Hans Wilsdorf the Founder of Rolex

The legacy Hans Wilsdorf left in the world of watchmaking is unparalleled. His foundation received a 100% ownership stake in Rolex from him in 1960.

Hans Wilsdorf died in 1960, but his foundation and Rolex are still committed to fulfilling his original vision. The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation still owns Rolex SA.

Hans Wilsdorf was the second son of three children. His childhood was spent in Germany. Hans and his siblings attended the best boarding schools where they received an outstanding education.

Hans Wilsdorf's mathematical and language capabilities allowed him to travel and work abroad.

Hans Wilsdorf Watchmaking Career

In 1900, Hans began his watchmaking career at the influential watch firm of Cuno Korten in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The Swiss watch company exports a million Swiss francs worth of pocket watches per year.

Wilsdorf learned a great deal about watchmaking while in Switzerland.

Among the watches made at Cuno Korten, a small number were entirely handcrafted in-house.

During the day, Hans Wilsdorf needed to wind up hundreds of pocket watches, while making sure they kept accurate time.

By doing so, he decided he wanted to learn more about how watches are produced in the whole world.

Wilsdorf & Davis watch company

Hans Wilsdorf emigrated to London in 1903. Alfred Davis and Wilsdorf began a business together in 1905 called Wilsdorf & Davis. Hatton Garden was the company's head office in London's center.

Since Hans Wilsdorf realized the potential of wristwatches early on, it became his life's mission to popularize them.

They created the watch company to offer wristwatches of quality at an affordable price.

Hans Wilsdorf bought wristwatches from Hermann Aegler in Bienne, Switzerland. One of the largest orders for wristwatches was placed.

Aegler and Rolex would develop a long-lasting partnership as a result of the order.

The United Kingdom lost Hans Wilsdorf's Rolex because of taxes

A 33% import tax was imposed by the British government in 1915 during the First World War. Hans Wilsdorf was forced to relocate its headquarters from the United Kingdom to Switzerland. Since 1919, Rolex's headquarters have been located in Geneva, Switzerland.

First Waterproof watch

A pocket watch or novelty wristwatch at the time was fragile, blunt and not waterproof. Hans Wilsdorf developed a Hermetic watch after years of working on the problem.

A screw-down cap was developed that sealed off the entire movement and the winding crown. Though the first system had some success, the user had to still open the watch to adjust the time and wind up the movement.

Hans Wilsdorf improved his system with a crown screwed into a threaded tube within a hermetically sealed watch case. Hans Wilsdorf called it the Oyster case.

Rolex began trademarking the name 'Oyster' in 1926.

As early as 1927, Rolex launched what is now known as the 'Rolex Oyster' as the first commercially viable watertight watch. Financially, the Rolex company saw success.

Rolex Marketing Geninus

As Hans Wilsdorf could see, the advent of the Rolex Oyster represented an important milestone in the history of horology.

Hans Wilsdorf spent an extensive amount of time and effort on advertisement throughout his career.

All Rolex watch dealers received special window displays, an aquarium with plants and goldfish, and the Rolex Oyster running inside.

A working watch submerge in water was a amazing for people passing by, who would wonder how it was possible.

Hans Wilsdorf took advantage of a marketing opportunity when he sponsored Mercedes Gleitze as she swam across the English Channel between France and England.

After Mercedes first successfully crossed the English Channel, Rolex contacted her about promoting their new Oyster model during her second attempt.

During the second crossing on October 21, 1927, she wore a gold Rolex Oyster hung on a chain around her neck.

Because of the freezing water, this second crossing was a failure. How ever it was a success for Rolex; The Oyster watch submerged for 10 hours in icy cold water was intact and kept accurate time.

Hans Wilsdorf promoted the success of his new 'waterproof' oyster watch in the front page of the Daily Mirror.

Churchill's Rolex Datejust

Winston Churchill was given a gold Rolex Jubilee Datejust, the 100,000th chronometer certified watch, by Hans Wilsdorf in 1947. Many more prominent people started wearing a Rolex as Churchill did. That was such a smart idea on Hans Wilsdorf's part. Hans Wilsdorf got it right with that brilliant marketing move.

During a period in history where many explorers were seeking new boundaries of exploration, Hans Wilsdorf continued to associate his Rolex watches with their new records.

By using this website you agree to our cookie & privacy policy. Go it!