Rolex's history begins back in 1905, when German entrepreneurs Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis founded the watch wholesaler Wilsdorf & Davis in London. Davis oversaw the production of watch cases, while Wilsdorf obtained the necessary movements from the Swiss company Aegler. In 1908, they trademarked the name Rolex. The catchy name most likely comes from "rolling export," but there is no solid proof of the origin.
Gradually, the company began to add their name to the dials – an unusual practice at the time. It was customary to only include the retailer's name on the dial, if anything at all. The short brand name allowed enough space for the name of the retailer, enabling Wilsdorf to bring more watches bearing the company name into circulation. It would be 19 years before Rolex was the sole name featured on the dials, cases, and movements.
The five-point crown became a symbol of the brand in 1925. The story behind the development of the logo remains a secret. Experts suspect that the five-pointed crown stands for the five fingers of a watchmaker or the letters in Rolex. The crown logo and the name Rolex have appeared on every dial, crown, and clasp since 1939.
Revolutionaries Che Guevara and Fidel Castro also recognized and appreciated the qualities of Rolex. It's not known whether the robustness of the watch helped the Cuban Revolution of 1959, but Che and Fidel certainly contributed to the brand's myth. No other watch manufacturer has managed to appeal to such a wide variety of customers, including those in power, the Dalai Lama, and the model Elle Macpherson.
Chronometer Certification Since 1910
In-house Rolex calibers are considered especially precise. Each watch comes with a certificate from the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (Contrôle officiel suisse des chronomètres, or COSC). COSC measures the precision of a movement in five different positions and at three different temperatures based on a standardized testing method. The entire process lasts 15 days. In addition to COSC's tests, Rolex reexamines all of their watches in-house once the movement is in its case. Rolex has even stricter requirements that only allow for a maximum deviation of +/- 2 seconds per day.
Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf was already emphasizing the importance of precision back in the early 20th century. In 1910, he sent a watch to a local watchmaking school in Biel for evaluation. The movement was subjected to 14 days of testing, which it passed. At the end of this two-week procedure, the testers issued the world's first wristwatch chronometer certificate and sent it to London.
The next sensation followed only four years later: Wilsdorf sent an Aegler movement to the National Physical Laboratory in London. The caliber passed their tests with flying colors. It was subjected to three different temperature conditions and five different positions: crown facing up, left, and right, and dial face down and face up. After 45 days, the watch, with its golden case and blue enamel bezel, was named the first wristwatch in history to receive class A certification. This type of certification was previously only awarded to clocks such as navy chronometers.
Social Commitment: The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation
Whoever buys a Rolex is simultaneously doing a good deed. Wilsdorf never had any children of his own, and after his wife's death, he left all of his Rolex shares to the newly established Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. The foundation belongs to Rolex and receives a large proportion of their annual profits. This money is used to support social initiatives; environmental protection programs; and scientific, artistic, and cultural projects.