Why would anybody choose a product by a fledgling company with no track record, however high quality it was, when a similar item by a prestigious maker with a long and illustrious history could be bought for a the same price ?But largely because this was a new field without an established pecking order, the astute Wilsdorf was able to position Rolex as the pre-eminent name in wristwatches by the end of the Great War.Items by Rolex exert such a stranglehold over the market that it is often difficult to convince novice collectors to even consider watches by other makers.Look at the results list from any Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Bonhams fine wristwatches catalogue auction sale held over the last three decades at any of their UK or overseas salerooms and you’ll quickly recognise that virtually all the highest prices achieved related to pieces produced by Rolex.
In 1912, as a deliberate move to lose the German sounding Wilsdorf name at a time when anti-German feeling was running rampant among the British public, the concern formally changed its trading style to “The Rolex Watch Company Limited”.
This was achieved by astutely recognising that the newly introduced wristwatch, widely adopted for its convenience by British officers serving in the trenches of World War I, was the future at a time when all the other traditional houses regarded it with distaste, grudgingly adding wristwatch models to their ranges but regarding them as little more than a transient fancy that would hopefully quickly pass away.
If Rolex had fought with the already established major houses in the field of pocket watches, there has to be a question mark as to whether it would still exist today, or in fact have even made it into the 1930s.
While nobody in their right mind would take any vintage wristwatch today anywhere near water, originally, when they were new, the antique Rolex Oyster models offered for sale on this website were capable of being submerged in water without sustaining damage.
This was an important selling point to the general public and by heavily patenting the ingenious Oyster case design, it effectively put Rolex into the position where it could offer a unique product that its competitors couldn’t really challenge.