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Old 28 January 2008, 02:09 AM   #1
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Rolex History

A Brief History of Rolex:

Rolex SA was founded in London in 1905 by the German Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. Contrary to popular belief, Hans Wilsdorf was neither Swiss, nor a watchmaker. Wilsdorf & Davis was the original name of what later became the Rolex Watch Company. They originally imported Hermann Aegler's Swiss movements to England and placed them in quality cases made by Dennison and others. These early wristwatches were then sold to jewellers, who then put their own names on the dial. The earliest watches from the firm of Wilsdorf and Davis are usually marked "W&D" – inside the caseback only.

Hans Wilsdorf registered the trademark name "Rolex" in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland during 1908. The word was made up, but its origin is obscure. One story, which was never confirmed by Wilsdorf, is that the word "Rolex" came from the French phrase horlogerie exquise, meaning exquisite watch industry.

The Wilsdorf & Davis company moved out of Great Britain in 1912. Wilsdorf wanted his watches to be affordable, but taxes and export duties on the case metals (silver and gold) were driving costs up. From that time to the present, Rolex has been headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, though the company owns facilities in other cities (Bienne, etc) and continents (North America, Asia, Australia, etc).

The company name Rolex was officially registered on 15 November 1915. It is thought this change was part of a drive to popularize wristwatches, which at the time were still considered a novelty largely for women (pocket watches were more common). Wilsdorf was said to desire his watch brand's name to be easily pronounceable in any language. The company name was officially changed to the Rolex Watch Company during 1919. It was later changed to Montres Rolex, SA and finally Rolex, SA.

Rolex SA is private and wholly owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation which was initiated and originally funded by Hans Wilsdorf and the Aegler family. According to foundation documentation, the Rolex SA company can never be sold, nor traded on any stock market.
.

. Some Rolex Highlights over the years

1926 Oyster Case
1927 Serial Number On Oyster Case
1931 Oyster Perpetual
1938 Bubble Back
1938 Oyster Bracelet
1945 Jubilee Bracelet (Only on the Datejust originally)
1945 Datejust introduced (Jubilee bracelet only until 1956)
1950 "Mercedes" Hands
1953 Submariner 100m/330ft
1953 Explorer
1954 GMT-Master
1954 Milgauss (discontinued in the '70's, reintroduced in 2007)
1954 Submariner 200m / 660ft
1954 Cyclops on Crystal (optional for the first few years)
1954 Lady's Oyster Perpetual
1956 Day-Date (Became the Rolex Flagship over the Datejust)
1956 President Bracelet
1959 Submariner gets Crown Guards and 40mm Case
1960 Deep Sea Special
1961 Oyster Cosmograph
1962 Cosmograph Daytona (only a few got this "name" to entice racing fans)
1965 Submariner Date
1965 Submariner Date 18 k YG
1967 Sea-Dweller
1971 Explorer II
1972 Hacking Movement
1974 Sapphire Crystal
1976 Oysterquartz
1977 Oysterquartz Day-Date
1977 Quick Set Date Feature
1978 Sea-Dweller 4000
1979 Submariner 300m/1000ft with Sapphire Crystal
1983 GMT-Master II (16760)
1983 Submariner Rolesor (aka Sub TT)
1988 Daytona became automatic with the (Zenith) Cal. 4030 movement
1992 Yachtmaster introduced
1994 Yachtmaster Lady & Mid-Sized aka Boys Size
1999 GMT Master discontinued (16700)
2000 In House Daytona movement launched (4130)
2000 Parachrom Hairspring developed (introduced in 4130 movements)
2001 Laser Etched Coronet In Crystal
2003 Submariner Date LV launched to commemorate 50 Years of the Sub.
2002 Non lugs holes appeared on popular models (sometime in the Y serial release)
2004 Etched ROLEX and serials on the Rehaut ring (Gold models during F/D serial releases)
2004 New Datejust Case
2005 GMT Ceramic Bezel Inserts released in Gold
2006 GMT Ceramic Bezel Inserts in TT
2007 GMT Ceramic Besel Inserts in SS
2007 Milgauss re-released
2008 Deep Sea Sea Dweller released
2008 Sub Date Ceramic Bezel Insert in Gold Released
2008 Yachtmaster II released
2009 Sub Date Ceramic TT released
2010 Sub Date Ceramic in SS released in both LN (black) and LV (green) versions
2011 Explorer ll; 42mm and Orange 24 hr. hand re-introduce
2012 Sky Dweller introduced
2012 Submariner 114060 with ceramic bezel insert
2013 GMT-II Two Color Bezel insert returns in blue/black (116710 BLNR)


.
LINKS:
The Rolex Company
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Old 19 May 2008, 08:17 PM   #2
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Rolex Charity

Is it true Rolex only makes a moderate annual profit? It's bulk of profit going to charity?
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Old 19 May 2008, 11:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Tony-GB View Post
Is it true Rolex only makes a moderate annual profit? It's bulk of profit going to charity?
No, that is not exactly true.

Rolex is a Foundation Trust. As such the exact details are private and need not be disclosed (and they are not) whereas a Charity does disclose because of their non-tax status.

Foundations are set up with certain provisions that must be met to maintain their status with tax deferments, or tax write-offs (different countries have different requirements). Some of those things in the Foundation requirements are thought to be.

. Supporting Charities and Charity work

. Supporting Horological advancement and technology.

. Supporting inernational sports.. Golf, Racing, Tennis, etc.

Once a Foundation meets it's obligations, the "profit" is turned back into the main foundation to increase it's worth, or to increase it's spending on those obligations.

The Foundation can pay the administrators and employees of the foundation whatever wage or salary they vote to pay themselves
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Old 20 May 2008, 12:16 AM   #4
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Very neat. I am so looking forward to collecting vintage watches! (Because I really do need another hobby LOL)
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Old 20 May 2008, 12:37 AM   #5
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No, that is not exactly true.

Rolex is a Foundation Trust. As such the exact details are private and need not be disclosed (and they are not) whereas a Charity does disclose because of their non-tax status.

Foundations are set up with certain provisions that must be met to maintain their status with tax deferments, or tax write-offs (different countries have different requirements). Some of those things in the Foundation requirements are thought to be...
Thanks Larry
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Old 4 July 2008, 01:18 AM   #6
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Thanks for the history and clarification on Rolex.
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Old 6 July 2008, 05:56 PM   #7
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I was told that Rolex has enough financial resources to dismiss all its employees and still have enough to pay each such employee their full wages for the next 100 years.
(Somehow I don't think this is going to happen )
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Old 7 July 2008, 12:13 AM   #8
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Old 29 April 2009, 11:10 AM   #9
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great info, thanks
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Old 31 May 2009, 01:44 AM   #10
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awesome info !!! I always wondered about the history of rolex.
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Old 20 December 2009, 06:14 AM   #11
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Thanks for the history lesson. I had always heard that Rolex had been established as a non-profit, so I really appreciate the clarification.
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Old 25 December 2009, 11:11 PM   #12
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I'm curious about watches produced by Wilsdorf & Davis. Is there much of a collectors following for them? I understand W&D were usually sold under individual store brands, but I wonder if there is a list of names that W&D were sold under. Could be interesting twist on a Rolex collection by searching out W&D timepieces. Any input?
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Old 26 December 2009, 11:36 AM   #13
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yikes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lol-x View Post
I was told that Rolex has enough financial resources to dismiss all its employees and still have enough to pay each such employee their full wages for the next 100 years.
(Somehow I don't think this is going to happen )

Maybe they should donate a nice watch to everyone on the forum!

Ill take an YG Gmt II C!
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Old 26 December 2009, 12:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JToddH View Post
I'm curious about watches produced by Wilsdorf & Davis. Is there much of a collectors following for them? I understand W&D were usually sold under individual store brands, but I wonder if there is a list of names that W&D were sold under. Could be interesting twist on a Rolex collection by searching out W&D timepieces. Any input?

We have at least one W&D collector here. This is my W&D ladies pendant watch, significant because it bears a hallmark stamp of 1908, the same year that Wilsdorf registered the Rolex tradename.





The full restoration process is photo documented here:

http://www.rolexforums.com/showthread.php?t=79599


There doesn't seem to be much of interest in, or market for, these earlier watches, which is a shame. They represent the history of the brand. On the flip side, it makes them more obtainable for old geezers like me.
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Old 26 December 2009, 01:40 PM   #15
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I heard a story that during World War 2, Rolex supplied (sold) new watches to any and all Allied POW's (perhaps only Officers) who wanted one, on the understanding that they be paid for after the war finished and when the men got home again.

It sounds a very noble thing to do but was it true??
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Old 26 December 2009, 02:01 PM   #16
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I have a feeling that up to 50% of what we pay for each watch is what makes this company rich. How they spend these profits is not known. But what is known is their cash inflow is so impressive, a small part is only being spent for charities.
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Old 26 December 2009, 06:35 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leasky View Post
I heard a story that during World War 2, Rolex supplied (sold) new watches to any and all Allied POW's (perhaps only Officers) who wanted one, on the understanding that they be paid for after the war finished and when the men got home again.

It sounds a very noble thing to do but was it true??

Here's the TZ article:

http://www.timezone.com/library/extras/200704246126
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Old 26 December 2009, 06:51 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alcan View Post
We have at least one W&D collector here. This is my W&D ladies pendant watch, significant because it bears a hallmark stamp of 1908, the same year that Wilsdorf registered the Rolex tradename.





The full restoration process is photo documented here:

http://www.rolexforums.com/showthread.php?t=79599


There doesn't seem to be much of interest in, or market for, these earlier watches, which is a shame. They represent the history of the brand. On the flip side, it makes them more obtainable for old geezers like me.

Well, Al, as someone who loves pocket watches(my favorite is my Pa. Keystone), let me tell you...that watch is a knockout!
when I was at the Lexington, Kentucky, GTG, this past June, the owner of the shop where we gathered to view watches, showed me his private collection of Patek pocket watches....wonderful. take care!
Dan
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Old 27 December 2009, 07:25 AM   #19
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Alcan, thank you very much indeed for finding and supplying that link.

It is a story I had heard for years but dared not repeat it incase in was untrue.

Kindest regards,

Colin.
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Old 27 December 2009, 01:45 PM   #20
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Alcan, thank you very much indeed for finding and supplying that link.

It is a story I had heard for years but dared not repeat it incase in was untrue.

Kindest regards,

Colin.

Best Christmas wishes to you and yours, Colin.

The link provides as accurate information as I have access to.

best regards,

Al
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Old 27 December 2009, 01:48 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by unclesallie View Post
Well, Al, as someone who loves pocket watches(my favorite is my Pa. Keystone), let me tell you...that watch is a knockout!
when I was at the Lexington, Kentucky, GTG, this past June, the owner of the shop where we gathered to view watches, showed me his private collection of Patek pocket watches....wonderful. take care!
Dan
Hi Dan

I would have loved to see those PP pocket watches, I'll bet they were spectacular!

best wishes,

Al
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Old 15 August 2011, 10:10 AM   #22
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Great history lesson here, thanks for sharing.
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Old 9 October 2011, 03:07 PM   #23
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Thanks for the historical information, it is very interesting.
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Old 9 October 2011, 05:21 PM   #24
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Rolex SA is a foundation initiated and originally funded by Hans Wilsdorf and the Aegler family. According to foundation documentation, the Rolex SA company can never be sold, nor traded on any stock market.
.
.
I just checked on the Geneva Commercial Register site and can provide the following precision :

Rolex SA is not a foundation, but a limited company (société anonyme, in French) wholly owned by a private trust, the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.

The statute of Rolex SA confirms that the shares can not be sold or traded on any stock exchange.
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