Updated: May 6
The most widely recognized timepiece observed today is the magnificent Rolex watch, which not only looks stunning but is also incredibly accurate. But while Rolex watches may be well known, the history behind them is nearly enigmatic. What brilliant mind created such a masterpiece? When did Rolex first surface in the pages of history?
In 1905, Hans Wilhelm Wilsdorf of Germany and Alfred James Davis of Britain joined together to establish Wilsdorf and Davis Ltd. However, the official Rolex name, a name that would be clear and pronounceable in nearly every language, was not put in place until Wilsdorf and Davis decided to change the company name to The Rolex Watch Company, Ltd., in November 1915. The company later came to be called Rolex, SA.
At first, Wilsdorf and Davis only sold pocket watches for the gentlemen and travel clocks, which were also known as portfolio or purse watches. Because travel clocks were quite popular for the era, they were covered with leather cases and even had extra features, to include a silver chain; a plain dial so retailers could customize it; and the placement of “W & D,” Rolex’s old hallmark, inside the case back and on the movement. Wilsdorf did not want to be confined to selling only these two items, though, so he took a leap of faith that would forever change the company.
During the Boer War, Soldiers wore small pocket watches attached to leather strips on their wrists because the intense South African heat prevented the use of jackets. Moved by the Soldiers’ ingenuity, Wilsdorf went to work on a new, innovative idea that has forever made an impact. The evolution of Rolex continued in 1910, when the watch movement from the Aegler Company brought forth the receipt of the world’s first wristwatch chronometer rating. It was decided that Rolex would only use movements from Aegler upom receiving a Class A Certificate of Precision from the Kew Observatory in England four years later.
During World War I, several changes took place worldwide and for Rolex. Due to difficulties using pocket watches in combat, Soldiers wore wristwatches. Soon, men all over Europe were followed suit and bought Rolex watches at a surprising rate. However, a 33% duty tax on all imported timepieces along with a ban on all imported precious metals drove Rolex to move first to Bienne and then to Geneva in 1919.
After a 15% equity exchange to him, Herman Aegler became Rolex’s sole provider of watch movements. A watch company named Gruen soon joined the partnership as well, agreeing to sell watches in America while Rolex focused on Europe, Asia, and the markets of the British Empire.
Since then, Rolex has continued to set and break records for watchmaking. By 1945, Rolex was considered to be the most accurate timepiece available. Even today, Rolex produces what are perhaps the most beloved watches on the market, combining both precision and luxury into the perfect timepiece.
Bert Levi Family Jewelers is not affiliated with Rolex SA, and nothing
in this content should be construed as an endorsement by Rolex.We
are not an Official Rolex Dealer, and if you are searching for a new
Rolex, you should visit Rolex.com in order to find an authorized
dealer.We buy and sell pre-owned Rolexes only.