Tuesday 15 February, 2011 - 10:40 AM EST
The famous Swiss watchmaker
Although it is the generally accepted view that Hans Wilsdorf, the famous Swiss watchmaker, sitting alone in his Geneva workshop and working late into night, came up with the idea of the Oyster case and thereby set Rolex off in a new direction, none of this is true. Wilsdorf was never either Swiss or a watchmaker. The Oyster was the result of at least four attempts by the company to produce a waterproof case prior to the introduction of the Oyster.
Despite his British Nationality and Swiss domicile Hans was very much a German and his greatest strengths were his persistence and his dedication to slow progressive development of his existing product and so after trying hardly, in 1914, Wilsdorf and Davis introduced their first watch with a threaded bezel and back. The introduction of the Borgel cases was known to be the first model produced by Rolex in which the case was specifically designed to give protection against some of the elements. When Rolex wristwatches sales took off in the tropical markets on India and East Asia, in hot and humid conditions there were natural challenges: humidity over mechanisms. Baumgartner came up with the “hermetic” cases solution that Wilsdorf patented in London on May 10, 1923. Wilsdorf was so proud of his watch that even before submitting his patent he applied for three new model names, “Aqua”, “The Submariner” and “Diver”. He also registered a new style of window display involving the suspension of a working watch in an aquarium.
Finally, in October 30, 1925, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret, two prototype maker, filed a patent that was later given the number 114, 948 which describes the invention for a moisture proof winding stem and button. The button utilized springs and double helical screws to provide the first real solution to waterproofing a watch steam. The both sold their rights to the patent to Wilsdorf and a year later a British patent was then issued bearing the number 260.554 has always been seen as the Original Oyster Patent.
The name “Oyster” it self was Wilsdorf’s own contribution, saying he was inspired by the diffulty he experienced in opening an oyster while preparing a dinner party. He registered the name in Switzerland on July 29, 1926 and two months later in London.
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