Established in London in 1905 by Alfred Davis and Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex has been for many years, and continues to be today, a name synonymous with quality watches. Rolex makes about 1 million watches every year and according to the Reputation Institute’s annual rankings, published in March 2016, Rolex is the most reputable company in the world – more than Walt Disney, Google and BMW. What makes Rolex such a steady, growing brand, more than 100 years after its inception? Business Insider spoke to Ben Clymer, the founder and executive editor of premiere watch site Hodinkee, and came up with three major reasons.
First, innovation. Over the years, “Rolex invented the first waterproof case, the first self-winding watch, the first watch with a date, and (arguably) one of the first driving chronographs.” All these innovations, says Clymer, made watches more usable than the generation of watches that preceded them.
Second, Rolex has built a steady reputation for reliable, quality watches. “If you were a navy diver and you wanted something that would simply last forever and was a tool, and would survive going to 100 meters, [you bought a Rolex],” Clymer told Business Insider, “because it just works.”
Third, Rolex devised revolutionary marketing strategies. For example, in 1927, Rolex asked Mercedes Gleitze, the first woman to swim the English Channel, to wear the new Rolex Oyster watch with a waterproof case. Gleitze was photographed constantly and appeared on the front pages of newspapers wearing a Rolex around her neck, and Rolex began to be get increasing brand recognition. Since then, Rolex has repeatedly used images of women swimming while wearing their watches.