Rolex watches don’t come cheap. Just hearing the name makes most people think of lots and lots of money. A typical Rolex watch will run in into the thousands of dollars with many being over $10,000. They’re definitely a luxury brand and people don’t buy them just to tell time; they buy them for exclusivity and status and it goes well with their expensive shoes and suit. The quality of Rolex watches is superb. It’s not 10 or 100+ times better than a $200 watch but the feeling you get and the sense of accomplishment when wearing one makes their high prices worth it for many people.
For a brand where just replacing the watch dial will cost you several hundred dollars, do they sell any that are a bit more affordable? Some of the cheapest Rolex watches can be found here.
You’ll notice the cheapest ones run around $3,000 but they’re all pre-owned. Just like a car, when you buy used, you save money. If you want a Rolex watch without spending over 5 grand, then buying pre-owned is the way to go.
So how did Rolex become one of the most recognized brands in the world and a symbol of luxury? Here’s some history behind the company.
Alfred Davis and his brother-in-law Hans Wilsdorf founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the company that would eventually become Rolex SA, in London, England in 1905. Wilsdorf and Davis’ main commercial activity at the time involved importing Hermann Aegler’s Swiss movements to England and placing them in high-quality watch cases made by Dennison and others. These early wristwatches were sold to jewellers, who then put their own names on the dial. The earliest watches from Wilsdorf and Davis were usually hallmarked “W&D” inside the caseback.
In 1908 Wilsdorf registered the trademark “Rolex” and opened an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The company name “Rolex” was registered on 15 November 1915. The book The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches: An Unauthorized History by Jeffrey P. Hess and James Dowling says that the name was just made up.
One story, never confirmed by Wilsdorf, recounts that the name came from the French phrase horlogerie exquise, meaning “exquisite clockwork” or as a contraction of “horological excellence”. Wilsdorf was said[by whom?] to want his watch brand’s name to be easily pronounceable in any language. He also thought that the name “Rolex” was onomatopoeic, sounding like a watch being wound. It is easily pronounceable in many languages and, as all its upper-case letters have the same size, can be written symmetrically. It was also short enough to fit on the face of a watch.
In 1914 Kew Observatory awarded a Rolex watch a Class A precision certificate, a distinction normally granted exclusively to marine chronometers.
In 1919 Wilsdorf left England due to wartime taxes levied on luxury imports as well as to export duties on the silver and gold used for the watch cases driving costs too high and moved the company to Geneva, Switzerland, where it was established as the Rolex Watch Company. Its name was later changed to Montres Rolex, SA and finally Rolex, SA. Upon the death of his wife in 1944, Wilsdorf established the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private trust, in which he left all of his Rolex shares, making sure that some of the company’s income would go to charity. Wilsdorf died in 1960; since then, the trust has owned and run the company.
In December 2008, following the abrupt departure of Chief Executive Patrick Heiniger for “personal reasons”, the company denied that it had lost 1 billion Swiss francs (approx £574 million, $900 million) invested with Bernard Madoff, the American asset manager who pleaded guilty to an approximately £30 billion worldwide Ponzi scheme fraud. Rolex SA announced Heiniger’s death on 5 March 2013.
As of 2017 Rolex watches continue to have a reputation as status symbols. According to the 2017 Brand Z report, the brand value is estimated $8.053 billion.