steel. Like many other firsts, the brand exclusively uses 904L steel to make its watches. Like the design, innovation, and other consistencies, the brand successfully remained consistent in choosing its customers’ best material. No doubt, Rolex never had to look back.