Few companies have a history of such unparalleled quality as Rolex. It is a name that is steeped in heritage, bringing to mind ideas of luxury, precision, and iconic design. Hans Wilsdorf founded the company in London in 1905, dreaming of a watch that could be worn on the wrist and was both elegant and reliable. After little more than a century, we know the company today as more than just a watch manufacturer—to own a Rolex is a sign of both status and success.
When people think Rolex they most commonly think of the Daytona, Submariner, or GMT Master. Each of these timepieces is impressive in its own way and sought after by watch enthusiasts around the globe. However, one of the earliest watches to bring attention to the company was the airtight and waterproof Rolex Oyster—a watch that in 1927 received considerable publicity when Mercedes Gleitze, the first woman to swim the English Channel, did so with a Rolex Oyster hung around her neck. When she emerged from the water a journalist from The Times noted that it was still keeping perfect time. A month later the Rolex Oyster Perpetual was launched in the United Kingdom.
Rolex has throughout its history created a series of tough watches, unyielding to the elements. In 1910 the company received the first official chronometer certification given to a wristwatch and its image as an elegant, yet unassailable watch was established. Additionally, Wilsdorf organized a special program during the Second World War that enabled British prisoners of war to order Rolex Oysters—securing the image of the watch as simultaneously smart, sturdy and manly. Most notably, prisoner of war Corporal Clive Nutting, who famously organized the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III, ordered an expensive 3525 Chronograph. The watch was said to have been used to time guard patrols—information that would aid in the execution of the escape.
Rightfully so, Rolex has earned its spot as one of the most beautiful timepieces around. It was elegant and cool enough to be worn by Ian Fleming’s suave hero, James Bond, yet tough enough to be worn by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, the first conquerors of Mount Everest.