The History of Rolex – The Swiss Luxury Watch Brand

Luxury Watches


Rolex is a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer based in Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1905, Hans Wilsdorf, aged 24, founded a company in London that specialised in the distribution of timepieces.

Wristwatches were not very precise at the time but Hans Wilsdorf had the vision that they could become not only elegant but reliable.

Originally founded as Wilsdorf and Davis by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis in London, the company registered the trademark Rolex as a brand name in 1908 and it became Rolex watch Co Ltd in 1915.

The early wristwatches were sold to jewellers who put their own names on the dial. The earliest watches from Wilsdorf and Davies were hallmarked W&D inside the caseback.

In order to convince the public of the reliability of his timepieces, Wilsdorf equipped them with small, very precise movements that were manufactured by a Swiss watchmaking company in Bienne.

The company moved its base to Geneva in 1919 due to the post-war economic situation and high export duties on gold and silver.

Montres Rolex S.A was registered as a new company in Geneva in 1920 by Hans Wilsdorf, later becoming Rolex SA.

Rolex has since registered over 500 patents in the course of its history.

Hans Wilsdorf created the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch in 1926 – the Oyster. Consumers were sceptical of a fully waterproof watch and so the Oyster models were submerged in aquariums and displayed in shop windows.

Since 1960, the company has been owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private family trust established following the death of his wife in 1944. Hans left all of his Rolex shares in the trust, ensuring some of the company’s income would go to charity.

Rolex was voted the world’s 71st most valuable brand in 2018 and today Rolex can be seen at the most prestigious events in golf, tennis, motorsport, sailing and equestrian tournaments and continues to have a reputation as a status symbol.

The company produces more than 800,000 timepieces each year.

As of 2019, three Rolex watches are among the top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auctions, they are:

Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona

Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona

Holds the title of the second most expensive wristwatch and the third most expensive watch ever sold at an auction. It sold for 17.75 million US dollars in New York on 26 October 2017.

The wristwatch was manufactured in 1968 and originally purchased by Joanne Woodward in 1968 and given to her husband Paul Newman as a gift.

Rolex Daytona Unicorn

Rolex Daytona Unicorn
Rolex Daytona Unicorn

A unique 18-karat white gold wristwatch manufactured in 1970 sold for 6.5 million US dollars in May 2018.

John Goldberger, an elusive Italian watch collector. Whose real name is Auro Montanari put the watch up for auction in aid of a children’s charity.

Bao Dai Rolex

Bao Dai Rolex
Bao Dai Rolex

Bao Dai- the final emperor of Vietnam and the head of state, walked into a Rolex boutique and requested the rarest and most precious Rolex ever made. It was yellow gold with black dial and diamond indexes.

It was sold in May 2017 for 5.06 million US dollars to a mystery buyer.

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