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The company we now know as Rolex was founded in 1905 by Mr Hans Wilsdorf, a German National, along with his English brother in law, as Wilsdorf and Davies. In the next three years it grew to become of the leading watch companies in the UK. In 1908 name Rolex was created as a trademark and in 1915 Rolex became the company name. Initially the company did not manufacture watches but imported movements and cases from Switzerland which were than tested and adjusted in London before being sold. During the First World War, UK Government restrictions on the import of gold and silver forced Wilsdorf to relocate to Geneva, which also allowed closer cooperation with their manufacturers. The head office remained in London until the early 1930s when further financial pressures made the move complete.
Rolex were one of the first companies to focus their production on wristwatches rather than pocket or purse watches. In 1910 Wilsdorf submitted their first wristwatch for chronometer testing in Switzerland and it became the first wristwatch ever to receive this rating. In 1914 Rolex passed the even tougher tests in Kew and became the only wristwatch in the world to hold a Kew A chronometer certificate.
Dirt, dust and moisture are the natural enemies of watch accuracy and so in 1926, after years of development, Rolex patented the Oyster case with a screw –down crown.
With an accurate watch, owners would not often have to reset the time but they would still have to unscrew the crown to wind it. In 1933 Rolex took a further step to solve this problem by releasing the Perpetual. This was the first watch where the winding rotor travelled a full 360 degree arc.
The Oyster Perpetual and its variants have remained the core of Rolex production ever since. The incremental evolution of its models and a tightly focused product range has created one of the most readily identifiable watch brands of all time.
Number of times sold at auction