Hans Wilsdorf Registers Rolex in 1908

March 03, 2016

Born in Bavaria on March 22, 1881, Hans Wilsdorf would go through many struggles before registering the Rolex brand in 1908. In his early life, Wilsdorf and his siblings were met with hostility over their Protestant faith in a mostly Catholic Bavaria at the time. 

The struggle continued when they were orphaned by the time Hans was 12. The children were left in the care of their maternal uncles, who decided to liquidate the family business that the children inherited, allowing them to care for themselves in what would be a difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood. 

photo of rolex founder hans wilsdorf
Rolex Founder Hans Wilsdorf

After finishing boarding school, Hans Wilsdorf worked for Cuna Korten, a company that exported pocket watches and clocks from La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, before serving in the German army in 1902. After his service, he settled down in London, England, where he met and married his wife, Florence Frances May Crotty, in St. Paul's Church in Penge, South London on April 13, 1911. Wilsdorf became a British citizen soon after. (The couple never had children and after May Wilsdorf's death on April 26, 1944, the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation was created to inherit the Wilsdorf's Rolex shares.)

At age 24, after working for a watchmaker in London, he and his older brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, began Wilsdorf & Davis in 1905. They began by producing portfolio watches and watch parts, but Wilsdorf soon decided to apply his expertise to creating precise wristwatches, which were not reliable at the time.
Wilsdorf found success with his first line of wristwatches, and by 1908, he was looking for a name he could attach to his brand that would be easy to pronounce in many languages and also look symmetrical printed on the watches themselves.

"It was one morning, when I was sitting on the upper level of a double-decker powered at that time by horses, driving along Cheapside in London, that a good genie whispered in my ear: Rolex."

   -Hans Wilsdorf (Source: rolexmagazine.com)

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