Luxury Fashion Brand Report: Rolex

Definition of What Watches Are Today?

Every brand has its own signature among people; this can either be a nickname, specific service, product, or the brand’s name. 

In the case of Rolex, we all know what its signature is: Watches. 

Just like every other luxury brand, they have dabbled in different collections, but all of them are focused on the single yet iconic piece of wristwatches or what we just know as simply watches today. 

If you aren’t that knowledgeable about them, we assure you are kind of losing a lot of valuable information in the process. 

We don’t have to mention we are suckers for luxury brands by this point, so it is only natural for us to know everything Rolex includes in its collections and catalogs. We’re even guilty when it comes to owning one or maybe two items (and we definitely love them). 

Did we just hit a sore spot, and now you want to know more about it? Maybe decide to finally get that beautiful watch even when some of your savings will be gone? Well, we don’t consider ourselves good examples, and we will suggest you go for it, but before doing so, what about learning a bit more of the brand itself and determining if it is worth it?

Getting to Know the Brand: Hans Wilsdorf & Alfred Davis

Before we start, you should know that Rolex isn’t really new, and instead, it has come a long way to be the top brand for watches worldwide. 

But in order to jump to the details of its foundation, it is necessary to know the people behind the idea. 

Hans Wilsdorf is our first and more important mention in today’s article. He was born in Kulmbach, Germany, on March 22, 1881, to Ana and Johan Daniel Ferdinand Wilsdorf, who were a protestant couple. With two other siblings, he was the second child of the family. 

Hans’ childhood wasn’t that notorious but rather tragic since his mother died when he was still young and was followed by his dad when he was just twelve years old, leaving him and his siblings an orphan. 

As a result, his uncles decided his fate, who took custody of the children and the family business, which they decided to sell. However, it had history by being from Hans’ grandparents and then his father’s. 

After taking care of the business, his uncles decided to send Hans and his siblings to boarding schools that provided an excellent education. 

This led to a cold yet practical life during their stay in boarding schools, but, according to Wilsdorf’s later biography, this helped him to understand his possessions and know more about achieving success.

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Thanks to his education, Wilsdorf was a master of languages and mathematics, which led him to travel the world and work in foreign cultures. 

Hans Wilsdorf started his career as an apprentice at an international pearl exporting firm, which, without even knowing it, would contribute greatly to his future and businesses. 

Without many details about each job and how he progressed over the years, we will need to skip to 1900 when he started his career in Swiss watchmaking after when he moved to La ChauxdeFonds and began working as an English correspondent with the watch company of Messrs. Cuno Korten at the 49 rue Leoppold Robert. 

During his stay in the company, he was paid about 80 Swiss Francs, and at the time, the brand was exporting pocket watches worth around 1 million francs annually, which was a great deal for a business. 

Besides exporting, the company Cuno Korten made a few watches from scratch and worked with all types to cover a wider target market. 

But what did Hans do during his stay? Wilsdorf was responsible for winding hundreds of watches each day and verifying that they were accurate, which was quite a tedious and exhausting task. 

However, thanks to this, Wilsdorf was able to gain a lot of insight into watchmaking, which would later turn into invaluable knowledge about the production process for all types.

A young Hans Wilsdorf worked for Cuno Korten when he was only 20 years old, and when deciding to move on his next journey, he was about 22 years old.

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Misfortune Yet Success: Starting a New Brand

With the experience Hans had earned during his time in Switzerland, he also discovered a new passion and love for watchmaking, which would later turn into a successful business, but not yet. 

Wilsdorf was only 22 when he moved back to London in 1903. Unfortunately, 33,000 German gold marks were stolen from Wilsdorf’s inheritance by thieves during his trip, which he had planned to invest in a business idea or his own store and watch project he already had in mind. 

Against all difficulties, he continued working in the English watch business while he planned to start his own company and collect the money he needed for it. 

Thanks to his time in the country, he gained British citizenship during this period and without much difficulty, which would bring great benefits for future business ventures. 

This is the part where we need to introduce you to the other member of the brand we are covering. Alfred Davis. 

Wilsdorf met Alfred James Davis at the age of 24. They formed a partnership to start their own watchmaking company considering their shared interest in the business and passion for designing them. 

Davis had the capital to invest, while Wilsdorf was well-versed in watchmaking from his time at Cuno Korten and would be the brain behind the money used for the project. 

This partnership among gentlemen would be strengthened even more when Davis married Wilsdorf’s younger sister.

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Since Davis was the one to provide most of the money, Hans wanted to match his investment, which is why he decided to borrow money from his siblings to hold 50% of the company when providing the right amount during the investment and future projects.

The company was finally started after setting the roles straight: Wilsdorf was an expert on watches. At the same time, Davis was knowledgeable about international finance and international trade, which complemented their skills and backgrounds. 

When founding the company, they decided to name it Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd, and they used batches of Jean Aegler, a company based in Bienne that Wilsdorf learned about during his Conu Korten days, to bring their dream to life. 

In the beginning, Wilsdorf & Davis produced only two watches for women and men, the pocket watch as well as a purse watch for the ladies in specific. 

The business had a hard time during its early years since wristwatches at the time were known as “wristlets” since they were small and not accurate, and primarily worn by women. 

In fact, the stereotype of only those watches being for women-led to men saying they would rather wear a skirt than a watch and the fact that the watch industry believed that wristwatches could not withstand human activity would only bring down the idea of the two partners. 

However, Wilsdorf never gave up with his vision of focusing on these types of watches and always aimed to improve the design and functionality. 

He noted with intelligence that soldiers couldn’t wear jackets during the Boer War. It was also difficult to find a watch in your pocket during battle, and everything was just simply inconvenient. 

As a result, he knew how to market and create designs that would adjust to them, which led soldiers to wear small, pocket-sized watches around their wrists.

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Growing & Changing Names – When ‘Rolex’ Was Chosen

With a new success in the business, the move came along the way with Davis but especially Wilsdorf’s hard work. 

The latter went back to Bienne in 1908 and negotiated with Aegler a steady supply of watch movements. The negotiation was a success, and at the time, this was the largest contract ever for watch movements. 

Moreover, the industry was embracing logo and trademark styles, which is why Wilsdorf & Davis’ name did not sound the same as Kodak or Coke or was that appealing to the public. 

Thus, Wilsdorf and Davis considered a name for their company that would not be too specific but could be pronounced in many languages and was easy to spell.

Eventually, they came up with what we know today as Rolex. The name has no direct connection with watchmaking or the market itself, which would become a benefit for the brand and one of the reasons it is used as synonymous for them today.

Since people continued with the belief that wristwatches didn’t accurately track time, the founders decided in 1910 to make their first movement and sent it to the School of Horology in Bienne to dispel the myth. 

This school was one of the earliest timekeeping institutes, and the movement’s results were a big success since Rolex received the first wristwatch chronometer rating. Later on, the brand was able to overcome the initial challenge of keeping accurate time. 

Other challenges included keeping wristwatches dry and being autowinding. Still, Wilsdorf worked hard to improve the designs and structure of the products to the point of leading the company to receive the “Class A Certificate of Precision” from Kew Observatory in England.

Wilsdorf recognized the importance of timing certificates and insisted that all Rolex watches would be subject to similar testing. 

Thus, no Rolex should ever be sold without its Official Timing Certificate. Aegler stated that Rolex would not accept any movement unless it passed Rolex’s seven-day battery of tests. Rolex was the first watch company to accept a timing certificate.

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With a steady supply of Aegler watch movements, which is a registered trademark, the company was well-positioned and in high demand. 

Wristwatch demand was further supported by the outbreak of World War I, which brought anti-German trade restrictions into England. 

Later, due to the high tariffs for watch and jewelry components imported into England, Wilsdorf and Davis decided to transfer much of the production to Bienne through their partnership with Hermann Aegler.

For the future years, Rolex bought a portion of Aegler’s company in 1919 and started calling itself Aegler S.A. Rolex Watch Company. 

However, this was followed by Wilsdorf purchasing Davis’s share and moving the office from Biel to Geneva, where he registered the name “Montres Rolex SA.” 

Wilsdorf moved to Geneva to allow the factory in Biel to be devoted solely to making watch movements, and Geneva would then focus on creating cases that suit cosmopolitan tastes. 

The brand came a long way with history and influenced trends over the years as the top wristwatch manufacturer worldwide with the later appearance of competitors trying to copy Hans’ style and success. 

To this date, the brand is known as Rolex SA only, and it has cooperated with several companies over the years, including Tiffany in the USA, Birch and Gaydon in England, and Solar Aqua in North America, along with Cuervo y Sobrinos in Cuba. 

It is unnecessary to mention that many designs came along the way by the hands of Hans Wilsdorf himself. 

He worked hard in his company until dying on July 6, 1960, in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Behind Its Uniqueness: What Makes Rolex Special?

With all that history (and we even missed several parts to avoid going around circles), you should have noticed something by now: Rolex is a control freak. 

Wilsdorf didn’t want to create products or watches that only give time. Instead, he wanted to make sure they could last different temperatures, remain accurate throughout the process, and be durable in terms of how long the battery lasted. 

Of course, back in the early 1900s, it was hard to come up with batteries that lasted for years or specific materials for the watches to be lighter. 

However, the founder did a great job bringing more innovation every time a new piece was created, and by the time of World War II and future events and years, Rolex was the first brand considered as it was the first to bring wristwatches to the watch industry. 

To this date, you will notice Rolex and its products are quite expensive, and honestly, the price tag isn’t something to joke around. 

However, the fact the brand makes sure every watch is manufactured properly, with the utmost care, and provides the best experience to the point of being top-quality, makes you think twice bout investing in it, but in a good way. 

Rolex controls the quality of its products greatly and uses the best materials today. Precious metals like gold and silver, along with some semi-precious stones for some designs, are part of the reason why the ‘Rolexes are so expensive yet unique.

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Astronomical Prices? – How Much Does a Rolex Cost?

We will finally jump into a part you must be excited about: Prices. 

We don’t have to mention that Rolexes aren’t cheap. Instead, they are quite expensive, and you truly need to think about spending money on one unless you have the cash for it without giving it second thoughts. 

Also, it can be a bit hard for us to follow the list of prices for a few reasons: 

  1. The website doesn’t provide details and information about costs regardless of the design. 
  2. There are different types of Rolexes, which makes the price vary. 
  3. All countries are set with different prices. 

However, we are quite versed in how much a Rolex costs, and before coming to write this article, we went deeper into our research, so, don’t worry, we won’t be owing you this information, but keep in mind we will be including average costs and ranges. 

We will also follow types and models references to compile an organized yet accurate list: 

  • Rolex Submariner models: Most of these watches are made of stainless steel, two-tone, and are special in the metals used. The price usually starts at $8,100 and goes up to $39,650. 
  • Rolex Datejust models: These are considered the iconic and “simple” watches of the brand, which make the collection part of the favorites among people. The watches are designed for both women and men, and the materials and designs can vary based on availability and choices you make. Prices range from $7k to $14,500. 
  • Rolex GMT Master II designs: This collection is quite customized since the materials are chosen to construct or manufacture the specific watch. One of the most common options is the stainless steel and two-tone options available, and they are known for having a design close to a thematic. For example, you can find the “Pepsi” Rolex or the “Batman” one. The price ranges from $9,500 to $38,250.
  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual collection: Made of the usual precious metals and materials, it costs between $5,100 and $5,900.
  • Rolex Daytona collection: One of the most popular yet comes in limited quantities is made of stainless steel, and the price always increases every year, with an actual cost between $13,150 and $75,000.

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Other popular designs and collections like Rolex Yacht-Master, Rolex Milgauss, Rolex Explorer, Rolex Sky-Dweller, and Day-Date, tend to cost between $8,500 and $14,000, except for the Day-Date that starts at $36,500 and goes up to $60k. 

Rolex unveiled new models during this year (2021), and we are sure that more than one watch enthusiast is waiting for them. 

Celebrities Swearing Rolex: Always a Favorite

As we mentioned in the beginning, Rolex has turned to be synonymous with watches, and it is impossible to think about a luxury brand that makes them as durable and long-lasting as Rolex while also maintaining beautiful aesthetics. 

This is why the designs are always the favorites among celebrities and wealthy people who can pay for one of the watches (disclaimer: we spent our savings for one). 

Usually, a model or design is connected to a celebrity that was paid for sponsorship. 

For example, Justin Theroux is connected to a 1971 Gold Rolex Submariner that goes according to his date of birth, and the colors are related to his favorites. 

On the other hand, Rihanna is one of the favorite women of the brand who owns a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust (among others) with customized details and stones engraved, usually rose gold or yellow gold. 

David Beckham, Miley Cyrus, and Cristiano Ronaldo are other celebrities we can mention. 

In fact, the latter figure is one of the images endorsed by the brand itself and part of the highest paid by the company to this date that is usually seen with the same watch or variations of the model for the luxury watch.

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Next to Ronaldo, Roger Federer is at the top of the list after being paid about $106 million in 2020 for his participation and partnership with the company. In addition, he has been spotted with several designs and models for the brand. 

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Lebron James, and other athletes join the team with other celebrities, usually in the sports industry.

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Written by Dame Cash

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