15 things that will surprise you about Rolex

Did you know, for example, that Rolex sent watches to prisoners of war during WW2, allowing them to pay after the war? Read more about this and other fascinating Rolex facts below.



Rolex, perhaps the world’s most famous Swiss watch company, was founded by a German, Hans Wildorf, and a Brit, Alfred Davis, in London.

Wilsdorf & Davis Nameplate, 1905


Rolex is owned by the Hans Wildorf Foundation and is not a private company, but is registered as a charity in Switzerland. There are no shareholders.


No one knows how many Rolexes are made every year. Estimates are 800,000+ watches a year.


The name Rolex doesn’t mean anything in any language. It was created by co-founder Hans Wilsdorf because it is short and easy to pronounce in just about any language.

The origin of the Rolex Name, Rolex Original Certificate, 1908


Hans Wildorf and Rolex supplied watches to Allied prisoners of war during World War II, allowing them to pay when the Allies won the war. After the end of the war, every single one of them paid for their watch. These watches are obviously very sought after at auction, especially when they come with the original letter sent by Hans Wilsdorf to the prisoner.


The watch sold at auction for the highest price, $17.8 million, was a Rolex Daytona once owned by Paul Newman (October 2017).

Paul Newman wearing his Rolex Daytona


The Rolex Oyster case was the world’s first waterproof and dustproof case in 1926.

Rolex Oyster Case, Daily Mail, 1927


In the beginning, Rolex used radioactive radium and tritium to provide luminescence. In 1998, Rolex switched to LumiNova and then to Super-LumiNova in 2000 and Chroma Light in 2008.

Rolex Chroma Light Luminescence


Rolex has its own foundry where the brand works its own gold.

Rolex Foundry ©Rolex:Jean-Daniel Meyer


All watches Rolex makes today are automatic watches. However, they did make quartz in the past.

Rolex movement 3285
©Rolex/Jean-Daniel Meyer


Rolex has a sister brand, named Tudor, introduced in 1946.


Rolex was there on the wrist of the team that conquered Everest for the very first time, in 1953.

Everest Expedition, 1953


Rolex is an official sponsor of some of the biggest events in tennis (US Open, Wimbledon), golf (US Open, Masters, the Open Championship), equestrianism (the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Royal Windsor Horse Show) and auto racing (Goodwood, Daytona, etc.).

The 10th green of The Presidents Cup 2017


The Day Wheel found on the famous Day-Date model is available in 26 languages.

Rolex Day Date 40 – 950 Platinum


Rolex made the very first watch that displayed two times zones in 1954. The Rolex GMT- Master Reference 6542 was a special request from Pan Am for its pilots, who needed reliable watches that could show more than one time zone at the same time.

Photo: The Pan Am Historical Foundation