Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hans Wilsdorf, Founder Of Rolex: The Only Known Film Interview

Hans Wilsdorf

Founder Of Rolex

The Only Known Film Interview

Ten years ago, when I started publishing Jake's Rolex World, I wanted to learn everything I could about Rolex's founder, Hans Wilsdorf. The challenge was that history seemed to have forgotten him, which made no sense to me. There was only one photo of him that had ever been published, and that drove me crazy! I thought this was blasphemous, and began my eventful exploration to try to learn all I could about his amazing career, and to share it with you, my readers. This resulted in my publishing "The Complete History Of Rolex Leadership: Part 1: The Hans Wilsdorf Years."

The subtitle for my story was "Ghost In The Machine", as every Rolex ever made has a significant amount of Hans Wilsdorf's DNA inside it, yet he seemed to never have existed. Today, I am so excited to share the above video with you, which is the only video I know of that shows Hans Wildorf speaking. The video is in French, but you get a tremendous sense his personal disposition and manner of speech. Enjoy!!! The video was shot on September 19, 1959, and Hans Wilsdorf passed away less than a year later on July 6, 1960.

The context of this features Hans Wilsdorf speaking French, at the Rath Museum in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was attending a Watch & Jewelry exhibition. This occurred just after Rolex was crowned the winner of The Geneva Grad Prix. To add further context, Hans Wilsdorf had introduced the Submariner for sale in 1954, as well as the GMT-Master in 1955. In 1955 Rolex also introduced the Day-Date. So at this time, Rolex and Hans Wilsdorf had already laid the foundation for the Rolex of today!

In this video, Hans Wilsdorf talks about his early years, and the contributions he made to the horological world to popularize the wristwatch. Special thanks to Jose for interpreting this video from French to English!:

Translation Transcript
September 19, 1959

We are here at the Rath Museum in Geneva, at the Watches & Jewelry exhibition to be precise and our objective today is to present the laureate of the Geneva award.

We have Mr. Hans Wilsdorf at our microphone and in front of our camera. He is the director of a big watch company who received the award. Sir, you have been here in Geneva for a very long period of time if I’m not mistaken.

Hans Wilsdorf: For 40 years. I came to Geneva after the first war in 1919, with some absences due to trips I made around the entire world. I've traveled a total of three times around the globe, to every nation in the world. I know a little bit something about all people and their taste. This helped me not only to understand the needs to make watches which…
(Interrupts Mr. Wilsdorf) I see. Your watch is a wristwatch and I believe we can say that you helped diffuse the wristwatch.

Well, I entered the watch business as a young man at 19 years of age, in the year 1900, which was 60 years ago when wristwatches didn’t exist.
People didn’t wear watches on their arms. Women wore pendant watches, especially enamel watches or watches with diamond settings, attached to chains worn around the neck. Wristwatches for women or men didn’t exist at all. Men wore pocket watches which went from father to son and son to grandson and the opportunity for the watch industry to grow was extremely limited as sales were very slow.
As a young man, I understood my future would be very difficult in order to obtain results in an industry that had little chance to make lots of money. Watches were cheap and the quality was not very good, especially since there was no factory able to produce small watches with lever escapements which were necessary for wearing them on the arm…

(Interrupts Mr. Wilsdorf) And you are especially proud that a wristwatch won the award, I think that you consider this a little bit like the peak of your career.

Hans Wilsdorf: It’s the peak of my career as I foresaw the total development of the wristwatch for the Swiss watch industry. Of course, we still produce some pocket watches but the biggest business is wristwatches and here and I can say I was one of the initiators in the whole watch industry...

(Interrupts Mr. Wilsdorf) One of the pioneers…

Hans Wilsdorf: One of the pioneers, as I was not only the first to understand the potential of the wristwatch but I also made personal efforts which contributed largely to the development of the industry...
(Interrupts Mr. Wilsdorf) Thank you very much, Mr. Wilsdorf…