Many people aren’t aware that Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, was a firm supporter of the Allied Forces during the Second World War. He believed Hitler shouldn’t and couldn’t win, and he enacted certain policies to ensure British troops understood his support.
On example was his policy enacted to help British soldiers protect their investments in Rolex watches. If a British soldier was imprisoned in a German camp for prisoners of war, he was guaranteed to have the watch replaced should a German guard steal it. This not only represented piece of mind for a soldier in regards to his prized possession but also indicated Rolex’s confidence that Germany would be beaten.
British Royal Air Force pilots regularly used Rolexes to replace their inferior standard issue watches, so this policy was particularly helpful when considering the risk of being shot down and captured. Though Wilsdorf was German by birth, he resided in Switzerland and was an outspoken critic of the Nazis. His confidence in the war effort not only energized civilians but also encouraged the members of the military.
More than 3,000 Rolex watches were ordered by servicemen pledging only their word, which Wilsdorf said was all he needed from a British soldier. The unspoken but obvious corollary was that the British would overcome their enemies. What is amazing is that Wilsdorf did all of this knowing he would never be able to collect the true prices because of import/export restrictions at the time. In fact, the very famous watch that played a role in the “Great Escape” from Stalag Luft II only resulted in a £15 payment at the end of the war.
Not every company was able to contribute to the war effort, and many contributed in other ways, but the rich history of Rolex is made even richer by Wilsdorf’s commitment to overcome the evils of the Nazi Regime in the best way he could.
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