William Cooper

Written by

William Cooper

3 minute read

Updated 27th March 2024

The reinvention of the wristwatch by a pioneer

At the time, women wore wristwatches as a fashion accessory, whereas men carried pocket watches. This was because wristwatches were much smaller than pocket watches and were not as precise. Still, Wilsdorf felt that pocket watches could have been more convenient to use. In 1914, Wilsdorf predicted that in time wrist watches would one day replace pocket watches and became fully committed to creating a high-quality, reliable wristwatch for both men and women. Talk about having a vision of the future. 

The birth of Rolex watches and its role in WWI

By 1908, Wilsdorf was one of the top-rated watch businesses in England. At this stage, they decided to rebrand the business. Wilsdorf wanted a catchy name that would fit on the dial of the watches, and as a result, Rolex was born. 

In the following years, Rolex’s reputation for high-quality wristwatches was gaining traction. However, Rolex was catapulted to new heights when World War I broke out. The durability and accuracy of the watches meant that many soldiers were given Rolex watches before going to war. Not only was it easier and safer to check the time, but it also allowed soldiers to better coordinate attacks. 

The importance of brand ambassadors and the world’s first waterproof wristwatch

In 1926, Rolex released a new model that would forever change the watch industry. The Rolex Oyster is the first-ever waterproof wristwatch. To assist the launch of the revolutionary piece, Wilsdorf partnered with a young woman named Mercedes Gleitze, who was set to swim the English Channel (over 20.5 miles). 

Wilsdorf seized the opportunity to showcase the watch and encouraged Gleitze to wear the Rolex Oyster around her neck for the swim. Sadly, Gleitze did not complete the feat on this occasion, but she did make it 80% of the distance. After almost 10 hours in the cold water, the Rolex Oyster emerged from the water in perfect condition, cementing Rolex’s reputation as a revolutionary.   

Over the years, Wilsdorf partnered with numerous high-profile celebrities to help boost the brand’s profile. In 1928, he worked with Evelyn Lane, the top British model at the time, to promote his watches. 

In 1935, the Rolex accompanied one of the fastest drivers in the world, Sir Malcolm Campbell, on his quest for speed, setting a land record. Even exceeding 300 miles per hour, the Rolex performed with precision. 

In 1953, the Oyster Perpetual reached Mount Everest’s summit during Sir John Hunt’s expedition. Some say this was the ‘height’ of their success? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Rolex – from affordable to a luxury worldwide brand

Since its founding almost 120 years ago, Rolex has continuously pioneered innovative designs. Two of the most well-known pieces include the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, the first waterproof and self-winding wristwatch in history, and the Rolex Submariner, the first deep-sea diving waterproof wristwatch that could operate at depths of 100m. 

Today, Rolex remains one of the world’s most recognisable and prolific watch companies. Although initially marketed as affordable, Rolex successfully accomplished what many brands dream of when it became a luxury brand. 

Earlier this month, at the 2024 Academy Awards, Rolex quietly announced its newest addition to the Day-Date line in rose gold. This follows the soft launch of the Vienna Philharmonic Day-Day, which featured a colourful and creative dial.

We wait with bated breath to see more releases in 2024.

Protect your Rolex with Stanhope 

At Stanhope, we provide robust insurance solutions to suit your lifestyle and protect your timepiece. With worldwide cover included as standard, we can even cover you should you wish to put your Rolex Oyster Perpetual or Submariner to the test but do talk to us first!

I received superb service from Declan Broderick at Stanhope when I needed to find a home insurance policy that also included cover for a valuable timepiece. The service was both efficient and courteous. He took time to ensure that I had all of the information needed to make a decision and the process to secure cover was quick and easy. I would highly recommend Stanhope for securing insurance of this type.

Verified Reviewer, 5 Stars

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Written by William Cooper

I started insurance broking in 2009. I followed my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father into the world of insurance. In 2019, I decided I wanted to do things differently. I formed Stanhope in 2019 with Matthew Ashton and Rachel Living. We want to shake up the industry! Let's make insurance cool and useful for our customers. Let's improve the customer journey and get them to trust us as their insurance company. Let's pay claims quickly; let's be excellent and honest in all that we do!

William Cooper

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