|Birth Day:||March 22, 1881|
|Death Date:||Jul 6, 1960 (age 79)|
As per our current Database, Hans Wilsdorf died on Jul 6, 1960 (age 79).
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Early in his life, he was employed by a Swiss watchmaking company in the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
In 1900 Hans began his career in Swiss watchmaking when he moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds to work as an English correspondent and clerk with the influential watch firm of Messrs. Cuno Korten, at the 49, rue Leoppold Robert, where he was paid a salary of 80 Swiss Francs. At the time, Cuno Korten exported around one million francs worth of pocket watches on an annual basis. Cuno Korten worked with all grades of watches, and manufactured a small number of watches from the ground up.
In 1902, during his stay at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Hans Wilsdorf heard of one Hermann Aegler, based in Bienne, Switzerland, who had begun producing 'ebauches', which are the rough movements for high-quality, small lever escapement watch movements.
In 1903 Hans Wilsdorf moved to London, England where he went to work for another high-quality watchmaking company. In 1905—with a modest amount of money—Hans set up a business with Alfred Davis named Wilsdorf & Davis, located at 83 Hatton Garden in London, England. The goal of Wilsdorf & Davis was to provide high-quality timepieces at affordable prices.
In 1905, Hans traveled to Bienne, Switzerland and placed an order with Hermann Aegler, resulting in the largest order ever made for wristlet watches. This would be the beginning of a long-standing partnership between Aegler and Rolex, until a century later when Rolex would eventually buy out Aegler.
In 1914, a decade after Wilsdorf moved to London, World War I broke out, at which time Wilsdorf changed the name of Wilsdorf & Davis to The Rolex Watch Company Ltd. Fourteen days before World War I began, On July 14, 1914, Rolex was the first wristwatch in history to be awarded a Class "A" certificate from the famous Kew Observatory. Rolex had grown quickly; in 1914 they had more than 40 employees on their payroll.
In 1915 the British government implemented a 33% customs duty that prompted Rolex to move its international headquarters from London to Bienne, Switzerland. In 1919 Rolex moved its headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland, where it remains to this day.
In 1927 Rolex patented and launched the first commercially viable waterproof watch, which was known as "The Rolex Oyster". Rolex also selected watch dealers in each town to act as exclusive dealers, and provided each of them with special window displays that consisted of an aquarium with plants and goldfish, along with a Rolex Oyster wristwatch. People passing by would have been shocked to see a watch functioning properly while it was submerged in water.
In 1931 Rolex launched an automatic wristwatch with a design much improved over the automatics of the day which they dubbed "The Rolex Perpetual". The Rolex Perpetual would automatically wind its movement by harnessing energy captured from the rotation of a bi-directional rotor inside the Rolex watch.
Hans Wilsdorf and his first wife, Florence Frances May Wilsdorf-Crotty, never had any children, and she died from an illness in 1944. In 1945 Hans Wilsdorf set up the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, to which in 1960 he handed over his 100% ownership stake in Rolex. The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation owns and controls Rolex to this day, and donates a great deal of its income to charity and social causes in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1945 Rolex set another horological precedent when they introduced the first wrist watch to feature an aperture window that automatically showed the date by using a date-wheel. The Rolex Datejust was another game-changing first in the world of horology, and ended up on the wrist of many famous world leaders including Sir Winston Churchill and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Hans Wilsdorf's legacy and contribution is unparalleled in the world of horology. The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation which was set up in 1945 still owns and controls Rolex. Despite the fact Hans Wilsdorf passed away in 1960, his foundation and Rolex have adhered strictly and successfully to executing his original vision.
Hans Wilsdorf published his autobiography in 1946 as part of a four volume set of books named Rolex Jubilee Vade Mecum. In his autobiography Hans stated:
Wilsdorf also established the high-quality lower-priced watch brand Tudor, a subsidiary company of Rolex, in 1946. While the Tudor name had appeared on previous watches made under the auspice of the much larger Rolex, it was at this time that Tudor greatly expanded into an affordable alternative to Rolex-branded offerings. On March 6, 1946, Hans Wilsdorf made the following statement regarding the Tudor brand:
In 1954 Rolex launched their first specialized diving watch known as "The Rolex Submariner." Rolex worked with legendary French explorer and aquanaut Jacques-Yves Cousteau to test early prototype Rolex Submariner watches. The Submariner became commercially available after it was introduced at the Basel Fair Show in 1954.
In 1954 Rolex introduced another radical, avant-garde "tool watch" known as the GMT-Master. The GMT-Master had all the usual Rolex features including a watertight Oyster case, Perpetual movement, and luminous hands and markers, but added a 24-hour hand designed to keep time in a second time zone. Also, it features a rotatable 24-hour bezel which was luminous. The GMT-Master was originally designed for Pan American Airways pilots and navigators and for world travelers.
Rolex introduced the Day-Date model in 1955, which was the first wrist watch to feature both a day-of-the-week aperture window and a date aperture window. The Day-Date was somewhat similar to the Rolex Datejust at 36mm in diameter, but featured a slightly thicker case.
The Rolex Milgauss was introduced in 1956 with a Reference Number of 6541. This watch was designed with special anti-magnetic features for scientists who worked in research labs, power plants, or medical facilities whose watches could be affected by magnetism. The original Rolex Milgauss featured a second hand that looked like a lightning bolt, and in many ways looked like the Rolex Submariner.
On Rolex's 50th anniversary, in 1958, Hans Wilsdorf shared the story of how he originally conceived the 'Rolex' name in 1908:
Hans Wilsdorf died in Geneva, Switzerland on July 6, 1960. He was buried in Kings Cemetery in Geneva beside his first and second wife.
Currently, Hans Wilsdorf is 141 years, 2 months and 0 days old. Hans Wilsdorf will celebrate 142nd birthday on a Wednesday 22nd of March 2023.
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