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History

1905: Wilsdorf & Davis established in London
1908: Launch of the Rolex brand
1920: Montres Rolex SA established in Geneva by Hans Wilsdorf

Known the world over, Rolex is a benchmark for prestige and quality in watchmaking. Since its creation, the brand has placed the reliability of its products uppermost. It submits virtually its entire movement production for testing by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres to obtain COSC certification. Rolex is also renowned for its after-sales service which is performed by staff who have been specially trained, often in Rolex's own schools in countries around the globe, including the United States and Japan.

Rolex was founded by Hans Wilsdorf. A Bavarian watchmaker who emigrated to Switzerland, he immediately put his natural flair for products and business acumen at the service of a brand that would soon forge an international reputation. He was succeeded in 1963 by André Heiniger, whose son Patrick took over at the helm in 1992. Bruno Meier in 2009 then Gian Riccardo Marini in 2011 were successively appointed at the head of the business, a limited company (société anonyme) that is wholly owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. In 2014, Jean-Frédéric Dufour, previously Chief Executive of Zenith, was named as the new CEO.

Rolex makes its watches in Switzerland and has one of the most vertically integrated production tools in the watch segment. Its activities are spread between four sites in Biel/Bienne, where its movements are made, and Geneva, where the group has its head office. The brand is also at the head of one of the industry's most cutting-edge R&D divisions, and is credited with more than 400 patents. With production estimated at several hundred thousand watches a year, Rolex is a towering figure among Swiss watch brands.

Such a reputation hasn't gone unnoticed among collectors, as recent auction results demonstrate. At a 2013 sale in Geneva, for example, a Daytona Chronograph in steel achieved an absolute record price of US$ 1.1 million.

The brand hones its image through associations with prominent and well-respected personalities chosen from the arts and sports. Also, in 1976 Rolex launched its Awards for Enterprise which each year single out innovative projects that promote sustainable development. The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative gives young artists a privileged opportunity to benefit from the experience of masters in their field.



Key dates

1905

Hans Wilsdorf founded Wilsdorf and Davis in London

1908

He registered the Rolex brand name and opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

1910

Rolex obtained the first official chronometer certification awarded to a wristwatch.

1919

He transferred Rolex to Geneva, where it became "Montres Rolex S.A.".

Invention and patent of the Oyster, the first truly waterproof watch case

1927

When Mercedes Gleitze swam the Channel in 1927, she wore a Rolex Oyster..

Invention and patent of the first rotor-wound water-resistant wristwatch, precursor of today's self-winding wristwatches, and launch of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.

1945

Creation of the Date Just, the first ever self-winding, water-resistant wrist-chronometer to show the date.

1953

Creation of the Submariner, the first wristwatch to guarantee water-resistance to 100 metres.

1954

Creation of the GMT Master, the first self-winding, water-resistant wristwatch to display time simultaneously in any two time zones.

1956

Creation of the Day-Date, the first ever wrist-chronometer to display the date and spell out the day in full, in 26 languages.

A specially-developed Rolex Oyster, attached to the outside of the Trieste bathyscaphe, withstood pressure of more than one tonne per sq. cm. at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

1961

Launch of the Cosmograph Daytona, the first Oyster chronographs.

Creation of the Sea-Dweller 2000 (2,000 feet), the first diving watch with guaranteed water-resistance to 610 metres. Its helium valve meant the watch would decompress as quickly as the diver when resurfacing.

1975

The first Rolex Oyster Chronometer Daytona with water-resistant, screw-down pushbuttons.

1980

Creation of the Sea-Dweller 4000 (4,000 feet), the first diving watch with guaranteed water-resistance to 1,220 metres.

1988

Unveiling of the self-winding Cosmograph Daytona.

1991

Launch of the Oyster Perpetual Date Yacht-Master chronometer.

2005

Launch of the Prince model, inspired by the 1929 original.

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