The watch making company Rolex is perhaps one of the most famous brand names in the world. The company was established in 1905 in London by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis and was originally known as Wilsdorf & Davis. Initially they imported watch movements from Switzerland, placed them into watch casings and sold them on to jewellers to market under their own names.
The Rolex name was registered in 1908 and by 1919 Wilsdorf had transferred the company to Geneva in Switzerland which is still where you will find the company's headquarters today.
Wilsdorf didn't just produce watches that looked good - he also produced designs and features that were market-leading at the time. For example, in 1910 he achieved the first official chronometer rating for a wrist watch which gave him the ability to produce watches that kept better time than others.
His next aim was to produce a watch casing that would be waterproof and dust proof to protect the inner mechanism of his watches. He achieved this aim in 1926 with the invention of the Oyster casing. A few years later in the early 1930s the company produced a design that would allow watch makers to produce water resistant self-winding watches - The Rolex Oyster Perpetual. And, in the 1940s the Date Just added a date facility to the mix.
In the 1950s Rolex launched the Submariner which was the first watch to give water resistance to a level of 100m and the GMT Master which was self winding, water resistant and which could show the time in two time zones. The Day-Date later took things a step further - this watch could show the date and show the day in 26 languages.
The 1960s saw the launch of the Oyster Cosmograph Daytona and the death of Wilsdorf. In this decade and in the 1970s watch making as a whole changed across the world as cheap and accurate digital quartz watches flooded the market. Unlike many of the Swiss watch makers of the time Rolex kept faith with their own mechanical watch making methods and although they did work on a consortium project to integrate quartz technology they produced few models. They did, however, produce the Sea-Dweller 2000 - this watch had built in decompression technology that allowed divers to use it to a depth of 610 metres.
In the 1980s and 1990s Rolex continued to develop their brand watches with the creation of the Sea-Dweller 4,000 and a version of the Cosmograph Daytona that was self-winding.