Rolex, a name synonymous with luxury, precision, and timeless style, had to start somewhere. Its journey to becoming one of the world’s most prestigious watchmakers began with a single timepiece. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the birth of a legend—the first Rolex watch.
The Early 20th Century: A Time of Innovation
The year was 1905 when a young Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, founded the company that would eventually become Rolex. Initially, their business was focused on importing Swiss movements and placing them in high-quality English watch cases. However, Wilsdorf had a vision for something greater—a wristwatch that was not only precise but also elegant and reliable.
The Breakthrough Moment
In 1910, Rolex achieved a significant milestone when it became one of the first brands to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. This certificate, awarded by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne, Switzerland, was a testament to the accuracy and quality of Rolex timepieces.
But it was in 1914 that Rolex took a giant leap forward in horological history. That year, a Rolex watch received the Class A Precision Certificate from the Kew Observatory in England. This recognition was a remarkable achievement because, until then, such certificates were typically awarded to marine chronometers, not wristwatches. Rolex’s triumph demonstrated the wristwatch’s potential for accuracy and reliability, shattering the conventional belief that pocket watches were superior.
The Birth of the First Rolex Watch
In 1926, Rolex made history once again with the introduction of the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch—the Rolex Oyster. This groundbreaking timepiece featured a hermetically sealed case, protecting the movement from moisture and dust. The Oyster’s design included a screw-down crown, ensuring its impermeability.
To showcase the watch’s remarkable durability, Rolex undertook a bold marketing campaign. They had a young swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, wear an Oyster while attempting to cross the English Channel. Despite the challenging conditions, the watch remained in perfect working order, and this feat garnered widespread attention, solidifying the Rolex Oyster’s reputation as a symbol of precision and reliability.