Where Did the Name Rolex Come From?

November 17, 2019

Where Did the Name Rolex Come From?

Rolex is probably the MOST recognizable brands in the world. 

However, the earliest name for the brand was nowhere even close to the name we so adore and admire.  The Founder of Rolex was Hans Wilsdorf.  He was born in Germany but moved to Switzerland as a young man and started working for a watch export company.  Soon he moved to London with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis, and created Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd. 

Early Hans Wilsdorf (Pre-Rolex) timepiece (image: Steemit.com)
Interestingly, men initially thought that the watches that Wilsdorf designed and assembled were un-masculine.  Most men preferred the larger pocket watch. 

In 1908 Wilsdorf registered a trademark for the name "Rolex". 

What makes Rolex a great name?

  • Wilsdorf thought that Rolex sounded like a watch being wound.
  • Easily pronounceable in many languages.
  • It is only 2 syllables.
  • The name ROLEX, it goes Consonant, Vowel, Consonant, Vowel, Consonant.  
  • LEX sounds much like Luxury.  
  • The name is short and easy to remember.  

However, it wasn't until 1915, during the World War 1 conflict against Germany, that Wilsdorf decided to rename the company, Rolex Watch Co. Ltd.  Clearly he wanted to avoid the prejudice against Germany that came with the WWI conflict.  This was a good bet, because many soldiers who utilized a timepiece far preferred to have one of these highly durable wristlets rather than a pocket watch that could break or take precious time to pull out of their pocket in the heat of battle. 

At the time, Wilsdorf also relocated the company headquarters in Geneva Switzerland in 1919, which avoided heavy taxation from the post-war Great Britain.

Hans Wilsdorf Watch (Image: RolexForums.com)

Name Timeline For Rolex

  • Wilsdorf & Davis, Ltd.  (1905-1915)
  • Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. (1915-1920)
  • Montres Rolex SA (1920)  (In Geneva)
  • Rolex SA (1927)
    • Montres Tudor (SA) - a Sub Brand to Rolex SA, offering Tudor watches since 1946)
  • Currently owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation - a registered charity which does not pay corporate income taxes.

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