Rolex SA is the leading luxury watch manufacturer in the world producing over 2,000 watches per day that generate sales of over $7 billion dollars each year. The Swiss based Company manufactures, services and distributes wristwatches under the Rolex and Tudor brand through authorized dealers. It was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, England and was recently ranked 57 on the worlds most powerful brands. The original name of the company was Wilsdorf and Davis. In 1919, operations were relocated to Geneva, Switzerland. The brand today competes with other leading luxury watch companies like Patek Philippe, Omega, and Panerai and sponsors many major sports events in tennis, golf, yachting, and racing.
Rolex was founded in 1902 by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf and Davis. He founded the watch making company in London where they specialized in importing Hermann Aegler’s quality movements and then placing them in quality watch cases made by companies such as Dennison. The duo distributed the timepieces to jewelers that added their names to the wristwatches. Some of the earliest watches produced were often stamped with “W&D” on the inside of the caseback.
No debate. Rolex is nowadays the “king of watches“. It might easily be the most influential, most known and most collectible watch brand to date. According to Forbes, “Rolex is the leading name in luxury wristwatches” and the most valuable brand only focused on watchmaking. There are dozens of histories and rumors about the brand and yet, even with such influence, some facts are still unknown from collectors. Here are 5 facts every watch lover should know about Rolex.
Rolex certainly is one of the best examples of what the Swiss industry produces. Indeed, when you ask the average person to name Swiss brands or watch brands, Rolex immediately appears. For most of the non-affcianado, Rolex is Swiss. End of the story. This is true… nowadays. Because, as surprising it might be (at least for some, as many know about the origins of the brand), Rolex isn’t born Swiss. While brands like Omega or IWC have been created on the foundations of a manufacture, later transformed into a commercial entity, Rolex did the other way around.
In 1905, Hans Wilsdorf and his business partner and brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, founded Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd. in London. In 1908, Wilsdorf registered the trademark “Rolex” and opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The company officially changed its name to Rolex in 1915. There are various stories about the origin of the Rolex name, none apparently confirmed by Wilsdorf himself. One is that Wilsdorf followed the lead of George Eastman, who invented the “Kodak” name for his own company. Eastman’s success started a trend of short, invented brand names. Another story is that Rolex is a sort of portmanteau of the French phrase horlogerie exquise. Regardless of the inspiration, the name certainly caught on.
Rolex has close connections with several real-life celebrities, but the most famous connection may be with the fictional character James Bond. Rolex collectors differ on some of the details surrounding which Rolex models appeared in which films, but it is settled that in his original 14 Bond books, Ian Fleming mentioned only one brand as belonging to 007 – Rolex. So, when Bond made the jump to the big screen, he naturally wore Rolex. Sources vary slightly on which models appeared in which movies, but it seems safe to say that Rolex appeared in these Bond films: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, and License to Kill.