Brand Histories

1881 • Hans Wilsdorf born in small village of Kulmbach, in north of Bavaria, March 22, 1881.

1900 • Hans Wilsdorf moved away and settled at La Chaux-de-Fonds where he was an office clerk, responsible for English-language correspondence, with a watch exporter.

1903 • he left to work for a well-known watch importer in London.

1905 • Hans Wilsdorf and an associate founded the wholesale watch business, WILSDORF AND DAVIS.

In Bienne, he signed a contract with AEGLER, which gave his firm the distribution rights to AEGLER watches in England.

1908 • He created his own brand, ROLEX (an abbreviation of the French phrase “horlogerie exquise”).

1910 • To counter the view that wristwatches were mere gadgets, AEGLER had its watches officially checked by the watch test service in Bienne, and the movements were double-checked at the Kew Observatory in England.

1914 • Jean Aegler’s sons renamed their company the ROLEX WATCH CO. AEGLER S.A.
To finance the cost of the Great War, the British Government decided to impose a 33% tax on imports. Wilsdorf transferred his worldwide export business to Bienne.

1920 •Wilsdorf founded MONTRE ROLEX S.A. in Geneva, on 17 January, with himself as sole owner and director.
Henceforth, the movements were made in Bienne. Assembly, testing and sales were in Geneva.

1926 • To enhance the water resistance of wristwatches, Wilsdorf registered a patent for a case with screw-down winding crown.



1927 • On 17 October, Wilsdorf strapped a new ROLEX OYSTER to the wrist of the typist Mercedes Gleitze before the cross-channel swim that she completed in 15hrs. 15mins.

1931 •Thanks to the talented technician Emil Borer, Wilsdorf introduced an automatic permanent rotor winder, the ROLEX PERPETUAL. He retained the exclusive rights, and prohibited the automatic movement’s use by any competitor for the next fifteen.

1945 • ROLEX introduced the DATEJUST, the first automatic water-resistant chronometer wristwatch with date viewer.

1953 • Launch of the SUBMARINER, the first diver’s watch, water-resistant to 100 meters.
Mount Everest’s conquerors, the team led by Sir John Hunt, were equipped with OYSTER PERPETUAL chronometers.

1954 • Launch of the GMT-MASTER.

1956 • DAY-DATE, first wrist chronometer to show the days of the week in letters in 25 languages.

1960 • Hans Wilsdorf died in Geneva 6 July.
He left his heirs a flourishing business with a multi-million dollar turnover, and one of the largest manufacturing consumers of gold in Switzerland.

A ROLEX OYSTER, with specially reinforced case attached to Professor Jacques Picard’s bathyscaphe, The TRIESTE, reached a depth of 10, 916 meters in the Pacific with no damage.

1971 • Underwater record for SEA-DWELLER 2000 –2,000 ft (610 meters).

1980 • New underwater record for SEA-DWELLER 4000 - 4,000 feet (1,220 metes) beneath sea.

2000 • Introduction of new, entirely in-house DAYTONA chronograph/chronometer, (it formerly used a Zenith movement).

2001 • New LADY-DATEJUST in gold and platinum.

2003 • 50th anniversary of the SUBMARINER, commemorative 50th-year version issued with green lunette known as the 16610LV.

ROLEX produces almost 600 000 officially certified chronometers annually.

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