When Did Rolex Start Making Watches

by Barbara Wilson

Rolex is a name synonymous with luxury, precision, and timeless elegance. The journey of Rolex from its inception to becoming a global symbol of prestige is a story of innovation, craftsmanship, and relentless pursuit of excellence. This article delves into the origins of Rolex, detailing its early years, key milestones, and the factors that have contributed to its enduring success in the watch industry.


The Founding of Rolex

Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis: The Visionaries

Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. The company was initially established in London, England, under the name “Wilsdorf & Davis.” Wilsdorf, a German national, had a vision to create a wristwatch that was not only precise but also elegant and reliable.


The Birth of the Name “Rolex”

In 1908, Wilsdorf registered the trademark “Rolex.” The name was chosen because it was easy to pronounce in multiple languages and short enough to fit on the dials of the watches. The name “Rolex” soon became synonymous with quality and precision.


Early Innovations and Achievements

The Quest for Precision

From the very beginning, Wilsdorf was committed to achieving the highest levels of accuracy in his watches. In 1910, a Rolex wristwatch received the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision from the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne. This was a significant achievement, as it was the first time such a certificate was awarded to a wristwatch.


The First Waterproof Watch: The Rolex Oyster

In 1926, Rolex introduced the Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch. This innovation was a game-changer in the watch industry. The Oyster case featured a patented system that tightly sealed the watch, protecting it from dust and water. To prove the reliability of the Oyster, Rolex used various marketing strategies, including having Mercedes Gleitze swim across the English Channel wearing an Oyster watch in 1927.

Expanding Horizons: Rolex’s Global Presence

Moving to Geneva

In 1919, Rolex moved its headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland, a city renowned for its watchmaking heritage. This move allowed Rolex to further refine its craftsmanship and take advantage of the expertise available in the region.

The Perpetual Movement

In 1931, Rolex introduced the first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor, known as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. This innovation allowed the watch to wind itself using the motion of the wearer’s arm, eliminating the need for manual winding. The Oyster Perpetual became a cornerstone of Rolex’s product line.

Rolex and Exploration: Pushing Boundaries

The Rolex Explorer

Rolex has a long history of being associated with exploration and adventure. In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. During their expedition, they wore Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches, proving their durability in extreme conditions. To commemorate this achievement, Rolex introduced the Explorer, a watch designed specifically for adventurers.

The Rolex Submariner

Introduced in 1953, the Rolex Submariner was the first wristwatch to be water-resistant to a depth of 100 meters (330 feet). Designed for professional divers, the Submariner quickly gained popularity for its robust construction and reliability. It became an icon of both the diving world and the broader watch market.

Rolex and Motorsports: The Daytona Legacy

The Birth of the Cosmograph Daytona

In 1963, Rolex launched the Cosmograph Daytona, a watch designed for professional racing drivers. The Daytona featured a tachymeter scale on the bezel, allowing drivers to measure average speed over a given distance. The watch was named after the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, a place synonymous with high-speed racing.

Paul Newman’s Daytona

The Daytona gained legendary status partly due to its association with actor and racing driver Paul Newman. Newman’s personal Daytona, with its distinctive dial, became one of the most sought-after watches in the world. In 2017, Paul Newman’s Daytona was sold at auction for a record-breaking $17.8 million, highlighting the enduring appeal of this iconic timepiece.

The Rolex Day-Date: The President’s Watch

Introduction of the Day-Date

In 1956, Rolex introduced the Day-Date, the first wristwatch to display both the date and the day of the week spelled out in full. The Day-Date quickly became known as the “President’s Watch” due to its popularity among world leaders and influential figures.

The President Bracelet

The Day-Date was also notable for its introduction of the President bracelet, a semi-circular three-piece link bracelet that remains exclusive to the Day-Date and certain versions of the Datejust. The combination of the Day-Date’s functionality and the President bracelet’s elegance made it a symbol of success and prestige.

See Also: When Does Rolex Release New Models

Innovations in Materials and Design

Rolesor: The Combination of Gold and Steel

In 1933, Rolex introduced Rolesor, a patented combination of gold and steel. This innovative material blend offered the best of both worlds: the durability of stainless steel and the luxury of gold. Rolesor became a defining feature of many Rolex models, including the Datejust and the Submariner.

Cerachrom Bezel

Rolex’s commitment to innovation extends to the materials used in its watches. The Cerachrom bezel, introduced in the mid-2000s, is made from a highly durable ceramic material that is resistant to scratches and fading. The Cerachrom bezel is now a standard feature on many Rolex models, including the Submariner, GMT-Master II, and Daytona.

Rolex Today: A Legacy of Excellence

Maintaining Independence

One of the unique aspects of Rolex is its independence. Rolex is a privately held company, which allows it to maintain control over its operations and focus on long-term goals rather than short-term profits. This independence has been a key factor in Rolex’s ability to innovate and uphold its high standards of quality.

The Rolex Foundation

Rolex’s commitment to excellence extends beyond watchmaking. The Rolex Foundation, established by Hans Wilsdorf, supports a wide range of charitable initiatives, including education, environmental conservation, and cultural heritage. The foundation’s work reflects the values that have guided Rolex since its inception.


The history of Rolex is a story of innovation, precision, and enduring excellence. From its humble beginnings in London to its status as a global icon of luxury and craftsmanship, Rolex has continually pushed the boundaries of what is possible in watchmaking. Whether through groundbreaking technical advancements, associations with exploration and adventure, or timeless design, Rolex has earned its place as one of the most respected and admired brands in the world. The legacy of Rolex is a testament to the vision of its founders and the unwavering commitment to quality that defines every timepiece bearing the Rolex crown.


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