Rolex was founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905, and the Swiss watchmaker is now one of the most recognisable and powerful brands in the world.The name “Rolex”, which is now a byword for quality, was not adopted by the company until 1908. The now iconic name certainly has an interesting origin, and Wilsdorf’s goal was to create a name that was memorable, would not be hampered by language barriers, and would look good on his watch dials and movements. The watchmaker toiled with many names and letter combinations, until, in his own words:
“One morning, while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along Cheapside in the City of London, a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.”
The company was based in London from its founding up until 1919, where Wilsdorf took the executive decision to move Rolex to Geneva, a city that was and remains to be internationally renowned as the home of watchmaking. The brand’s headquarters remains there to this day, albeit it on different premises.
Rolex is renowned for their innovative approach to watchmaking, and they have made several important firsts that have helped mould the luxury watch industry enduringly.
Rolex manufactured the first ever waterproof watch in the Rolex Oyster in 1926, and one year later, Mercedes Gleitze wore one as she swam across the Channel. The brand was also the first watchmaker to receive a Chronometer certification, the first to produce a watch with an automatically changing date, and the first to produce a movement with an oscillating winding rotor that is still used today.