Rolex – A Stroke of Genius



On 2 July 1908, Hans Wilsdorf officially filed and registered “ROLEX” as a brand name in Switzerland – a master stroke that would shape the company’s future.

A veritable visionary, Hans Wilsdorf was truly ahead of his time in terms of intellectual property. Indeed, a name like “ROLEX”, with its three strong consonants and two vowels, corresponds to criteria that still apply today in choosing a successful brand name.


Surprisingly Modern


Hans Wilsdorf’s requirements in his search for the name “Rolex” were surprisingly modern. He had determined that the name had to:

  1. be short with no more than 5 letters;
  2. be easy to pronounce in every language;
  3. have a good ring to it;
  4. be easy to remember;
  5. look good on movements and dials.


The Muse of Inspiration


Hans Wilsdorf considered several options before arriving at his decision by chance one day. As he recounted in a speech delivered on 2 July 1958, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the brand: “I tried combining the letters of the alphabet in every possible way. This gave me hundreds of names, but none of them felt quite right. One morning, while riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus along Cheapside in the City of London, a genie whispered ‘Rolex’ in my ear.” A few days later the “ROLEX” trademark was filed and officially registered in Switzerland. In 1913 the “ROLEX” brand was registered internationally. Today it is registered worldwide.


Increased Visibility


After having protected the name, Hans Wilsdorf had another challenge before him: to convince the retailers to include “ROLEX” rather than their own name on the watch. At the time, each jeweller or watchmaker wanted to place his own name on the dial and not reveal the name of the supplier or manufacturer. To this end, Hans Wilsdorf proceeded a step at a time, as related in his memoirs. “At first I ventured to inscribe ‘ROLEX’ on one watch in every six, hoping that this watch would get through and be sold. Gradually, I dared to put it on two out of six, and later it appeared on three.” In 1926, the year of the launch of the Rolex Oyster waterproof wristwatch, Hans Wilsdorf vowed that, from that date forth, no single watch would be delivered without the “ROLEX” brand name figuring on its dial, case and movement. There was no turning back.


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